The growing airborne search for the lost aircraft in the so-called southern corridor is not disrupting regular air traffic operations, says Airservices Australia.
The search operation over the southern Indian Ocean is based in Perth, and is being overseen by Australian authorities.
With the revelation that special radar-forensics techniques have led authorities to conclude that the flight’s final track was south over open ocean, not north toward land, the remaining search effort will concentrate on a southern arc passing to the west of Australia.
Military and civilian aircraft have been flying from Perth to search defined areas of ocean about 1,500 mi. to the south west, following up on multiple sightings by satellites and some by aircraft. The search is being coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
Airservices’ radar and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) coverage only extends 250 nm, so the search area is far beyond the range of direct air traffic control. However, search activities are still in the flight information region that Airservices manages.
There is very little commercial traffic in this region, although flights between South Africa and Australia do travel that far south. When the military aircraft are flying their search patterns, they are typically much lower than any commercial traffic, an Airservices spokesman tells Aviation Week.
The search aircraft are operating out of either Perth International Airport, or atBase Pearce which is about 21 mi. north of Perth. Aircraft involved in the operation are filing flight plans with Airservices and are being managed while in the terminal control area from the Perth terminal control unit (TCU). The influx of search aircraft from various nations is not disrupting regular traffic, as Perth is a busy airport and well equipped to deal with extra flights.
The Perth TCU accommodates Airservices controllers who handle Perth airport flights, as well as military controllers who handle Pearce operations. They work in the same room, and use the same type of system based on’ Eurocat. This is the only ATC facility in Australia where civil and military controllers operate side-by-side.