Infrastructure of the Sky
7 October 2009
Today I was also pleased to announce that next year we will be recruiting 100 new engineering apprentices, taking our engineering apprentice numbers to 386, as part of Australia's largest civil aviation apprentice program. And I'm pleased to mention this commitment this evening, because Reg Ansett himself was a great supporter of young people in aviation. I understand at one stage he personally provided 15 scholarships each year to allow young men to fulfil their dream of becoming a pilot.
The reasons for us to forge ahead on our airspace infrastructure are simple. In fact, they are more than reasons, they are imperatives.
We are in the safest flying era in history. But we can make our safe skies even safer. I believe we have an obligation to take full advantage of the technologies and systems that we know will provide excellence in the surveillance of aircraft, enable their safe and efficient navigation through the sky, and assist them to land with precision, aided by integrated communications and airspace management systems.
Australia led the world with the formation in 1999 of the Australian Strategic Air Traffic Management Group or ASTRA. ASTRA is already a model in Europe and America. It will work even more effectively if it has appropriate linkages to the peak Aviation Policy Group (APG), and with expert representation on the APG.
We need to update and continue to improve our overall regulatory framework so that it does three things:
It should harness the capability of modern technologies and continue to reflect leading approaches to safety management.
It should provide incentives for airlines that have made the investments in advanced technologies.
And it should facilitate introduction of the systems that will deliver excellence in air traffic management.
To give just one example, clear direction from the regulator would revitalise the project to migrate the entire national fleet to satellite navigation. This would end the current anomalous system whereby airlines are also required to pay for redundant ground-based navigation systems.
Allied to this, we should accelerate the deployment of ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast) across all Australian airspace. This will enable us to realise significant benefits beyond the scope already envisaged, leaving behind the era of radar and supporting 21st century airspace management.
Climate change is a reality and aviation must play its role in meeting this challenge. Continued investment in next generation aircraft and improved air traffic management will be critical if we are to deliver emissions reductions.
The inaugural A380 service between LA and Melbourne in October last year was a great example of what can be achieved. Through the ASPIRE program we worked in close partnership with Airservices Australia and the New Zealand and US authorities. We brought together all the latest technologies and techniques. Required Navigation Performance (RNP) made it possible to develop the most efficient User Preferred Route across the Pacific. A Continuous Descent Approach ensured a smoother, quieter arrival, saving fuel and reducing emissions. We were able to deliver a perfect flight path 'gate to gate' saving thousands of kilograms in carbon emissions.
Let's set about making this kind of smart flying 'the new normal' - as soon as we can. Qantas and Airservices Australia, with the support of CASA and the technical expertise of Naverus, have been working together with great success to introduce Required Navigation Performance (RNP).
The two and half year-long Brisbane trial proves beyond doubt that this is the way to the future with annual savings for Brisbane alone in the order of 215,000 kilograms of fuel, 650,000 kilograms of CO2, 17,000 track miles, and 4,200 minutes.
And note that these figures are only for our Qantas RNP approaches. If the take-up rate for RNP in Brisbane were 100 per cent for all airlines, the fuel savings for the Qantas B737-800s alone would be in the order of $1 million per year.
So you won't be surprised to hear me say that I believe we should bring forward the timeline to take RNP nationwide. Part of this will include replacing the old-school Instrument Landing System with the safety and precision of the modern GPS Landing System. We were very pleased to see Airservices Australia's recent commitments on this.
The agenda for action is not just driven by environmental concerns, vital though they may be. There are pressing economic imperatives here too. Oil prices will not return to the levels of the good old days. They may continue to rise and could even spike to levels dangerous for the commercial viability of many airlines, including Qantas. Clearly, we must keep driving maximum efficiency in the use of fuel.
With the nation-wide introduction of RNP, for example, some back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that savings for Qantas could be conservatively placed in the order of $20 million per year. This does not take into account the likely cost of carbon through the ETS and therefore further savings due to lower emissions, nor the savings we would make on aircraft maintenance. And these numbers are based on the current fuel price of around $US70 per barrel. The savings would double if the oil price climbed back up to $US 140 per barrel.
This is obviously all really important for us, but it is worth noting that air transport underpins much of Australia's economic activity and international competitiveness: whether it's transporting mine workers to remote fields; freighting live lobsters to Asia; carrying tourists to Queensland for school holidays; or corporate travellers for business around the globe. So it is critical that we have a healthy, financially viable, aviation industry.
I note that the Government has embarked on an initiative to invigorate 'Brand Australia' based at least in part on Australia as a clean, innovative nation. Air travel is the major way that visitors connect with our country. An air transport system that offers greater efficiency and reliability from gate to gate is a competitive advantage that is within our reach. It is just a matter of grasping it.
Perhaps most important of all, we have the opportunity to make aviation even better for the travelling public and for the entire nation. We can make flying even safer, faster and more reliable. We can have quieter approaches and take-offs. And lower emissions will reduce the environmental impact on our communities.
Sydney Airport is a significant opportunity. Last week it was great to see that Sydney has been voted one of the top ten airports in the world by Conde Nast Traveller magazine readers. Sydney is the international gateway to Australia and the core of our national aviation network. A redesign of airspace operating configurations and arrival and departure paths and profiles is needed. This will unleash the full performance and navigation capabilities of modern aircraft. It will also enable even finer calibration of flight paths in line with the needs of the local community.
I appreciate that this overhaul will require a lot of work and sensitive handling, but I can assure you that Qantas will lend all our support. We'd love to see Sydney's airspace management as worthy of accolades as its airport.
Let me conclude.
I've been lucky enough to make the journey from Ireland to Australia and to benefit from all this nation offers.
I've been inspired by the achievements of all the aviation pioneers this country has produced - including Sir Reg Ansett, in whose memory we gather tonight.
And I'm only too aware that the best way to repay this good fortune is to be part of the next generation of aviation achievement.
By using the tools and techniques available to us right now, we have the opportunity to create a transport system that offers infrastructure in the sky that is the equal to, if not better than, the best on the ground.
The synthesis of technologies, people, processes, and regulatory oversight will deliver us the next leap forward in aviation excellence.
And an Australian aviation industry that is the most safe, efficient and environmentally sustainable in the world.
Sir Reginald Ansett found success through the strong partnerships he forged.
When we work together as strong and committed partners, all of us in the Australian aviation industry can contribute to our continuing success.
And with Qantas, I can assure you that you have a partner that is investing for the future and is clearly committed to help keep Australia a world leader in Aviation.