Airservices is Australia's air navigation service provider - we provide air traffic control, aviation rescue and fire fighting and air navigation services.

Wake vortices

Wake vortices are a natural, unavoidable consequence of aircraft operations. When an aircraft is in the air, wake vortices form as a result of differences in the air pressure above and below the aircraft’s wings. These vortices spiral to the ground and usually cause no damage as they are dissipated by the wind before coming into contact with structures on the ground.

Occasionally, when the weather is calm, wake vortices have been known to cause damage to property on the ground. However, this is a rare occurrence.

Some examples of the type of damage you can expect to see as a result of wake vortices damage are lifted or displaced roof tiles and damage to roof ridge capping. Wake vortices damage does not include damage that has resulted from aircraft vibrations, ordinary wear and tear to a property, subsidence or lack of maintenance to a property.

Claims for compensation

Under the Air Services Regulations 1995 (Cth), an owner of a property that has been damaged by wake vortices may apply for compensation in respect of that damage.

In deciding whether or not to pay compensation, Airservices Australia must have regard to:

  • the nature of the damage that may generally be expected to be caused by wake vortices;
  • the areas that are likely to be affected by wake vortices;
  • whether, at the relevant time, the nature of aircraft operations in the area where the damage occurred, having regard to the weather in the area at that time, was likely to generate wake vortices of sufficient force to cause the damage; and
  • the likely cost of repairing the damage in order to restore the property to its former condition (that is, the condition of the property immediately before the damage occurred).

Airservices Australia is prohibited from paying compensation unless it is satisfied that the damage is consistent with damage caused by wake vortices.

How to make a claim for wake vortices damage

Only the legal home owner may make a claim for wake vortices damage.

To make a claim for property damage caused by wake vortices, you should contact the Airservices Australia Noise Complaints and Information Service via the online complaint form, phone or letter.

To assist Airservices Australia in investigating your claim promptly, you will need to provide us with information including:

  • A description of the damage that has occurred to the property. If possible, you should take photos of the damage before it is repaired and provide such photos to Airservices Australia when you submit your claim.
  • The full address of the property.
  • The time and date when the damage occurred. If you are not aware of the exact time and date of the incident, you will need to provide Airservices Australia with a reasonable range of possible times and dates when you believe the damage occurred. This information will enable Airservices Australia to review the relevant flight and weather data. If you do not provide us with this information, Airservices Australia may be unable to investigate your claim.
  • If applicable, a quote or tax invoice for repairs to the property.
  • If your home insurance company is involved with the claim, the details of the claim and the relevant contact person at the insurance company.

What you can expect from Airservices Australia

Airservices Australia will investigate your claim as soon as possible after it is received.

Airservices Australia will not actually undertake repairs to your property. It is the home owner’s responsibility to arrange for any repairs to occur and to take steps to prevent further damage being caused to the property, for instance, by placing a tarp over the roof to prevent water damage to the property and arranging for repairs to occur in a timely manner.

Airservices Australia may, depending on the circumstances, arrange for an Airservices Australia representative to inspect the damage before it is repaired. We will contact you and advise you of the next steps, including whether or not Airservices Australia proposes to inspect the damage.

Once a claim has been investigated in accordance with the Air Services Regulations 1995 (Cth), Airservices Australia will send you a letter advising the outcome of its investigation. If Airservices Australia accepts your claim, it will reimburse you for the cost of restoring your property to the condition it was in immediately before the damage occurred.

If you do not agree with Airservices Australia’s decision to pay compensation, or the amount of compensation, you may request Airservices Australia to reconsider its decision within 28 days of receiving Airservices Australia’s letter. The application must specify the grounds on which you are requesting reconsideration of the decision.

 Technical Resources

Federal Aviation Administration (US) Advisory Circular on Aircraft Wake Turbulence