Less eyes in the sky at Coffs airport
AIR traffic controllers are no longer on duty at the Coffs Harbour Airport tower on weekends.
The Advocate was contacted by a concerned staff member who did not want to be named and Air Services Australia has since confirmed the cut.
"Due to the impact of COVID-19 on traffic levels, Airservices has been consulting with customers and stakeholders on a temporary reduction of services at a number of regional locations, including the removal of weekend services at the Coffs Harbour Tower," an Airservices spokesperson said.
"As per existing practices, a Flight Information Service is provided from our Brisbane centre to the traffic operating in the vicinity of the aerodrome when the Coffs Harbour Tower is not providing services.
"This is already the case outside current tower hours and the flying community understand these procedures."
Chief instructor of Coffs Skydivers Lawrence Hill says the reduction in coverage will pose a number of challenges for pilots.
"It's not that we can't operate when the tower isn't manned - it's just easier and a lot less work for pilots when it is manned.
"It's not specifically more dangerous, it's just that pilots need to talk to each other a lot more.
"It's obviously preferable to have the tower operated by a bunch of operators that are highly trained and professional to oversee flight activity."
The Coffs Harbour Aiport is often used by Chinese trainee pilots at the Australian International Aviation School flying out of Port Macquarie and Kempsey.
"It can get a bit interesting with the trainees and there have been some challenges communicating with them over the radio," Mr Hill explained.
The Airservices Australia spokesperson said the weekend cut is not permanent.
"Airservices will monitor traffic demand as the impacts of COVID-19 continues, to ensure our services deliver safe and efficient outcomes for airspace users.
"All changes planned are a direct response to the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on current traffic demand. There are no plans for permanent cuts to services or tower closures."