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Tuesday 2 April 2024

Flyers "at risk" when they fly in and out of Australian airports

If you are flying to and from major Australian airports you'd hope that your safety would be a paramount concern. 

Not so, according to the teams that are responsible for aviation firefighting. 

Leaked documents show air travellers at 13 major Australian airports are at "extreme risk" due

to insufficient staffing and passengers at Australia’s 14 remaining airports are at ‘high risk.’

Airservices Australia, a Federal Government-owned corporation, is responsible for the provision of aviation firefighting services at Australia’s airports but stands accused of hiding key information about airport firefighting services. 

In response, aviation firefighters will undertake a four-hour work stoppage on April 15. 

Airports deemed at "extreme risk" due to a lack of aviation firefighting resources include Brisbane,

Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, while travellers at the remaining 14 airports, including Sydney, Canberra and Hobart, are at "high risk".

The internal documents, called the Task Resource Analysis (TRA), are an internationally recognised methodology used to "establish justification as to the minimum number of qualified/competent personnel required to deliver an effective Airport Rescue Firefighting Service to deal with an aircraft incident/accident" by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The TRA involves an independent analysis of safety risk at each Australian airport and assesses whether the resources, including aviation firefighting trucks, firefighters, equipment, and procedures, are sufficient to mitigate that risk for air travellers. 

In protest under protected industrial action, aviation firefighters have announced that they will be stopping work to draw attention to the safety issues. 

Wes Garrett, the United Firefighters Union-Aviation Branch secretary, said that the leaked documents confirmed the Union's claims over several years about the lack of resources available to protect Australia’s air travellers and the ongoing risk to their safety.

“These leaked documents confirm that Australia’s air travellers face a dire risk every time they set foot on an aircraft in Australia, should an incident occur," Garrett said.

“The documents found that the safety of air travellers was being threatened should an incident occur due to a range of resource and personnel shortages.

“These resource shortages include a lack of key personnel to operate breathing apparatus, shortages of firefighting agents to suppress multiple incidents, insufficient personnel and vehicles to protect both sides of a crashed aircraft, a lack of personnel for effective fire ground command and control, and a lack of procedural control at Australia’s airports.

“Clearly, this significant and ongoing risk to all Australian air travellers is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.

“Disgracefully, Airservices have known about the dire risk to air travellers should an incident occur since 2022 - and have refused to release the documents to the union or the public."

Image: Michele Valotti,

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