Aviation firefighters are warning Australia's airports are being left exposed, as Airservices tries to water down safety levels, despite a record number of grounded planes and increased fuel load at our airports.
As part of a major national campaign the aviation branch of the United Firefighters Union of Australia is today holding an emergency meeting with aviation firefighters across Australia. Members will discuss occupational health and safety risks, and also launch a new website designed to raise public awareness.
The campaign has also taken the issue to Canberra, via an emergency virtual briefing to Federal politicians.
"Aviation firefighters across Australia are seriously worried that safety measures are being compromised by Airservices in order to save a few bucks," said Mark von Nida, aviation branch secretary of the United Firefighters Union of Australia.
"Without aviation fire fighter crews on site at airports and fully equipped to respond, Australia's aviation industry could go up in smoke. During the grounding, each day planes must go through regular maintenance, which carries the risk of something going wrong."
The aviation firefighters joined together to launch the new website planestupid.com.au so that the public can understand the reduction in staffing at their nearby airport.
"Aviation firefighters want the politicians and the public to understand just how serious the threat is. The special briefing with politicians over zoom is a first for them in getting the message across - but they hope that combined with growing awareness through the public campaign they can secure their important work."
A lack of air traffic has seen Airservices, which is responsible for Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting Services (ARFFS), reduce the number of crews at major airports below their regulated level, despite the increased risk from grounded planes and higher-than-usual fuel loads at airports.
A recent University of Newcastle report commissioned by the union found that Australian aviation regulation had never taken into consideration the impact of a mass grounding. It found more than $23 billion of airport infrastructure and planes were left exposed as Airservices forced firefighters to work fewer hours.
"With $16.2 billion worth of planes sitting on airport tarmacs, our quiet skies are creating a powder keg at Australia's airports. Aviation firefighters are raising the alarm, because they want to be ready on the ground when we can return to the air."