Chapter 4: Key Challenges, Priorities and Objectives

Challenges Ahead
Global Priorities
Asia-Pacific Regional Priorities
Australia's Priorities
Future Objectives

Challenges Ahead

Australia will continue to face many safety, efficiency, capacity and environmental challenges in the future management of our airspace.

To meet these challenges, Government agencies and industry will need to invest in new and upgraded infrastructure and equipment, the ongoing maintenance of ATM facilities and systems, and in recruiting, training and retaining skilled personnel to perform ATM functions.

Demands on ATM system capacity

The Australian major airline passenger market has experienced strong growth over the last decade.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) forecasts that growth will continue over the next fifteen years, but with variations between different aviation sectors. A steadying of growth in regional Australia with a reduction in demand from the resources sector will require an ongoing assessment of the appropriateness of the level of services provided.

Growth in recent years at some capital city airports such as Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth has placed pressure on ATM infrastructure capacity. This has already seen a number of efficiency initiatives put in place by Airservices, airport operators and airlines; for example, the Airport Capacity Enhancement program and the Air Traffic Flow Management initiatives.

In the near future, Brisbane Airport will complete a parallel runway while Melbourne and Perth Airports also have advanced plans for new parallel runways, necessitating a review of ATM and airspace arrangements. A future Western Sydney Airport will increase capacity in the Sydney Basin and also require appropriately updated ATM and airspace arrangements.

It will be important that in planning for future civil aviation capacity requirements, the geographical location of some of our major civil airports near military air fields will require continuing close cooperation between Airservices, Defence and industry to ensure mutually beneficial results are achieved in meeting both civil and military aviation demand.


Australia's area of ATM responsibility covers 11 per cent of the world's airspace, with vast volumes and distances across continental and oceanic airspace.

Australia has become an early adopter of satellite based technologies to provide surveillance coverage and navigation over large parts of the continent where previously there was no surveillance coverage. Australia mandated the installation of Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast (ADS-B) Out by all Australian Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) regular public transport, charter and aerial work aircraft by February 2017, which provided a significant improvement to surveillance for the vast majority of air passenger transport operations in Australia.

While some visual flight rules (VFR) aircraft are adopting this technology, ongoing challenges to delivering more efficient services will continue where IFR and VFR aircraft operations mix around the country including in and out of our regional airports.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems—RPAS

Australia continues to see increased ownership and application of RPAS. Over the next five years covered by this plan, RPAS are expected to have an increasingly significant operational role in the aviation industry in both civil and military applications with vast numbers of potential users across a broad range of industries including agriculture, emergency services, photography and research.

As the roles of RPAS are defined and developed and the technology continues to undergo rapid development, the challenge is to ensure the appropriate regulation of RPAS use in a manner that ensures the safety of other airspace users and the community while supporting the innovative solutions and productivity gains RPAS can bring.

Automated sense-and-avoid capability in RPAS will potentially provide a technology driver for self-separation with other aircraft. While such a concept is still in development, the increased demand for RPAS operations in all types of airspace will need to be safely facilitated and not adversely affect “traditional” modes of aircraft operations.

CASA will continue to monitor global developments as to how future airspace may be used to permit certain RPAS operations, including the development of technology for ‘beyond visual line of sight’ operations, and will adopt appropriate procedures to safely manage such operations.

CASA in June 2015 announced the terms of reference for a review of aviation safety regulation of RPAS which will provide CASA with a firm basis on which to articulate and implement future aviation safety regulatory policy and the further development of regulations applying to RPAS.

Infrastructure and Technology

Investment in new infrastructure and technology by Government agencies and industry will continue to be required to ensure a safe, efficient and continuously improving ATM system.

Increasingly sophisticated aircraft have the ability to operate more flexibly and safely. The challenge is for future ATM systems to support this innovation in a timely and responsive manner, while balancing the costs and rate of change impacts on industry and ATM service providers alike.

In line with the GANP, GASP and GATMOC, a strategic approach will need to be taken to transition ATM systems from those used to control aircraft on the basis of knowing where they are, and estimating where they will be, to a trajectory based concept where present and intended aircraft positions will be known with higher degrees of accuracy.

To support this increasing use and reliance on technologically advanced systems, the Department is participating in an intragovernmental working group examining the use of the radio spectrum in Australia, with a view to ensuring that the use of spectrum in aviation activities is safeguarded as a public good.

Workforce Capability

While investment in infrastructure and technology will increase the capacity and capability of our ATM system, air traffic facilities and services ultimately are operated and overseen by skilled aviation personnel. Air traffic controllers, pilots and aviation specialist and support staff will need to participate in ongoing training to operate more advanced ATM systems.

ICAO recognises a shortage of skilled aviation professionals is developing and is encouraging States to establish programmes to recruit and train the next generation of aviation professionals, including in ATM.

To recruit and maintain skilled ATM personnel will create challenges for Airservices and Defence, as Australia's ANSPs; and for CASA as the aviation safety regulator.

Environmental Impacts

While modern aircraft are increasingly quieter and more efficient than their predecessors, greater numbers of aircraft movements especially over urban areas in ajor cities will continue to present environmental challenges for ATM in Australia.

Airservices has been working in collaboration with regulatory authorities, airports and airlines to improve the efficiency of ATM and to ensure Australia's aviation industry is minimising its impact on the environment and remains environmentally sustainable.

It is also important to note that any proposed changes to existing operations, including the development of new airports, runways or procedures, require detailed consultation with the community and industry before they are finalised and implemented.

A number of measures have been adopted to improve operational efficiency and reduce aviation emissions and noise impacts, including continuous descent approaches, smart tracking and FlexTracks, airport capacity enhancement, an advanced surface movement guidance and control system, and the use of less environmentally sensitive flight paths.

At the ICAO Assembly meeting in October 2016, agreement was also reached to introduce a global offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation to control carbon dioxide emissions and Australia has supported the commitment to implement that agreement.

Global Priorities

Global Air Navigation Plan—GANP

The Global Air Navigation Plan 2016–2030 (GANP 5th Edition) is an ICAO document that provides guidance to States to increase the capacity and improve the efficiency of the global civil aviation system and implement the GATMOC.

The GANP articulates ICAO's ten key air navigation policy principles (see Appendix 1):

  1. Commitment to the implementation of ICAO's Strategic Objectives and Key Performance Areas;
  2. Aviation safety is the highest priority;
  3. A tiered approach to air navigation planning;
  4. The Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept (GATMOC);
  5. Global air navigation priorities;
  6. Regional and State air navigation priorities;
  7. Aviation system block upgrades (ASBUs), modules and roadmaps;
  8. Use of ASBU blocks and modules;
  9. Cost benefit and financial issues; and
  10. Review and evaluation of air navigation planning.

The GANP applies a rolling 15-year strategic methodology to support a globally harmonised air navigation system. It guides States in leveraging existing technologies and anticipating future developments based on operational objectives agreed by the State in consultation with industry.

This is done through a series of ASBUs, a methodology which allows States to advance their air navigation capacities based on their specific operational requirements.

ASBUs are divided into four performance improvement areas:

  • Airport operations;
  • Globally interoperable systems and data;
  • Optimum capacity and flexible flights; and
  • Efficient flight paths.

Each performance area has four blocks which contain a number of modules (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: GANP 5th Edition—Aviation System Block Upgrade schematic

GANP 5th Edition—Aviation System Block Upgrade schematic

Importantly, individual States determine which modules in each block are applicable to their environment then work through the blocks, upgrading their systems in a globally cohesive manner. A particular initiative may be completed in a single block, or may be progressively implemented across a number of blocks.

In addition, ICAO is developing a comprehensive plan for the development of SARPs and guidance material to support the use of ASBUs.

Australia is working towards implementing the ASBU blocks and modules that align with our operational ATM priorities and circumstances. To assist in this task, Airservices has implemented four operational groups, incorporating representatives of the aviation industry, to guide the work required in the four performance areas. Australia is also working with our neighbours to further develop and implement the coordinated Asia-Pacific Seamless ATM Plan which will guide member States within the region with their ATM planning.

Australia has already implemented or commenced the implementation of a number of the technologies and practices contained in Block 0 and Block 1. These include:

  • Air Traffic Flow Management/Collaborative decision making;
  • Performance Based Navigation (PBN) Approach;
  • Air Traffic Services (ATS) surveillance;
  • ATS Surveillance with data integrated;
  • ADS-Contract and Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC);
  • ATS Inter-facility Data Link Communications (AIDC);
  • Aeronautical Information Management;
  • Strategic civil-military coordination; and
  • Tactical civil-military coordination.

In addition to the GATMOC, two further ICAO documents which support the implementation of the GANP are the:

  • Manual on Air Traffic System Requirements (ICAO Doc 9882); and
  • Manual on Global Performance of the Air Navigation System (ICAO Doc 9883).

Global Aviation Safety Plan—GASP

The Global Aviation Safety Plan 2017–2019 (GASP 2nd Edition) sets out the global air navigation safety objectives, including specific milestones and priorities to be addressed by State and regional aviation safety planners.

To support this work, the GASP provides a framework to assist States and Regions in making improvements to safety and outlines implementation strategies and best practice guidance material to assist in tailoring solutions to address the global objectives and priorities.

The GASP outlines short, medium and long-term objectives:

By 2017: Progress towards implementation of a State Safety Programme.
By 2022: Full implementation of the ICAO State Safety Programme framework.
By 2028: Advance safety oversight system including predictive risk management.

The GASP also sets out three global safety priorities:

  1. Improving runway safety;
  2. Reducing the number of controlled flights into terrain (CFIT) accidents; and
  3. Reducing the number of loss of control in-flight (LOC-I) accidents.

It also notes four emerging priorities:

  1. Global flight tracking;
  2. Remotely piloted aircraft systems;
  3. Space transportation; and
  4. Risks arising from conflict zones.

Australia's ATMP and the State Safety Programme are consistent with the policy principles and priorities outlined in the 2017–2019 GASP.

Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept—GATMOC

Australia supports closer alignment with the vision of an integrated, harmonised and globally interoperable ATM system, as presented by ICAO in its GATMOC (Doc. 9854).

GATMOC outlines the concept of an integrated, global ATM system based on clearly established operational requirements. GATMOC is intended to guide the high-level implementation of communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management technologies by providing a description of how the emerging and future air navigation system should operate.

The concept components of GATMOC include airspace organisation and management, aerodrome operations, demand and capacity balancing, traffic synchronisation, conflict management, airspace user operations and ATM service delivery management.

Asia-Pacific Regional Priorities

Australia participates in, and will continue to support, numerous regional fora and initiatives to work towards a seamless airspace across the Asia-Pacific Region. For example, Australia is an active participant in the Asia-Pacific Air Navigation Planning and Implementation Regional Group (APANPIRG) and associated activities.

The role of APANPIRG is to facilitate coordinated planning in the Asia-Pacific Region. The Regional Air Navigation Plan provides a framework for transition to a unified environment utilising the research and experiences of other regions such as Europe and North America.

Australia will continue to assist in the development of ATM capabilities by our regional partners. Australia works closely with our neighbours, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, under formal development programmes. Australia also provides assistance to other regional neighbours when requested and where the capacity and resources to assist are available.

Australia's Priorities

Safety will always be the most important consideration in Australia's ATM system and this requirement is included in legislation covering the operations of Airservices and CASA.

The Australian Government's other key policy priorities for our ATM system are:

  1. Effective use of, and investment in, technology, infrastructure and services.
  2. Alignment with ICAO SARPs.
  3. Civil-military ATM harmonisation.
  4. Regional air traffic services based on risk assessment
  5. The recruitment, retention and training of skilled personnel.
  6. Effective management of environmental impacts from aviation operations.
  1. Effective use of, and investment in, technology, infrastructure and services

The majority of Australia's current civil air traffic infrastructure assets are owned and managed by Airservices. In upgrading and expanding Australia's ATM infrastructure, Australia will continue to adopt advanced technologies and international standards.

The decision to adopt technology applications will continue to be on the basis of well-developed safety cases, appropriate risk analyses, the development of detailed operational concepts and robust implementation plans factoring in the costs and benefits of these applications and their application to the Australian aviation environment.

Australia supports the wider application and use of modern surveillance technology, including satellite based technologies such as ADS-B and the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

However, as is the case in other leading aviation countries, Australia will maintain a robust ground‑based backup surveillance capability, including radar, to protect against vulnerabilities during transition to this new technology.

The wider adoption of advanced technology is integrally linked with the transition from route-based navigation using terrestrial navigation aids to area navigation using satellite navigation.

The adoption of these applications will not only enhance aviation safety but can also generate efficiency, capacity and environmental benefits.

Future ATM technological capabilities will support:

  • a national satellite and ground based efficient and flexible ATM system utilising air-to-ground data link surveillance for air traffic separation;
  • aircraft utilising satellite navigation as the primary means of navigation, without the need to resort to ground based aids in normal situations;
  • the ability of air traffic surveillance to provide traffic conflict avoidance; and
  • more efficient airspace and air route designs.

Defence has commenced the process of significantly upgrading its infrastructure that supports the provision of air navigation services.

This includes upgrading or replacing control towers and airfield systems buildings at its twelve locations that provide permanent air traffic services. In addition, Defence is replacing its existing primary and secondary radars at nine sites and is investing in ADS-B ground stations at a number of locations. These assets provide surveillance data to both Defence and Airservices and enhance the overall national surveillance capability.

Further information on Australia's current and planned used of technology and adoption of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) and other operational and capacity enhancements is outlined in Appendix 2.


Airservices and Defence are currently collaborating on the installation of a harmonised national ATM system which will provide safe, efficient operations with increased capacity. The OneSKY Australia program is focused on managing the forecast growth in traffic movement in Australia and will also bring opportunities for greater harmonisation of civil and military aviation procurement, the provision of services and training and has significant potential safety, operational and financial benefits for both civil and military aviation users.

As part of this program, Airservices and Defence are working towards an integrated civil-military air traffic system (CMATS). This system will enable a new level of safety, more flexible use of airspace, and operational and cost efficiencies, while also reducing delays for the travelling public and providing opportunities to improve environmental outcomes.

Airservices is also integrating the Terminal Control Unit (TCU) functions of Adelaide and Cairns into the two major national air traffic service centres in Melbourne and Brisbane respectively. This consolidation will support the implementation of OneSKY.

OneSKY is scheduled to commence the transition to CMATS in 2018. Further information on the OneSKY Australia program can be found on the Airservices website at

  1. Alignment with ICAO SARPs

ICAO continues to encourage all States to better plan the enhancement of safety, environmental and operational efficiency of future ATM and navigation systems to assist in eventual global harmonisation.

In particular, Australia supports the ICAO initiatives of:

  • precision navigation enhancing aviation safety and also allowing more efficient use of airspace;
  • instrument approach procedures that provide vertical guidance, enabling significant safety and service enhancements at aerodromes;
  • tracking of flights through flight regions at no less often than every 15 minutes;
  • enhanced collision risk mitigation primarily through the expansion of air traffic surveillance, including the wider application of satellite based surveillance technology; and
  • navigation capabilities that support optimum aircraft routes, reducing fuel burn with attendant economic and environmental benefits.

As outlined in the Australian Airspace Policy Statement (AAPS), Australia supports the use of the internationally-recognised ICAO airspace classification system (Class A to G airspace) in airspace administration.

Any deviations from the SARPs will be well justified, documented and formally notified to ICAO as a filed difference.

  1. Civil-Military ATM harmonisation

Both Defence and Airservices acknowledge that Australia's airspace is a national resource. Airspace is a critical enabler to national imperatives including national security, the environment, the economy and public safety. The flexible use of airspace (FUA) is essential to ensure Australia's airspace is continually optimised to meet increasing demand, the requirements of new platforms and expanding infrastructure. Australia will take advantage of emerging technologies which eliminate barriers to FUA without impacting aviation safety.

The further adoption of FUA will be supported where it maximises the use of available airspace volumes while maintaining the required segregation for non-compatible activities.

The implementation of CMATS under the OneSKY program will enable significantly greater situational awareness for both Airservices and Defence air traffic control. The integrated systems will facilitate safety and efficiency of operations in line with future airspace system concepts. Airservices is working in collaboration with Defence to design and implement the system and is leading the procurement of the new ATM system.

Building on the work of CASA and Defence, the Office of Airspace Regulation (OAR), in collaboration with Airservices and industry, will continue to identify opportunities for more flexible use of civil and Defence administered airspace.

Defence and the OAR continually review restricted areas and Defence managed airspace to identify airspace volumes which can be released for civilian use or disestablished if no longer required for Defence purposes.

  1. Regional air traffic services based on risk assessment

A specific Government airspace policy objective is the provision of appropriate levels of air traffic services at regional aerodromes regularly served by passenger transport services, based on the outcome of risk assessments conducted by CASA.

CASA uses the passenger and aircraft movements criteria contained in the AAPS as a trigger for completing a risk review of airspace classification. These reviews are undertaken in consultation with Airservices, other Government agencies, industry and the community.

Airservices continually monitors growth in aviation activity at regional locations. Using the criteria contained within the AAPS as a guide, Airservices undertakes detailed analyses of the current and future aviation activity at regional aerodromes to facilitate planning for the introduction of appropriate infrastructure and the development and implementation of appropriate procedures.

Based on this work, Airservices is undertaking key initiatives at a number of regional aerodromes, including:

  • additional ADS-B ground stations;
  • further implementation of required navigation performance (RNP) Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs) and Standard Terminal Arrival Routes (STARs); and
  • increased use of electronic surveillance for situational awareness in regional towers.
  1. The recruitment, retention and training of skilled personnel

Airservices and Defence will continue to enhance their workforce planning and skills development for their respective ATM workforces. These initiatives include:

  • tailoring training qualifications to meet specific needs;
  • development of skills and capacity to meet future technology and services;
  • diversifying the workforce;
  • increasing employee engagement;
  • developing strong leaders;
  • innovative recruitment campaigns;
  • developing an Indigenous employment strategy; and
  • removing barriers to employment for people with a disability.

Industry will also need to continue to invest in workforce planning and appropriate skills development and maintenance, including training in modern aircraft and airport navigational, communications and surveillance equipment.

  1. Effective management of environmental impacts from aviation operations

As well as safety and efficiency benefits, modern ATM systems can enable improved management of environmental impacts (noise and emissions) from aviation operations.

The Government will continue to expect that Airservices will assist in implementing the Government's environmental initiatives.

Airservices" current five-year Environmental Strategy (2014–2019) outlines Airservices" proposed broad actions in the areas of aircraft noise, aircraft emissions and the natural environment. Initiatives which will have major impacts on environmental improvements include PBN, RNP and FlexTracks. Further information on Airservices Environmental Strategy can be found on the Airservices website at

An example of the types of projects Airservices has been working on to achieve environmental outcomes are continuous descent operations (CDO) and continuous climb operations (CCO). CDO and CCO, made possible through the increasing use of PBN, can achieve significant reductions in environmental impacts. CDOs allow aircraft to descend to final approach using minimum thrust settings. This not only saves fuel and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, but also decreases noise levels around airports. Similarly, CCOs also reduce the amount of fuel used during take-off and the amount of noise generated.

Australia participates in the Asia and South Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE). ASPIRE was created to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through technological innovation and best practice ATM.

Similar in nature, the Indian Ocean Strategic Partnership to Reduce Emissions (INSPIRE) was formed as a collaborative network of partners and peer organisations dedicated to improving the efficiency and sustainability of aviation across the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean Region. Australia has User Preferred Routes in the Indian and Southern Indian Ocean that allow operators to flight plan the most efficient route for their use. This airspace has been in place for a number of years and provides benefits to airspace users every day.

The Government is committed to the effective distribution of information and effective consultation with the community on ATM environmental issues.

The wider application of advanced ATM technology and procedures must be consistent with the Government's policy of fairer noise sharing for communities living in the vicinity of airports and near flight paths. In this regard, community benefits can be realised by the use of PBN technology, such as the use of time of day flight paths to share noise more equitably where this can be done safely.

Airservices and Defence will continue to consult with the community and industry on the development and implementation of significant changes to air traffic services. The independent Aircraft Noise Ombudsman (ANO) will also continue to oversee Airservices" and Defence's handling of aircraft noise enquiries and complaints, monitor and review consultation arrangements and make recommendations for improvements where necessary.

Industry also has an important role to play in the reduction of aircraft emission and noise impact in operations. Australian airlines are investing heavily in aircraft which are quieter, use less fuel and in some cases, use alternative fuel options.

In addition, Australia's major airlines provide ‘opt in’ carbon neutral initiatives for passengers and freight for both domestic and international flights. The Government commends industry for these initiatives and encourages further innovations to reduce the impact of air travel on the environment.

Future Objectives

Consistent with ICAO's approach of setting out short, medium and long-term objectives, Australia has set out a number of objectives in relation to continuous improvement in our future ATM system as outlined below. Given the rapid pace of change in ATM, Australia will focus heavily on its short and medium term objectives while having regard to the long-term objectives in the GANP.

Short Term (2017–2020)

  • Full implementation of CASA's GNSS based surveillance and navigation mandates.
  • Roll out of approach with vertical guidance (APV) approaches using Baro-VNAV at identified aerodromes around Australia.
  • Airservices and CASA continue to progress a range of work items under the ICAO Separation and Airspace Safety Panel (SASP) including:
  • new standards and procedures for parallel runway operations that include the use of GNSS Landing System and RNP;
  • new PBN separation minima for approved aircraft; and
  • continuing to contribute to the development of new ADS-B separation minima for oceanic and remote airspace.
  • Airservices and Defence will continue to develop the integrated Civil-Military Air Traffic System (CMATS) to improve operational safety and efficiency, and manage the increasingly complex civil‑military airspace requirements.
  • Consistent with the Future Airspace System (FAS) operating concept, develop the Brisbane Extended Manoeuvring Area preliminary design and airspace concept. Future design work will potentially cover new runways at Melbourne, Perth and Western Sydney airports and a regional concept of operations.
  • Australia continues to work through ICAO on practical measures to manage greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation such as operational improvements, aircraft and engine technology uptake, emissions standards, alternative fuels, ATM improvements and national action plans. These initiatives are expected to have flow-on effects for domestic aviation.
  • Airservices and Defence will develop a national infrastructure redundancy plan, catering for business continuity and national security requirements.
  • Airservices and the BOM will continue to develop a framework for meteorological input into efficient and effective ATFM for major, secondary and regional airports.
  • Implementation of the ICAO meteorological information exchange model (IWXXM).
  • Support for SBAS test bed trial in Australia.
  • Complete an aviation safety review of RPAS operations.
  • Airservices will continue to investigate and support GBAS development, through the International GBAS Working Group.

Medium Term (2021–2025)

  • Emerging technologies and their different uses will be supported by flexible design of performance based regulations to support delivery of safety and efficiency outcomes.
  • Continued use of PBN which will require appropriate regulatory standards, education and training programmes to ensure the safe use of satellite-based technology.
  • Airservices" and Defence's CMATS will achieve final operational capability.
  • With OneSKY implementation, develop a single flight information region for Australia.
  • Full implementation of a collaborative, information-based service by Airservices.
  • Continued work with ICAO on practical measures to manage the greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation.
  • APV procedures available at all airports served by passenger transport operations.
  • Maximise use of electronic surveillance of traffic by either aircraft or the air navigation service provider for operations in controlled airspace.
  • Use of ADS-B as an alternative to multilateration for parallel runway monitoring.

Long Term (2026–2030)

  • Trajectory based control for all appropriate flights.
  • Realisation of predictive risk management capability.
  • APV guidance for all Australian IFR runways.
  • Implementation of an ATM Network Operations Plan by Airservices, in consultation with other Government agencies and industry.  

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