Home' Australian Aviation Magazine : November 2009 Contents 37
NOVEMBER 2009 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION
we've got quite a reasonable sort of system,
and that's what we're looking at."
AVM Brown said aircrew retention was
a complex issue, but "having a competitive
remuneration package is a big part of it."
Another issue is "locational stability", or
not regularly posting people to different
More broadly, thanks in part to the eco-
nomic downturn, the Air Force's 'separa-
tion' rate "is probably lower than ideal", said
DCAF. "But in my mind it is a temporary
situation, we've put a lot measures in place
so that (when airlines start recruiting) it
will go back towards our ideal rate."
"We've spent a fair bit of time to get
down to ideal separation rates," AVM
Brown said. "Too low separation rates and
then you can't pull through the training
system... if we kept everybody then we
would stop recruiting, and then we would
end up with an ageing workforce."
Conversely, "Air Force is a fairly technical
organisation, most of the people in it are
highly skilled with long training times, so
the longer you can keep them in the more
cost effective the organisation is."
Where those personnel are based is
another issue facing DCAF and generating
headlines at the moment.
" ere is a fair bit of work going on at
the moment and again that has to go across
to government to have a look at, it's prob-
ably not my place to comment on where we
are at with that," said AVM Brown. " ere
are other proposals but they are longer term
proposals and it's probably not so much
around Air Force bases either."
"Bases cost money to run, they also need
renewal of their infrastructure, so if you are
on less bases it is less expensive, but moving
them is no trivial matter. Richmond is a
classic case in point -- to actually move the
C-130s, it means that you have to move all
the infrastructure. e cost of doing that
could be around $300 million plus. When
you look at the cost of operating the base,
that is substantially less. You really need to
do the base consolidations as you bring in
new equipment, so I think what you will
see will be a very much longer term plan."
Giving airlines greater access to RAAF
bases is another vexing issue, with access to
Newcastle Airport at RAAF Williamtown
one sometimes contentious issue.
Currently six airline movements an hour
are permitted into Williamtown, but the
RAAF resists pressure to relax that cap, and
is certainly resistant of any talk of William-
town/Newcastle being a second Sydney
" e level of operations that William-
town is at is quite comfortable at the mo-
ment, but any thought of it being a second
Sydney airport, to me that just means that
precludes military operations," said AVM
Brown. "You can have a level of civilian
traffic in there, but it can't be unrestrained."
Following the success of allowing the
airlines to operate into Newcastle/William-
town, low cost airlines such as Tiger and
Jetstar have eyed off access to other RAAF
bases, particularly Edinburgh near Adelaide
and also Richmond.
"I think the airlines see Edinburgh as a
cheaper option than Adelaide. I don't think
Adelaide has any particular infrastructure
concerns or limitations at the moment, so I
have to question what the motivation is in
seeking access to Edinburgh," said DCAF.
"But from our point of view civil access
comes with a lot of additional costs to us in
terms of air traffic control and firefighting,
which we currently have structured to meet
the needs of the P-3 and AOSG operations
out of Edinburgh, so any sort of increase
with commercial operations would put
pressure on those resources.
"I think the airlines now look at it
as a cheap option, but if you put in full
cost recovery charging to support airline
operations, I'm not sure that the economics
would add up."
e other pressure point between the
RAAF and the commercial world is access
to military airspace.
"I'd argue that access happens now out
of Dar win -- nobody gets tracked around
military airspace, they get tracked right
through. Probably the most contentious
issue is the airspace around Williamtown,
and if you calculate the percentage of times
people get knocked back through that
airspace I think it's only four or five per
cent of the time. It adds 63 miles over the
Los Angeles to Sydney leg to go around
that airspace, and I think on a 12 or 13
hour flight that's a pretty small fuel burn
increase. I'm not sure it's as big a deal as
people make out when you actually do the
And DCAF says the environmental ar-
gument for more efficient routings via access
through military airspace cuts both ways.
"If you have to look at one 747 doing
an extra somewhere between 30 and 60
track miles, or I hold eight F/A-18s on
the ground at Williamtown while this one
747 transits through the airspace -- which
is emitting the most greenhouse gases
then? You can argue it purely from their
economic line, but you have to have a look
at the economics of our operation too.
Again, that's something we concentrate on,
our fuel burn and the most efficient way to
operate the jets.
"I find that this is sometimes a singular
line of argument from the airlines on their
fuel burn -- they fail to take into account
what our fuel burn is if we are delayed or
at's certainly one issue of many fighting
for Air Force HQ's time as it manages its
broad ranging re-engineering program for
the RAAF -- a demanding balancing game
in a challenging, but fascinating, time. n
A ROUNDED CV Then Air Commodore Brown with a Hornet in 2006 when he was Commander Air Combat
Group. AVM Brown joined the RAAF in 1980 after completing an engineering degree, and after graduating
from pilot's course flew Chinook helicopters. Subsequent career highlights include leading the Roulettes, CO
of 3 Squadron, OC of 82WG (F-111s), commanding RAAF F/A-18 and C-130 operations during Operation Iraqi
Freedom in 2003, Commander Air Combat Group, and Director General Capability Planning. He was appointed
DCAF on June 30 2008. (Dept of Defence)
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