Aeolian dust as a transport hazard
MetadataShow full item record
The effects of blowing dust on transport operations are often mentioned as one of the significant impacts of aeolian processes on human welfare. However, few studies have been presented to demonstrate this impact. This research examined official air traffic incident reports in Australia for inclusively 1969-2010 to characterise the hazard of blowing dust to aviation in the country, the first such study of its kind. For the 42 year record, 61 incidents were identified (mean 1.4 per annum), with the large majority occurring in the first half of the 1970s. Only 20% of incidents occurred from 1984 onwards. Australian dust activity has not decreased over time, and the reduction in incidents is partly explained by improvements in aviation technology. The centralisation of Air Traffic Control operations to major coastal cities may however have reduced pilot reporting of dust-induced aviation incidents. By type of dust activity, dust storms were associated with nearly half of the reported incidents and dust hazes produced around a quarter. Only 5% of incidents resulted in any physical damage to aircraft and only one case involving personal injury was reported. The majority of the adverse effects on aviation due to dust (nearly 60% of reported incidents) were related to difficulties for navigation and completion of scheduled journey. Since aircraft damage and bodily harm were rare, the impact of dust in Australia is mostly that of inconvenience and associated raised economic costs. From 1990, the temporal pattern of incidents does not show any significant increase despite several intensely dusty years associated with recent droughts. This suggests that Australian aviation safety may be relatively resistant to the adverse effects of atmospheric dust as a hazard.
Atmospheric Sciences not elsewhere classified