Australian air traffic control

Australian air traffic control

Air traffic control in Australia is provided by two different agencies, one civilian and one military. The civilian provider is Airservices Australia, which controls civilian airfields and airspace. The military provider is the Royal Australian Air Force, which controls military airfields and airspace (This includes Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy aviation bases). Some airfields in Australia are categorised as Joint User airfields, meaning that there are both civilian and military operations based at the airfield. Normally, Joint User airfields have air traffic control provided by the RAAF.


Civilian Air Traffic Control

Airservices Australia (AsA) is a government owned corporation that provides air traffic control services, as well as other related services such as airfield fire services.

AsA provide Tower, Approach and Centre (en route) services.

Currently, most Airservices Australia ATC units use The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System.


Sydney Airport Control Tower

Major Airports

Regional / Minor Metropolitan / Former "General Aviation" Airports

Wagga Wagga Airport Control Tower (Now disused)

Approach Units

  • Adelaide, SA
  • Brisbane, QLD
  • Cairns, QLD
  • Canberra, ACT (Located at Melbourne Centre)
  • Melbourne, VIC
  • Perth, WA
  • Sydney, NSW

Centre (En route) Units

Airservices Australia manages 11% of the world's airspace, including very large portions of the Indian and Southern Oceans, and parts of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. The airspace consists of two Flight Information Regions (FIR), the Brisbane FIR and the Melbourne FIR. Each FIR has its own centre to run en route services.

Brisbane Centre

The Brisbane FIR consists of New South Wales north of Sydney, all of Queensland, most of the Northern Territory and the northern half of Western Australia. It also contains the Australian Tasman Sea airspace. Due to the nature of the airspace it controls most international flights in and out of Australia (except Indian Ocean flights), and domestic flights operating to airports within the FIR. As only two of eight capitals are located in the Brisbane FIR, it handles a lesser volume of traffic than Melbourne Centre. However, Sydney is just south of the border of the two FIRs (the Sydney Basin is part of the Melbourne FIR), and thus Brisbane Centre has control of flights arriving or departing in Sydney from the North.

Brisbane Centre is located adjacent to Brisbane Tower at Brisbane Airport. It also contains Brisbane Approach.

Melbourne Centre

The Melbourne FIR consists of all other Australian airspace outside the Brisbane FIR. This includes Victoria, Tasmania, southern New South Wales including Sydney, most of South Australia and the southern half of Western Australia. It also contains the Australian Indian and Southern Ocean airspace. Apart from International flights arriving from the Indian Ocean, most International flights will pass through Brisbane Centre first. However, as the FIR contains six of the eight capital cities, a very large portion of domestic flights are controlled from Melbourne Centre.

Melbourne Centre is located adjacent to Melbourne Tower at Melbourne Airport. It also contains Melbourne Approach and Canberra Approach.

Military Air Traffic Control

Like civil air traffic control, the Australian Defence Force provide Tower and Approach services but do not provide enroute services.

Although historically each of the three services had its own air traffic controllers, the Royal Australian Air Force exclusively provides air traffic control services to the Australian Defence Force.

44 Wing (44WG) was formed to centrally manage ATC personnel and facilities at 11 Defence bases. 44 Wing is an Air Command unit, belonging to the Surveillance and Response Group. Each base has its own 44WG detachment which manages air traffic control services at the base, although is ultimately commanded from HQ44WG in Williamtown, NSW.

The RAAF provide both Tower and Approach services, and in some cases a limited Centre (or en route) service. However, centre services are normally amalgamated with approach control. Two bases, Richmond and Edinburgh, provide only a Tower service, given their close proximity to Sydney and Adelaide respectively. Civilian ATC provide approach services to these bases.

Tower and Approach services are normally located within the control tower or an adjacent building. Unlike civilian ATC, no approach or en route services are provided remotely.

Currently, most military ATC units use the Australian Defence Air Traffic System. The RAAF use AsA's TAAATS equipment in Perth to provide approach services to RAAF Base Pearce.

Military ATC Units

Royal Australian Air Force

RAAF Base Darwin/Darwin International Airport Control Tower

Royal Australian Navy

Australian Army

Joint User Airfields

  • Darwin International Airport - (co-located with RAAF Base Darwin)
  • Townsville International Airport - (co-located with RAAF Base Townsville)

Further information

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