CASA Safety Video – Launceston OnTrack VFR operations

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Launceston, generally
a class D airport. Mix of traffic – helicopters,
light aircraft, jets. Virgin and Jetstar both fly in here
on a daily basis. Probably one of our biggest issues
is the weather. The climate and the terrain – they’re the two things that I’d say make a mix for,
sometimes in aviation, not the best. VFR operations into Launceston, because of the nature
of the control zone, it sort of comes up to the city
and the sea port at the top there. So it’s a good place
to delineate between being inside and outside
controlled airspace. If you’re coming in from the north, the normal points we see aircraft
coming in are from Devonport, down the highway, so West Gap
and Trevallyn Dam, again, sort of easy places
to pick up navigating visually. Tamar River – an easy way
to navigate down. Targa Gap – not as easy, but again, it’s a gap in the ranges, so pretty easy to fly
down through there. Keep in mind that there are
jet operations in and out. Wake turbulence is something
to take into account. As I said, because the jet traffic
is generally operating in the same areas that we’d probably
expect to see the VFR traffic come in that’s something
to take into account. And we might have to sometimes delay
aircraft for the wake turbulence. We have surveillance. So, again, we have a screen
up in the tower which allows us to see the aircraft. It’s not a radar, but it is
a form of surveillance, so if you’ve got a transponder,
turn that on and we can see you and it helps us provide surveillance. Melbourne Centre also
get the same feed, so if you’re unsure of where you are,
you need assistance… Coverage is pretty good. Melbourne would be able to spot
most aircraft, given some constraints
of the topography, but otherwise… It’s always my advice –
have your transponder and turn it on. MAN: The most common way of arriving
in Tasmania that I’ve noted seems to be a trip down
over Flinders Island. A trip across Bass Strait, of course,
is an over-water crossing where the pilots should be familiar
with the procedure outlined in the En Route Supplement. When pilots leave overhead Flinders
Island and track to Launceston, their track brings them direct
over Waterhouse Island, then to Scottsdale and then to the
VFR reporting point called Targa Gap, which is out to the north-east
of Launceston Airport. Targa Gap is a fairly easy
VFR reporting point to spot because it’s between two mountains –
Mount Barrow and Mount Arthur. There’s no town per se at Targa Gap, so it’s best identified
via the farmland and via the proximity
of the two mountains, one on the right and one on the left. Targa Gap can have
marginal VFR conditions when the cloud base
is below 2,500 feet or even, without local knowledge,
below 3,500 feet. I would recommend to pilots
coming in via Targa Gap that they familiarise themselves
with Scottsdale, and if they can’t
see through the gap, or the heads of both mountains
are in the cloud, they divert over to their right,
parallelling the coast, and come in via Lilydale,
which is a VFR reporting point that’s a lot more open in areas
of low cloud and easy to spot, and a better way to come into
Launceston if the cloud base is low. Tamar River’s another option. Generally, if you can’t get in
via Lilydale, conditions are fairly marginal and you would then follow the coast
along to George Town Airport. The only two things to note
coming that way is the danger area at Stony Head, which is a military range
activated by NOTAM, and George Town Airport,
although marked as a small airport, it has its own common
traffic advisory frequency. George Town is the home to a lot of private aeroplane owners
from Launceston. There’s quite a large
hangar complex there and a large number of aircraft
based at George Town. There’s also a recreational
aviation school at George Town and George Town can be
quite a busy little aerodrome. Good little airport
to stop in to as well – it’s a good sealed,
all-weather runway that would provide an alternate
if the weather was really bad. Once you’ve left George Town,
which is a good alternate aerodrome, and tracked down the Tamar River, there’s a couple of high radio masts
at Kelso that should be avoided. They’re marked on the VTC as well as
on the World Aeronautical Chart. And they’re quite a high, narrow,
thin tower – quite difficult to see. There is some lights on the top
of them, it should be noted. And then if you track
down the Tamar River, clearance into Launceston
is fairly easy to get at 1,500 and it’s possible to get into
Launceston at 1,000 feet. Coming down the Tamar River, the first thing you’ll see
before Launceston Airport is Tamar Island and
then Launceston city. Launceston city is actually
at sea level, whereas the airport is at
500 feet above sea level. And if you can get to Launceston city
at 1,000 feet, you can generally get into Launceston
quite safely subject to an air traffic control
clearance. Tango November Mike is
approaching Tamar Island. George Town, Devonport, Port Sorell,
there’s a training area there. Up and down the Tamar,
there is quite a bit of activity, and with a bit of altitude, you’ll have your RPT approaching
and departing from that area. North-east of the airstrip
at Launceston there’s a place called Youngtown, which is on the edge of
the built-up area of Launceston, where it sort of starts. The Tasmanian Fire Service
have two helipads there. If you see the river come up and bend
just before the CBD of Launceston, they call it the Glebe –
it’s marked on the VTC. And there’s quite a bit of activity
out there – there’s a helicopter operation
that does a lot of joy-flights and photography and things like that. ROBERT SHARMAN: There is a lot of
high mountains around, and in marginal weather,
a trip down to Hobart VFR can be a little bit marginal. You can take off with 1,500 feet
of clearance, but you won’t get to Hobart at 1,500. And there’s several passes
in the Midlands Highway. It would be advisable to
carefully study the weather and have an alternate, or be prepared
to come back to Launceston in marginal VFR conditions. Getting out to the north
isn’t nearly so bad because straight after becoming
airborne from Launceston, you track out over Launceston city
and again follow the Tamar River out when all other VFR routes are out. Going to Devonport, the direct track
takes you out through West Gap, which is quite high country, and, again, that can be blocked
by low cloud. But going to Devonport by
following the Tamar River up then turning left at the mouth of
the Tamar River or somewhere just before
the mouth of the Tamar River is a relatively easy affair
with a low cloud base, once again, keeping in mind
the tall radio towers at Kelso. At Launceston, helicopters use the same approach points
as fixed-wing aircraft. Request an airways clearance
to track direct to Launceston. At these approach points,
you’d contact air traffic control. Personally, I do it a little bit
earlier because in a helicopter, you’re usually a lower priority because we’re
a slower-moving aircraft and you’ve got a lot of RPT
going in and out. ATC: Track direct to the field
and report Launceston city.

 

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