Perth Airport considering third runway and increased peak time take-off/landing charges to ease congestion

ABOVE: A Network Aviation Embraer 120 Brasilia leads a queue of FIFO aircraft waiting to depart Perth in the usual weekday early morning peak period.
Photo © David Eyre


11 October 2012 © David Eyre

In response to recent pressure to ease congestion at  Perth Airport, CEO Brad Geatches announced yesterday (10 October 2012) that the  airport is in discussions with airlines on whether they support financial  contributions towards a third runway. This is in addition to other short term measures announced last week, including increased aircraft movement charges during busy periods.

Increased peak time take-off and landing charges

Perth Airport has proposed increased aircraft  movement charges during peak times (currently a minimum of $205), in order to  encourage flights during less busy periods.

Many of the resource charter (FIFO) flights leave Perth  between 5.30am – 8.30am, returning from the mine sites later in the morning,  before another wave of flights in the afternoon. Delays of 30 minutes have  become more frequent in the morning peak period between 5.30am and 8.30am.

The resources industry has some concerns that slot changes  may impact worker rostering, fatigue management and costs.

The slot system will still be regulated, to ensure that  regular passenger flights were not disadvantaged.

Perth-based corporate jet operators are not happy with the  proposed changes to the slot system, as corporate jets will be treated the same  as bigger airliners. This will affect  their business by forcing them to wait up to 24  hours for a take-off slot, eliminating  the advantages provided by corporate  aircraft. One operator said that even when booking a slot 24 hours  in advance, they still suffered a two-hour delay.

Third Runway

ABOVE: The proposed location of the third runway 03R/21L. The threshold of runway 21L would be located in the grassed area on the left, where the RAC Driver Training Centre is currently located, and it would extend to the bushland area in the upper right.
Photo © David Eyre

Perth Airport’s current runways cross each other, and this  restricts the number of aircraft movements.

The airport recently prepared the  concept design, timeframes and cost estimates to construct a third runway,  which is expected to cost $600 million. The third runway would take four years to construct, and will be 2,700 metres long,  located east  of and parallel to Horrie Miller Drive and the existing runway 03/21. If  the airlines agree on funding the runway,  construction could start in late 2013 and be completed by late 2017.

On 9 October 2012, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told the National  Press Club in Canberra that he backed calls for a third runway at Perth  Airport, as congestion and longer taxiing times were adding substantially to  the airline’s costs.

On 10 October, Western Australian Transport Minister Troy  Buswell told ABC radio that it was “completely unacceptable” that Perth  Airport’s plan to the year 2025 didn’t include a third runway. He said that  there was “a rapidly emerging issue around access to the runway”, but  Perth Airport had spent $750 million on new and upgraded terminals and more  parking. “It is no good building new terminals if you can’t take off and  land,” he said. “The public will expect the airport to make announcements  around the construction and access to third runway in the not too distant  future.” Mr Buswell says that Perth Airport congestion is costing the  WA economy millions of dollars a year – a single one-hour flight delay could  cost the resources industry up to $80,000. The airport is vital to the State’s  economy due to Perth’s isolation and the remote locations of many resource  operations.               People are being forced to arrive in Perth much earlier than  necessary in order to attend scheduled meetings and others are forced to drive  to regional destinations because of Perth Airport delays.

In its defence, Perth Airport said  that Master Plans are a  snapshot in time, produced once every five years in  accordance with the Airports Act 1996.

Mr Geatches said that the last Master Plan was  published in 2009 – in the middle of the global financial crisis.  “Governments, airlines  and the resource sector all dramatically underestimated the growth and it  should come as no surprise, therefore, that Perth Airport underestimated the  demand,” he said.

Since 2008, Perth Airport has experienced 40% growth in  annual passenger numbers to 13.5 million passengers, including all FIFO  charters. Annual aircraft movements increased by 32% to 142,000. Perth Airport’s Master Plans are issued every five years , and the next Master Plan would be issued  in 2014.

Mr Geatches also said that inefficient airspace design was  also partly responsible for the congestion issues. Perth Airport is surrounded on many sides by  military restricted airspace zones which impact the efficiency of civilian air traffic  movements, but some experts believe that airspace capacity could be better  utilised with improved procedures. Air Traffic Control provider Airservices Australia regularly meets with stakeholders to review its procedures.

David Eyre

President, Aviation Association of WA Inc

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