Dick Smith Flyer

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222 Could have died! Tasmanian Radar Deficiencies

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Last Updated: Oct 22, 2013

Dick Smith is an Australian businessman who was appointed to the Board of the Australian Civil Aviation Authority from June 1988 and was made the Chairman from February 1990 until February 1992.  He was then on the Board of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority from May 1997 and appointed Chairman from December 1997 to March 1999.  Both times Dick has been Chairman of these organisations he has been involved in major regulatory reform.  He says that only 20% of the necessary reforms, which provide high safety levels and at the same time allow Australian aviation to remain financially viable, have been completed.


Dick Smith's Introduction

We could be leaders in the world with both high safety and participation levels if we copy the best

General Aviation hours flown

My business success with Dick Smith Electronics and Australian Geographic was a result of copying some of the best ideas around the world, asking advice, surrounding myself with capable people and enthusing them to perform.   The same is possible with aviation reform.  I’ve been fortunate to fly in every continent and to have the time, money and curiosity to visit aviation regulators and ask lots of questions.

I learned that although the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) ensures some common practices worldwide, each country has its own unique differences. Airspace systems, for instance, evolve from local political and industrial pressures.   My vision for Australia’s aviation reform is to look at each country’s  practices, take the best ideas and put them into one system – something no one has ever done.


I’ve done well in my businesses in Australia by constantly asking advice and copying the best. It would give me immense satisfaction to apply these principles to  aviation reform. The problem is that aviation presents far greater challenges than retail or publishing industries.


I’ve found that Australian aviation is surrounded by people who have been trained in a particular system and want to stick with it. They are absolutely genuine workers who are happy with their present jobs and have no interest whatsoever in how things are done overseas. I call it the “it wasn’t built here” syndrome. Not surprisingly, many of these people regard any change as a threat.


I've put a lot of hard work into aviation reform and I’m not about to give up. Given the chance, I’ll incorporate the experience I’ve gained from thousands of flying hours and the best ideas from around the world, such as Class E airspace, which maximises the use of air traffic control and radar, and combine them with Australia’s best, such as our practice of self-separation in low traffic density terminal areas.


I believe that we can create a system that will make Australia the world leader in both flight training and recreational aviation. The return to Australia would be thousands of extra jobs and hundreds of million of dollars in revenue.  Just look at the graph below at what is happening to general aviation.  It is so sad and it is so unnecessary.


I am also concerned about the myriad of regulations which add to cost but not to safety in a cost effective way


Most importantly I am very concerned at the moment both in the way that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the ATSB and Airservices appear to be “captured” by those who resist any change at all.  I’m also extremely concerned that our airspace classifications and procedures have never been properly updated since the old Flight Service non-radar days. 

I believe if these changes are not made that we will end up with a major airline crash – most probably a controlled flight into terrain caused in part by the lack of the proper use of the Airservices radar system, or even more likely a collision in the circuit area or on the runway at an aerodrome because the air traffic controllers are not using modern international procedures, or at a non-controlled aerodrome because we do not have a UNICOM local radio operator.


If ever I get the chance to make the reforms mentioned above, I will do it. 


Unfortunately, the present Government has no overarching policy or vision in relation to aviation.  Without this, the various departments and organisations pursue their own agendas with their own self-interest. There is clearly a culture of never asking advice and never copying proven safe systems from overseas.


The Government needs clear, visionary policy backed by legislation which includes that there be a safe and financially viable aviation industry with the highest participation levels possible.