2 September 2015 © David Eyre

The 20th Australian National Balloon Championship was held at Northam Airfield, around 100km east of Perth, from 28 August – 6 September 2015.

National balloon Championships, Northam 2015, Competition day three - 2 September 2015.

National balloon Championships, Northam 2015, Competition day three – 2 September 2015.
Photo © Keith Anderson.

SEE OUR PHOTOS AND VIDEO OF PRACTICE FLIGHTS, COMPETITION FLIGHTS AND THE ‘NIGHT GLOW’ EVENT

Aibotix X6 UAV being used to conduct a survey of Rio Tinto's Argyle Diamond Mine in September 2014. Since the open pit mine cannot be entered below a level of 50 meters, aerial surveying is the only possibility to detect subsidence or other potential dangers to the workers underground at an early stage. Photo © Aibotix

Aibotix X6 UAV being used to conduct a survey of Rio Tinto’s Argyle Diamond Mine in September 2014. Since the open pit mine cannot be entered below a level of 50 meters, aerial surveying is the only possibility to detect subsidence or other potential dangers to the workers underground at an early stage.
Photo © Aibotix

2 September 2015 © David Eyre

Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or ‘drones’ have recently seen a phenomenal growth in their use, not just by private owners, but also by commercial operators.

Civilian UAVs range from privately-owned model aircraft and helicopters, to larger and heavier commercial UAVs that carry various types of equipment such as sensors, cameras, cargo and so on.

The rules

Aviation regulators around the world have struggled to keep pace with this proliferation of UAVs, rushing to implement legislation, rules and guidance to regulate usage.

In Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has set separate rules for private and commercial UAV use.

Privately owned and operated model aircraft

Privately owned and operated model aircraft cannot be flown for money and must only be operated in line-of-sight in daylight. They cannot be flown at night, in cloud or fog.
They must not be flown closer than 30 metres to vehicles, boats, buildings or people, and cannot fly over any populous area, such as beaches, other people’s backyards, heavily populated parks, or sports ovals where there is a game in progress or within 5.5 kilometres of an airfield.
In controlled airspace, which covers most Australian cities, you must not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet (120 metres).

Commercial UAVs

CASA considers that commercial UAV pilots need general aviation knowledge similar to a private pilot’s licence, as well as specific unmanned aircraft skills.

It is illegal to fly any size of UAV for money or economic reward unless you have an unmanned operator’s certificate issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), and an unmanned operator’s certificate (UOC) for your business. Due to a surge in applications for certificates, there is now a wait time of up to 10 months. Additional ratings include a flight radio operator’s licence, and experience on the type of UAV operated.

Commercial UAVs can operate over unpopulated areas up to 400 feet above ground level (120 metres), or higher with special approvals. Special approvals are also required for other areas. They can operate in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) and /or instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), with appropriate approvals.

Operations are not permitted in controlled airspace without CASA approval and coordination with Airservices Australia.

Commercial usage in Western Australia

Mining and Petroleum

A relatively recent development is the use of UAVs by Australia’s largest mining and petroleum companies.

Due to the sheer scale of resources operations (mines, railways, pipelines and ports cover hundreds of kilometres) and also the large size of machinery, plant and equipment, UAVs are seen as a safer and more efficient way of conducting safety and environmental inspections, monitoring and surveying.

UAVs can be built to withstand heat, chemicals, and toxins, reaching areas where people cannot go. They can also do their work whilst the equipment or plant is still operating, which saves time and saves money in avoiding shut downs, which can be extremely expensive. UAVs can be used to inspect equipment and mining pits, check mineral stockpiles, pipelines, and even assist with environmental rehabilitation and monitoring work. They can be fitted with video or thermal imaging cameras to inspect equipment much faster, safer and cheaper than risking workers on climbing up to great heights or using helicopters.

Mines have used ground-based autonomous vehicles for a number of years, including driverless trucks and trains and autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. Many of these are controlled from Operations Centres located in Perth. However, the use of UAVs is relatively new.

Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton use UAVs to survey and inspect mine pits, mineral stockpiles, and to monitor operations. FMG has also trialled UAVs at Cloudbreak mine and is likely to use them.

In the oil and gas sector, Woodside Energy uses UAVs to inspect at heights, removing the time needed to build scaffolding and eliminating the safety risk to workers.

Aerial photography and cinematography

Specially-designed UAVs equipped with specially-designed still camera and video camera systems can capture high resolution still photographs and video images, operating with low noise levels.

Unlike manned helicopters or fixed wing aircraft, these are able to get as close as 5 metres to the subject. This enables close-ups of high rise buildings, historic buildings, bridges, towers and homes, which makes them useful for real estate advertising.

Engineering and construction

Camera-equipped UAVs enable construction project managers and engineers to see construction from almost any angle.

This can include real time video streaming, progress monitoring, time lapse photography, and photography from specific vantage points.

Building, chimney, tower and roof inspections

UAVs can be used to conduct roof inspections or check for storm damage, without using cranes or cherry pickers and without risks to worker safety.

It is also much more efficient, covering large areas quickly, and has the ability to reach areas that a crane or worker cannot.

Environmental monitoring

UAVs can be used to conduct initial and ongoing environmental assessments, including time lapse photography. GPS equipment enables precise mapping of coordinates in three dimensions.

Emergency services, law enforcement and beach patrols

UAVs enable emergency services personnel to quickly obtain a live overview of any disaster or accident situation, to assess the best way to deal with fires, chemical spills, storm or flood damage.

They can also be used for search and rescue as well as beach patrols, watching for sharks and swimmers in difficulty.

VH-OLL SAAB 340B (MSN 340B-0175) of Regional Express, at Adelaide - 25 October 2013. Photo © Ian Moy

VH-OLL SAAB 340B (MSN 340B-0175) of Regional Express, at Adelaide – 25 October 2013.
Photo © Ian Moy

28 August 2015 © David Eyre

Regional Express (REX) is considering whether to establish regional services in Western Australia, as the State Government last month issued a tender for regulated regional routes.

REX is Australia’s largest independent regional airline, with a fleet of more than 40 Saab 340B aircraft on over 1,300 weekly flights to 53 destinations throughout New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland.

REX has been expanding operations in Queensland and is now reviewing the WA Government tender for regulated regional routes from Perth to Albany, Monkey Mia, Carnarvon, Derby, Esperance, Learmonth and the northern Goldfields.

Each of the contracts is awarded on a route-by route basis for five years, with no more than one operator on each route. The next contract begins on 27 February 2016, with the Government setting maximum fares, minimum flight frequencies and on-time performance standards.

The regulated routes have been operated since 2011 by QantasLink, Skippers Aviation and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines.

Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. © Qantas

Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
© Qantas

Map showing Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner range from Sydney. © Qantas

Map showing Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner range from Sydney.
© Qantas

20 August 2015 Copyright © David Eyre

Qantas has announced a confirmed order for eight Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on the back of a financial transformation that saw a profit before tax of $975 million.

Long-awaited Dreamliners for Qantas International

The order for eight Qantas Dreamliners sees the first four enter service during the 2017/18 financial year and the remaining four in 2018/19. The eight 787s ordered are actually five exercised options and the conversion of orders for three smaller Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners which were on order for Jetstar to Boeing 787-9s for Qantas.

Qantas has 15 further options and 30 purchase rights for additional 787s, with flexible delivery dates.

The Boeing 787-9s will gradually replace five Boeing 747-400s, which will be withdrawn from service before requiring a heavy maintenance ‘D check’. The 787-9 seats around 100 less passengers than the 747-400, but the 787 will enable Qantas to develop new routes.

The 787 is more fuel-efficient, has lower maintenance costs, larger tintable windows, better cabin air filtration and technology that reduces cabin pressure and turbulence. FACTSHEET ON BOEING 787-9

Qantas originally ordered up to 115 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2005, for delivery between 2008 and 2020, to replace their Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s and to develop new international routes.

An initial 15 of the smaller Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners were ordered, but Qantas Group management decided to divert these to Jetstar. One order was later cancelled, so 11 were delivered to Jetstar and the order for the remaining three 787-8 aircraft for Jetstar was converted to an order for three 787-9s for Qantas, in the order announced today.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce had set out three requirements before any Qantas Dreamliner order would be placed; a return to sustainable profit for Qantas International, repaying $1 billion of debt and negotiating suitable pay arrangements for 787 crews. These requirements were all met.

Qantas returns to profitability

Qantas turned around a $646 million underlying pre-tax loss last year to a $975 million pre-tax profit in 2014/15, a $1.6 billion turnaround.

This consisted of:
  • $576 million from cost cutting, including 5,000 job cuts and a wage freeze, closure of call centres and some maintenance bases;
  • $461 million from lower fuel prices;
  • $195 million from aircraft depreciation and write downs;
  • $182 million from improved aircraft utilisation, including faster aircraft turnarounds at airports, and an end to the domestic capacity war with Virgin Australia;
  • $136 million from improved fuel efficiency, including retirement of older Boeing 747-400s and 767-300ERs;
  • $116 million from removal of the carbon tax.

 

Terminal 1 Domestic Pier under construction at Perth Airport - Tue 11 August 2015. Now in the finals stages of construction and about to commence initial operational trials. Photo © David Eyre

Terminal 1 Domestic Pier under construction at Perth Airport – Tue 11 August 2015.
Now in the finals stages of construction and about to commence initial operational trials.
Photo © David Eyre

19 August 2015 © David Eyre

Perth Airport is about to commence initial trials of the new $200 million Domestic Pier at Terminal 1, in preparation for operations by Virgin Australia from late November.

Volunteers or “mock passengers” will be used in the operational trials during September and October 2015 to test that the Domestic Pier systems and processes work as expected before operations commence.

The Virgin Australia Pier was originally meant to open in June 2014, but this was delayed to October 2014, then January 2015, and finally “late 2015”. A new building contractor had to be engaged to complete the project, adding to the delays.

Virgin Australia has complained that the delays are costing the airline money and are bad for customers, as the airline has to operate out of three terminals on opposite sides of the airport, causing inconvenience and confusion for passengers on connecting flights:

  • Terminal 1 is used for international flights to Phuket, Bali and Christmas Island.
  • Terminal 2 is used by Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (formerly Skywest) on intrastate regional flights within WA
  • Terminal 3 is used by Virgin Australia for both intrastate and interstate domestic flights.

Besides Virgin Australia lounges, the new Domestic Pier will have new check-in and bag drop technology – the first airport in Australia to feature this.

As part of the preparations, Perth Airport is to re-number all existing aircraft Bays with a 1 in front of the existing Bay number (e.g. Bay 54 becomes Bay 154).

The new Bays on the Domestic Pier are Bays 143 to 150 and Bay 151A, with Bays 143-149 for domestic flights only and Bay 150 for domestic or international flights:

  • Bays 143-146 designed for aircraft up to A320/A321/B737 size
  • Bays 143A, 144A, 145A and 146A are for Fokker 50s.
  • Bays 147, 148, 149 are designed for aircraft up to A330 size and have dual aerobridges.
  • Bays 147A and 148B and 149A can take aircraft up to A320/A321/B737 size.
  • Bays 148A and 149B can take Embraer E190 and Fokker 100 only
  • Bay 150 can take international or domestic flights, with aircraft up to A380 size. It has a dual aerobridge capable of accessing the upper deck of the A380.
  • Bays 150A and B can take aircraft up to A320/A321/B737 size.
New bay numbers at Perth Airport Terminal 1 - the new Domestic Pier is at upper left. © 2015 Airservices Australia

New bay numbers at Perth Airport Terminal 1 – the new Domestic Pier is at upper left.
© 2015 Airservices Australia

VH-OWV Pilatus PC12/47E (MSN 1530) of Royal Flying Doctor Service at Jandakot Airport – 16 Aug 2015.

VH-OWV Pilatus PC12/47E (MSN 1530) of Royal Flying Doctor Service at Jandakot Airport – 16 Aug 2015.
Photo © Keith Anderson.

18 August 2015 copyright © Keith Anderson.

The Outback Air Race is a GPS-based time trial through the remote Australian Outback, with up to 30 aircraft participating.

The race provides a unique flying holiday for pilots and their friends, while also raising funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Since its inception in 1996, the competitors and spectators have raised over $1.5 million, with all funds raised going towards outfitting RFDS aircraft with essential equipment.

The race proper starts in Esperance, on the south coast of Western Australia, on Sunday 23rd August 2015, and follows a route through the centre of Australia via Forrest, Yulara, Alice Springs, Birdsville, Winton, Karumba, Cooktown and finally Hamilton Island, off the coast of Queensland, where the race will end on 4th September 2015.

An aviators farewell was held on Sunday 16th August 2015 at the Royal Aero Club at Jandakot Airport, to bid farewell to the crews before they head off on the 5,000 km race. Aircraft in attendance were Mooney 201 VH-SJT and Cessna 180C, VH-FDH, which has been fully restored and painted in the original livery that it wore during service with the Royal Flying Doctor Service in the 1960s.

Also on display was De Havilland DH-83 Fox Moth VH-USJ , originally imported into Australia in 1935 by MMA, which also served as a reserve aircraft at WA’s first Flying Doctor Service base in Port Hedland.

Rounding out the RFDS theme was VH-OWV, a newly-arrived Pilatus PC-12/47E, in the process of being fitted out ready for RFDS service.

Photos of the aircraft at the aviator’s farewell can be viewed in the Aircraft Photos section of AviationWA.

 

VH-NHY Fokker 100 (MSN 11467) of QantasLink at Townsville Airport - July 2015. Formerly PR-OAQ with Avianca Brasil, and prior to that N1455K with American Airlines. This aircraft was recently acquired by Qantas for operation with Network Aviation, and is the first to be painted in the QantasLink livery. Photo © Qantas

VH-NHY Fokker 100 (MSN 11467) of QantasLink at Townsville Airport – 30 July 2015.
Formerly PR-OAQ with Avianca Brasil, and prior to that N1455K with American Airlines. This aircraft was recently acquired by Qantas for operation with Network Aviation, and is the first to be painted in the QantasLink livery.
Photo © Qantas

VH-NHY Fokker 100 (MSN 11467) of QantasLink (Network Aviation) at Perth Airport - Thu 30 July 2015. Seen arriving on delivery to Perth, landing on runway 03 at 8:22PM on a wet and windy night, arriving from Townsville via Alice Springs. Formerly PR-OAQ with Avianca Brasil, and prior to that N1455K with American Airlines. VH-NHY arrived in Australia on its delivery flight from Europe on 15 July 2015, flying to Townsville, where it was repainted in QantasLink livery - the first Network Aviation Fokker 100 to be painted in this livery. Photo © Marcus Graff

VH-NHY Fokker 100 (MSN 11467) of QantasLink (Network Aviation) at Perth Airport – Thu 30 July 2015.
Seen arriving on delivery to Perth, landing on runway 03 at 8:22PM on a wet and windy night, arriving from Townsville via Alice Springs. Formerly PR-OAQ with Avianca Brasil, and prior to that N1455K with American Airlines. VH-NHY arrived in Australia on its delivery flight from Europe on 15 July 2015, flying to Townsville, where it was repainted in QantasLink livery – the first Network Aviation Fokker 100 to be painted in this livery.
Photo © Marcus Graff

31 July 2015 © David Eyre

Qantas Group today announced that Network Aviation would now operate under the QantasLink brand, and revealed the first Fokker 100 to carry the QantasLink livery, VH-NHY, which was just delivered to the airline the previous day.

Network’s fleet of 14 Fokker 100s will be repainted in the QantasLink livery and aircrew will wear Qantas uniforms, but they will continue to operate under Network Aviation’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC). The rebranding is intended to provide a consistent brand across WA.

For most of its life, Network operated charter operations only. With a downturn in the resources industry and less demand for both RPT and FIFO flights, Qantas also saw an opportunity to use the smaller Fokker 100s to replace other QantasLink aircraft on RPT routes.

Cobham Aviation will continue to operate Boeing 717s under the QantasLink branding.

In late May 2014, the Network Fokker 100s replaced some QantasLink Boeing 717 services on the Perth-Learmonth route, and later replaced Dash 8Q-400 services on the Perth-Geraldton route.

Network Aviation history

  • 1998: Network Aviation formed by Lindsay Evans (formerly General Manager at Skippers Aviation), with two aircraft – a Cessna 310, VH-TFP, and a Cessna 441 Conquest, VH-NAX.
  • 18 March 1999: Network acquired its first Beech Super King Air 200, VH-XDB. In 2003, acquired another King Air 200, VH-SGT.
  • 10 February 2000: Network Aviation took delivery of their first Embraer 120ER Brasilia, VH-NIF (later reregistered VH-NHY). It later acquired six more.
  • 19 February 2008: Network Aviation took delivery of their first Fokker 100 jet, VH-NHO. Another two were purchased, one of which was broken up for spare parts.
  • 13 December 2010: Qantas announced that it had acquired Network Aviation, in order to capitalise on  the significant growth in the resources industry FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) charter market in Western Australia and elsewhere in Australia. At the time, Network had two Fokker 100 and six Embraer Brasilia aircraft in service, and 150 staff.
  • 17 February 2011: Qantas confirmed a major expansion of Network Aviation, announcing that they would purchase ten additional Fokker 100 aircraft.
  • July 2011: Qantas hired Hugh Davin away from Skywest to join Network Aviation. Davin had over 40-years aviation industry experience and is highly-regarded within the mining industry. He significantly boosted  resources industry charter work when he worked at National Jet (later Cobham) and later at Skywest.
  • 24 December 2011: Network Aviation took delivery of VH-NHG, the first of a batch of ten used Fokker 100 aircraft to be acquired by the airline.
  • Late 2013: Network Aviation began withdrawing the Embraer 120 Brasilia from its fleet.
  • Late May 2014: Qantas announced that Network Aviation was to operate RPT (Regular Public Transport) services on behalf of Qantas, following Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approval. Network operated three flights per week with its 100-seat Fokker 100s on the Perth-Learmonth route, formerly operated by QantasLink with 125-seat Boeing 717s. Qantas was reducing routes and capacity in Western Australia due to reducing passenger demand, brought on by a slowdown in the resources industry. Network F100s have “A Qantas Group airline” titles added.
  • 31 July 2014: Last Embraer 120 Brasilia service for Network Aviation, by VH-NHC from Degrussa to Perth.
  • March 2015: Network Aviation took over Perth-Geraldton and some Perth-Learmonth services, replacing QantasLink’s Bombardier Dash 8Q-400s, which were withdrawn from WA.
  • 17 April 2015: Qantas announce the acquisition of two additional Fokker 100s for Network Aviation: VH-NHY and VH-NHC.
  • 30 July 2015: Fokker 100 VH-NHY delivered to Perth, in QantasLink livery.
  • 31 July 2015: Qantas Group announce that Network Aviation is to operate under QantasLink brand. The company has 340 staff.

VH-NHY history:

Fokker 100 VH-NHY (MSN 11467) was formerly operated by American Airlines as N1455K from 1993 to 2004 and later by Avianca Brasil as PR-OAQ from 2007 to May 2015.

On 18 May 2015, still registered as PR-OAQ, it departed Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, arriving at Seletar, Singapore on 22 May 2015 for maintenance by Fokker Services Asia (FSA).

It was registered on 23 June 2015 as VH-NHY to Qantas (owner) and Network Aviation (operator).

On 15 July 2015, it flew Seletar – Juanda (Indonesia) – Darwin – Townsville, where it was repainted by Flying Colours Aviation into the QantasLink livery.

On 30 July 2015, it was rolled out of the paintshop and delivered the same day Townsville – Alice Springs -Perth, arriving on a stormy night.

VH-EWA “RAC Rescue” Bell 412EP (MSN 36312) of the Department of Fire & Emergency Services (operated by CHC Helicopters) at Jandakot Airport – 27 June 2015.

VH-EWA / RESCUE 651 / “RAC Rescue” Bell 412EP (MSN 36312) of the Department of Fire & Emergency Services (operated by CHC Helicopters) at Jandakot Airport – 27 June 2015.
Photo © Matt Hayes.

15 August 2013 (UPDATED 27 July 2015) © David Eyre

Second rescue helicopter ‘RESCUE 652’ to be based at Bunbury Airport

On 10 June 2015, the Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis announced that Western Australia’s second rescue helicopter will be based at Bunbury Airport, in a new facility which is about to be built.

The City of Bunbury has contributed land and initial land clearing works, as well as building fences and access roads.

The tender process for the second helicopter started in 2013, and it will enter service in early 2016, using the callsign ‘RESCUE 652’. RESCUE 652 will cover the South West, Great Southern, Peel and Wheatbelt areas of Western Australia, providing the Jandakot-based helicopter, RESCUE 651, with more time to servce Perth, the Wheatbelt, Mid-West and Gascoyne regions. Together, the two helicopters will cover 95 per cent of the population of Western Australia.

The current Perth-based rescue helicopter, Bell 412EP VH-EWA, has already changed its callsign from ‘RESCUE 65’ to ‘RESCUE 651’.

Service in high demand

WA currently has only one dedicated civilian rescue helicopter, Bell 412EP VH-EWA ‘RESCUE 651’, also known as the “RAC Rescue helicopter”, which is based at Jandakot Airport.

The helicopter is managed by the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), partly funded by the WA State Government, with RAC as the main sponsor and CHC Helicopters providing the helicopter and flight crew.

RESCUE 651 completed over 600 rescue missions across WA during the 2013/2014 financial year, but some rescue requests could not be attended, as the helicopter was already tasked on other rescue flights.

The South West of WA has seen rapidly increasing demand for the rescue helicopter, from its increasing population and an increasing number of tourists visiting the area, especially at Christmas and other holiday periods. This leads to more car accidents and more of a need to service the South West with greater search and rescue capabilities,” he said.

The Minister first confirmed on 15 August 2013 that a second rescue helicopter would be acquired, using $15.3 million of funding from the Royalties for Regions program. The latest statement now says that the State Government has allocated $29.95 million from the Royalties for Regions program over four years to establish the service.

As reported on AviationWA on 5 February 2013, the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RAC) was lobbying the political parties in the lead up to the 2013 State Election, to acquire a second rescue helicopter for the South West of Western Australia.

 

 

VH-FNJ Fokker 100 (MSN 11489) of Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, named “Talbot Bay” at Perth Airport – Tue 17 March 2015. Taxying in at the far end of runway 21 at 12.02pm, after an aborted takeoff. Photo © Steve Jaksic

VH-FNJ Fokker 100 (MSN 11489) of Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, named “Talbot Bay” at Perth Airport – Tue 17 March 2015.
Photo © Steve Jaksic

20 July 2015 copyright © David Eyre

The Western Australian Department of Transport published its 2015 report Review of Regulated Regular Public Transport Air Routes in Western Australia.

The report outlines the Government’s approach to intrastate RPT airline services on the eight regulated routes within the WA beyond 2016. Skippers Aviation, QantasLink and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA, which acquired Skywest Airlines) have been operating on the protected air routes in WA since the last review in 2011, and the new arrangements are due to commence from 27 February 2016.

Key decisions in this review were the decisions to open the Perth to Learmonth route to competition, and to cease RPT service between Perth and Leinster.

The Government prefers to avoid regulated routes where possible, to foster competition and reduced airfares, but some routes are marginal in terms of passengers numbers and economics. Generally, routes need a minimum of 100,000 passengers to sustain a two-airline operation. Most routes in WA have operated without government subsidies.

The report notes that without the demand generated by the resources industry, many regional towns in WA would not have an RPT service. The Government has a charter policy, which is designed to place certain restrictions on FIFO charter flights to ensure that they do not affect the viability of RPT air services. High airfares and security screening costs at regional airports also affect intrastate services.

2015 Review of Regulated RPT Routes

1. Perth–Learmonth (Exmouth)

Busiest of the regulated routes, with about 90,000 passengers. It was partially deregulated in 2011. Currently served by Qantas Group, using Boeing 717s of QantasLink and Fokker 100s of Network Aviation. The Government will open the route to competition, allowing other airlines to operate on the route.

2. Perth–Albany

Second busiest regulated route, with 60,000 passengers, mainly from the corporate market. Passenger volumes are insufficient for two operators. Currently operated by Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, using Fokker 50 turboprop aircraft. The report noted concerns that airfares are high and inhibit growth, and suggests tourism strategies be developed. The route will be put up for tender to choose an operator that best meets community needs and commits to developing the route. The contract will be awarded to a single operator for 5 years from 27 February 2016.

3. Perth–Esperance

Third busiest regulated route, with 48,000 passengers, mainly from the corporate market. Passenger volumes are insufficient for two operators. Currently operated by Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, using Fokker 50 turboprop aircraft. The route also suffers high airfares that inhibit growth and tourism strategies are recommended. The route will be put up for tender to choose an operator that best meets community needs and commits to developing the route. The contract will be awarded to a single operator for 5 years from 27 February 2016.

4. Perth–Derby (RAAF Base Curtin)

With approximately 42,000 passengers, passenger volumes are insufficient for two operators. Currently operated by Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, using Fokker 100 jets. The route is dependent upon mining companies operating in the region, so a recent reduction in mining has caused reduced passenger volumes, service frequency and the size of aircraft used. The route will be put up for tender in 2015, to choose an operator that best meets community needs. The contract will be awarded to a single operator for 5 years from 27 February 2016.

5. Perth–Monkey Mia (Shark Bay)–Carnarvon

With 25,000 passengers per year to Carnarvon, this route can only support one operator. The Perth-Monkey Mia (Shark Bay) route is dependent upon tourism and had declined to only 3,600 passengers in 2013/14, which makes it barely viable for one operator, so it is at risk. Currently operated by Skippers Aviation Perth-Monkey Mia (Shark Bay)-Carnarvon-Perth, using Bombardier Dash 8-100 and Embraer 120 Brasilia turboprop aircraft. Continued regulation of both routes is required to prevent a cessation of air services. Larger aircraft above 20,000kg cannot be used on these routes as there are no security screening facilities at Carnarvon or Monkey Mia (Shark Bay) and upgrading security imposes substantial costs. The route will be put up for tender in 2015, to choose an operator that best meets community needs and commits to developing the route. The contract will be awarded to a single operator for 5 years from 27 February 2016. The routes may be either kept as Perth-Monkey Mia (Shark Bay)-Carnarvon-Perth, or separated as Perth-Monkey Mia and Perth-Carnarvon.

Northern Goldfields routes:
6. Perth–Wiluna–Leinster;
7. Perth–Laverton–Leonora; and
8. Perth–Mount Magnet–Meekatharra

These routes are marginal, with a total of 20,600 passengers across all three during 2013-14. They are heavily dependent upon the resources industry, and fluctuations in the industry cause variations in passenger numbers which are difficult to predict. A recent downturn in mining has decreased passenger numbers and means that even if the routes regulated, air services are at risk of cessation. Currently operated by Skippers Aviation using Dash 8-100 and Embraer 120 Brasilia aircraft. Airlines have expressed limited interest in providing RPT services, but the routes will be put up for tender, with the contract to be awarded to a single operator for 5 years from 27 February 2016. New route pairings will be considered, in order to ensure their ongoing viability. Leinster is only exists for the mining operations of BHP Billiton and its population can access frequent BHP FIFO charter flights, so RPT services to Leinster will cease from 27 February 2016.

WA regulated air routes 2015.  (WA Department of Transport)

WA regulated air routes 2015.
(WA Department of Transport)

VH-EBH Airbus A330-203 (MSN 892) of Qantas, named 'Hunter Valley' at Perth Airport – Fri 5 September 2014. QF775 from Melbourne, landing on runway 03 at 8:12am. Photo © David Eyre

VH-EBH Airbus A330-203 (MSN 892) of Qantas, named ‘Hunter Valley’ at Perth Airport – Fri 5 September 2014.
QF775 from Melbourne, landing on runway 03 at 8:12am.
Photo © David Eyre

A39-005 Airbus KC-30A (A330-203MRTT) (MSN 1183) of 33 Squadron, RAAF, based at Amberley, QLD, at Perth Airport - 12 May 2015.

A39-005 Airbus KC-30A (A330-203MRTT) (MSN 1183) of 33 Squadron, RAAF, based at Amberley, QLD, at Perth Airport – 12 May 2015.
Lining up ready for a runway 03 departure at 11:02 am.
Photo © Keith Anderson.

Copyright © David Eyre –  1 July 2015

The RAAF is purchasing two ex-Qantas Airbus A330-200 aircraft, VH-EBH (MSN 892) and VH-EBI (MSN 898), from lessor CIT Aerospace by the end of 2015, for conversion to KC-30A multi-role tanker transports (MRTT) at a total cost of $408 million. Airbus says an MRTT conversion takes 10-12 months.

VH-EBH was withdrawn from Qantas service and will be returned to CIT on 21 July 2015, whilst VH-EBI will be withdrawn in September and returned to CIT on 20 November 2015. VH-EBH was delivered to Qantas in January 2008, and VH-EBI the following month.

The conversion will take 10-12 months per aircraft and will be performed by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe, Spain, for delivery to the RAAF in 2018.

This is the first time an in-service A330-200 has been converted to an MRTT, and it involves installation of underwing hose and drogue refuelling pods, a refuelling boom and cameras under the rear fuselage, as well as other military equipment. The RAAF’s five other KC-30As were all acquired new  and were purchased with similar specification and engines to Qantas A330s, for ease of maintenance.

The departure of VH-EBH and EBI leaves Qantas with 25 A330s: 15 A330-200s and 10 A330-300s.