Airservices, Australia’s air traffic services provider, proposes to move the Sydney Terminal Control Unit (TCU) and its 65 air traffic controllers to Melbourne in 2025. The Sydney TCU is responsible for flights into and above Sydney’s three airports and extends out to Katoomba in the West, Kiama in the South and Terrigal in the North. At full capacity, Sydney’s Kingsford Smith airport handles 1200-1300 aircraft movements per day, all of which are sequenced and separated by Sydney TCU controllers. Civil Air believes that a relocation to a remote area would not constitute best practice in terminal control. Keeping locals in charge of the critical flying areas above Sydney is essential. 


The provision of local knowledge for the airspace users around Sydney is an essential advantage of maintaining the Sydney terminal service in Sydney. Along with operations at Sydney Kingsford Smith, the TCU controllers provide the same control service to aircraft departing and arriving at Bankstown and Camden airports, the Richmond RAAF base, and provide control and flight information services for all aviation operations within Greater Sydney.  


A reduction in the major air traffic services sites in Australia will also reduce our resilience when faced with facility breakdown or restrictions such as those experienced throughout the pandemic. Airservices has argued that the relocation will result in increased resilience through a larger pool of controllers. This is a dangerous oversimplification of the way air traffic control personnel are distributed and trained. It takes at least 6 months for an already experienced air traffic controller to gain an endorsement on Sydney TCU airspace, with only a 70% success rate.  


The proposal facilitates current staff redeploying to other facilities if they choose not to transfer to Melbourne. Over 90% of current Sydney terminal controllers have indicated they do not wish to transfer to Melbourne. This will result in a significant loss of experience and local knowledge as well as an aggressive training program to gain the required staff for a Melbourne based roster. The ability for these staff to obtain and consolidate local Sydney knowledge and provide the unique service this results in will be severely diminished. 


Civil Air opposes this proposal and believe it is best practice for terminal control units to be staffed by local air traffic controllers with local knowledge. Keep Sydney air traffic control jobs in Sydney and keep Sydney knowledge in Sydney air traffic control. 


Published: 03 Dec 2021 


Media Inquiries: 


Peter McGuane, Executive Secretary, Civil Air 

03 9647 9100