Airservices manages and controls the flight paths used by aircraft approaching and departing from major airports. In most cases, aircraft fly approved flight paths that have been developed over time in consultation with government, councils and residents.
Flight paths are not precise straight lines but more like corridors several kilometres wide. Over time, as navigation technology has improved, these corridors have generally become narrower. Factors such as aircraft type, weight and weather conditions can also determine how precisely aircraft fly within corridors. From the ground, it can appear that aircraft that should be flying the ‘same’ path, are flying a different path. This leads to the perception that aircraft are flying on the ‘wrong’ or a ‘new’ flight path, which is rarely the case. More information is available on why aircraft fly where they do.
Air traffic controllers keep aircraft at safe distances from each other in the air and on the ground, while arranging them in a sequence for landing or take-off along organised flight paths. The management of aircraft by air traffic control is a complex process, particularly at major airports. That is why strict procedures are in place to manage arriving and departing aircraft.
In broad terms, there are two types of airspace—controlled and uncontrolled. Airservices manages controlled airspace, where all aircraft must have continual radio contact with air traffic control and submit a flight plan detailing the route and height they will fly. Some emergency operations do not have to submit a flight plan, due to the urgency of their flights. All other airspace is uncontrolled. Pilots operating in uncontrolled airspace must still comply with aviation regulations. However, they do not need to submit a flight plan, they can operate without notifications and they may only have partial radio contact. The large majority of light aircraft and helicopters operate mostly in uncontrolled airspace.
The Air Services Act states that Airservices must give regard to the safety of air navigation as its most important consideration. Subject to this, Airservices must perform its functions so that as far as practicable, the environment is protected from the effects associated with the operation and use of aircraft. Airservices manages the movement of aircraft so that, as far as possible, noise impacts on communities are minimised.