The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has introduced the new rules as the use of technologies such as heads-up displays and automatic landing systems that allow aerodromes and pilots to cut through low-visibility conditions become more widespread.
From March 3, CASA will introduce two new “special” categories of landing rules that will allow aircraft to land safely in deteriorating and foggy weather conditions.
The new rules will apply to aircraft that possess advanced visual and landing technology systems typically found in larger modern jets such as Boeing’s 737s and Airbus’s A320s.
Runways with Category 2, Category 3 or SA Category 2 precision approach procedures will also be automatically eligible for the new operations.
CASA said the new rules would allow safety standards to be maintained during low visibility landings without the requirement for aerodromes to install additional runway and approach lighting normally required when landing aircraft in fog and heavy rain.
Under current regulations, pilots are only permitted to land on Category 1 airstrips if they can see the runway from a height of no less than 200ft and a distance of no less than 800m.
If conditions are too poor to get a visual confirmation at those distances, pilots are required to abort the landing, try again or go to another airport. Pilots can also gain landing clearance for a better lit runway if airports possess them.
The new rules will introduce a halfway point between the landing requirements for Category 1 and Category 2 runways and allow pilots to land in poor weather when they can spot landing strips from a height of 150 feet and at a visible range of 450m.
The new rules will also mean airports will not have to spend the millions of dollars required to upgrade runways with new lighting systems to ensure they meet the higher visibility standards needed for landing in poor weather conditions.
Sydney airport, Melbourne airport and the nation’s top two carriers, Qantas and Virgin, welcomed the new standards, saying the rules represented best practice without compromising safety standards.
“Melbourne airport is already certified for low visibility operations for one of our runways and we look forward to implementing the new regulations on our second runway to make Melbourne airport more efficient for airlines and passengers.“ said Melbourne airport spokeswoman Anna Gillett.
Qantas chief technical pilot Alex Passerini said the airline was delighted with the introduction of the new regulations.
“For customers, it means less chance of diversions due to bad weather and more on time arrivals,” Captain Passerini said.
“And from a business perspective, it increases the efficiency of our aircraft and ensures our schedules stay on track as it will reduce aircraft holding in the air or other delays.”
CASA has estimated the changes could lead to savings of more than $10 million a year for the aviation industry and community as fewer flights are delayed.
The Royal Australian Air Force is spending more than $90 million to convert luxury corporate jets into state-of-the-art spy planes. A brief statement posted on the US Defense Department website confirms the project.
“L-3 Communications Mission Integration, Greenville, Texas, has been awarded a $93,632,287 firm-fixed price undefinitised contract action task order (1648) for Australia Government G550 aircraft procurement and maintenance,” it said. “Work will be performed at Greenville, Texas, and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2017.
“This contract is 100-per cent foreign military sales to Australia.”
Peter Jennings from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said he is not surprised the RAAF has chosen the option.
“Turning this aircraft from a business jet into something that can potentially be used for surveillance and electronic information gathering and I suspect that’s the major intent behind this,” he said.
The G550 is a luxury corporate jet boasting the ability to fly more than 12 hours nonstop, and over 12,000 kilometres.
It is powered by two Rolls Royce engines, can carry up to 18 passengers and operates out of short-field, high-altitude airports, meaning it could spy on remote and difficult locations such as Afghanistan.
Australia’s current P3 maritime surveillance aircraft are due to retire in 2018, and will be eventually be replaced by the P8 Poseidon and Triton.
“The Gulfstream is smaller, faster, takes fewer crew so it’s cheaper to operate,” Mr Jennings told the ABC’s PM program.
Already several militaries across the globe are using G550s for intelligence gathering but full details of Australia’s contract are not expected to be known until the release of this year’s long-awaited defence white paper.