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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation
i Local Inventions, Research, Design and Manufacture
ii The Development of Air Transport: The Trail Blazers
iii The Services
iv The Royal Flying Doctor Service
v Ground Aids and Safety Innovations
vi From Aviation to Modern Shipping

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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Ground Aids and Safety Innovations

So far we have concentrated on the airborne side of the aviation activities.

Of equal importance are the ground aids, which are essential in ensuring the safety of aircraft operations. In this area Australian innovators have made several important contributions, some of which have found world-wide acceptance and applications.

The biggest problem in aviation is flying and landing in conditions of low or bad visibility. Amalgamated Wireless Australia (A.W.A.), the Australian radio and electronics company, pioneered the use of airborne 'wireless' equipment in Australia and installed such equipment in Kingsford-Smith's Southern Cross in 1928. The installation of navigational radio beacons at Essendon in 1935 and then at Mascot was another step to improve the capability of aircraft to find airports in conditions of bad visibility. A.W.A. introduced the world's first mandatory DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) and in the sixties they designed and produced fully solid state VOR (Very High Frequency Omni Range) beacons, which were -and still are -used in Australia and overseas.[46]

In the late fifties, Dr. Dave Warren of Australian Research Laboratories, proposed the use of airborne recorders, which would register the main flight parameters and also cockpit voice communications and be contained in sufficiently rugged 'black boxes' to survive aircraft crashes. His idea did not find official acceptance in Australia, but was eventually taken up in the United States. Flight Recorders are now standard equipment on all airline -and many military -aircraft and are an essential element in all accident investigations.

The T-VASIS, the visual approach system to runways, using a combination of red and green lights, disposed in a special fashion, was developed by Ron Cumming of ARL in the fifties and adopted in Australia and overseas.

Australian innovators were instrumental in developing the new 'blind landing' system for aircraft which will become world standard in the next decade. This microwave landing system (MLS) utilises the principle of 'Time Referenced Scanning Beam' (TRSB), which was proposed, in the early seventies, by the Radiophysics Division of CSIRO, under Dr. Paul Wild. The Australian signal system was chosen as standard format by the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) in 1975 and by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) in 1978.

An engineered version of the system, called MITAN, was developed by industry (A.W.A. and Hawker de Havilland) under a contract to the Department of Transport, and successfully demonstrated by an installation at Tullamarine in the late seventies. This was followed by major government funding and the formation of a company called INTERSCAN, to develop equipment of the same name and tender for the requirements of F.A.A. Whilst the bid for the Federal Aviation Agency tender was not successful, the company now produces other microwave devices and antennae for local and U.S. markets.[47]

As mentioned in the introduction, Australian scheduled airlines have had, for the last 25 years, the best safety record in the world.

Good flying conditions are, obviously, of some help, but many local innovations in relation to maintenance, training and information dissemination, all contribute to this remarkable record. One such innovation, widely respected in the professional circles, is the journal, Safety Digest initiated in the fifties by the then Department of Civil Aviation and which is issued to all licensed pilots. It describes and analyses all aircraft accidents which happened in Australia (and some from overseas) and it has been, without doubt, responsible for increasing the level of safety awareness in Australian aviation.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Amalagamated Wireless Australia (A.W.A.); Australia. Department of Civil Aviation (D.C.A.); Australian Research Laboratories; CSIRO Division of Radio Physics; Hawker de Havilland; International Civil Aviation Organization (I.C.A.O.); INTERSCAN

People in Bright Sparcs - Cumming, Ron W.; Schaetzel, Stanley S.; Warren, Dr Dave

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 516 - 517, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher