Stay Safe in the Skies: Essential Rules of the Air for Pilots in Australia

By Fly Oz
May 29, 2023

Flying an aircraft is an exciting experience, but it requires immense responsibility and adherence to various rules and regulations to ensure safe and smooth operations in the airspace. The “Rules of the Air” are the set of rules that pilots must follow while operating their aircraft. These rules ensure safe and efficient use of airspace, and they apply to all aircraft, whether they are manned or unmanned. In Australia, the “Rules of the Air” are outlined in the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) and the Civil Aviation Orders (CAOs).

The “Rules of the Air” are essential because they help pilots to avoid collisions in the airspace. When pilots follow these rules, they can maintain situational awareness, anticipate potential hazards, and make informed decisions that promote safety.

Below are some of the essential rules of the air that every pilot must follow in Australia:

  • Right of Way – When two aircraft are on a collision course, the pilot of the aircraft on the right has the right of way. If two aircraft are converging at the same altitude, the aircraft that has the other on its right must give way.
  • Altitude – Aircraft flying at a lower altitude must give way to an aircraft at a higher altitude.
  • Overtaking – An aircraft overtaking another aircraft must keep a safe distance and avoid the other aircraft’s wake turbulence.
  • Joining and Leaving Traffic – When an aircraft joins or leaves a traffic pattern, it must give way to other aircraft already in the pattern.
  • Airspace Classification – Different airspace has different rules. Pilots must follow the rules specific to the airspace they are operating in.
  • Speed Limits – Aircraft must not exceed the maximum speed limit for the airspace they are operating in.
  • Navigation Lights – Aircraft must have navigation lights on when flying between sunset and sunrise, or when visibility is less than 5 km.
  • Radio Communication – Pilots must use the appropriate radio frequency and follow the communication procedures in the airspace they are operating in.


In addition to these rules, there are also specific rules about which aircraft must give way to other aircraft. These rules are designed to ensure that aircraft with less manoeuvrability or visibility give way to more agile and visible aircraft.

In Australia, the following aircraft must give way to other aircraft:

  • Gliders must give way to all other aircraft.
  • Balloons must give way to all other aircraft.
  • Airships must give way to all other aircraft.
  • Power-driven heavier-than-air aircraft must give way to gliders, balloons, and airships.
  • Aircraft in distress have the right of way over all other aircraft.


Following these rules is critical to the safety of all aircraft operating in the airspace. Pilots must understand and follow these rules to avoid collisions and promote safety.