The Mk8 ultra-large fire vehicle weighs 30 tonnes when fully loaded with 10,000 litres of water and foam.
The Mk8 ultra-large fire vehicle weighs 30 tonnes when fully loaded with 10,000 litres of water and foam.

Have aviation firefighters been scaled back at our airport?

THERE have been no changes to the number of aviation rescue firefighters employed at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport during the pandemic, despite the changes in the number of flights.

An Airservices spokeswoman confirmed the number of personnel required has varied, based on the number of flights scheduled, and rosters have been adjusted to accommodate this.

"The level of aviation rescue and firefighting service provided at each airport is determined by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, based on the number of aircraft movements and aircraft types, and in accordance with international standards," she said.

Airservices is responsible for Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting Services (ARFFS) across the country.

"Airservices will always ensure it has the appropriate staffing numbers to meet Civil Aviation Safety Authority requirements and to ensure the safety of the travelling public".

The clarification comes after Greg McConville, national president of the United Firefighters Union of Australia, said a lack of air traffic has seen 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.

"With $16.2 billion worth of planes sitting on airport tarmacs, our quiet skies are creating a powder keg at Australia's airports," he said.

Between March and June, aviation firefighters responded to more than 700 incidents across Australia, the union said.

"Across Australian airports planes are being stored at record levels, but fewer aviation fire fighters are there ready to respond. At our largest two airports, Melbourne and Sydney, we risk losing 32 staff if we don't properly maintain the right ARFFs category," Mr McConville said.

"Australia's airports and aviation safety regulations were never designed to accommodate a mass grounding.

"Scaled back fire crews at airports is creating a risk to billions of dollars of assets and vital infrastructure."

The sharp drop in air traffic has decimated Airservices revenue stream, raising fears of redundancies across Australia. The report warns this may crimp the aviation's industry ability to snap back post COVID-19.

The union is calling on the government to back Airservices.