State Aviation Strategy released

State Aviation Strategy cover

21 February 2015 – Copyright © David Eyre

Western Australia’s first State Aviation Strategy was released today by the Department of Transport.

The draft version of the strategy was released for public comment in September 2013.

The strategy commits the State Government to playing a more proactive role in aviation, which is recognised as a key element in WA’s development.

Western Australia generated 51 per cent of Australia’s merchandise exports by value in 2013-14, more than the exports of all the other Australian States and Territories combined. This depends on reliable air services, flying tens of thousands of fly-in/fly-out workers to mines in the Pilbara, Eastern Goldfields and gas fields of the North-West Shelf, and flying tourists to destinations around the State.

The strategy will guide future aviation policy, planning and investment, including:

  • Directly engaging with Perth Airport and major regional airports on forecasting aviation activity and master planning;
  • Assisting in the timely development of infrastructure at Perth airport including a new parallel runway (a third runway);
  • Identification of suitable sites to plan for a future second Perth metropolitan airport, an emergency diversion airport for Perth and a future second general aviation airport
  • Improve infrastructure planning and development at local government owned regional airports;
  • Encouraging private sector investment in, and management of, regional airports (particularly in the Pilbara region) to improve their effectiveness and efficiency;
  • Encouraging tourism by further developing links to interstate and international tourism markets, and through attracting new airlines to Perth and regional WA
  • Encourage competition on intrastate air routes and seek to reduce the high cost of intrastate airfares in WA, and ensuring air services continue to regional WA on marginal air routes through the Review of Regulated Air Routes
  • An aviation training strategy for the State to meet the need for future aviation industry skills

AIRPORTS

WA has experienced unprecedented growth as a result of resources industry activity, and due to WA’s economic and population growth being double the national average. This has strained airports, particularly at Perth, Port Hedland, Newman and Karratha, which have not kept pace with the development of airport infrastructure. Air traffic congestion delays are commonplace in peak periods (weekday early mornings).

Perth Airport and the third runway

Perth Airport is the fastest growing capital city airport in Australia, with passenger movements growing at 10 per cent per annum – double the rates of Sydney and Melbourne.

Despite the current resources industry downturn, the airport is at or near capacity during major weekday peak times, mainly due to FIFO flights.

Perth Airport aircraft movements, actual vs. 2009 forecasts graph
Perth Airport aircraft movements, actual vs. 2009 forecasts

In the short to medium term, the State Aviation Strategy will focus on ensuring timely provision of aviation infrastructure at Perth Airport, including the development of a third runway.

Airservices Australia commissioned UK NATS to conduct an independent review of Perth Airport’s airspace and airfield operations. This identified methods to better use runway capacity at Perth Airport, but the capacity gained through these changes will be used up in the next few years. The UK NATS report congestion could only be addressed by continuing to spread airline schedules outside peak periods, or by constructing a third runway. The report noted that “only a new third runway will give us the 50 per cent [capacity] increase the airport needs.”

The third runway is shorter than the current runways, and will be located parallel to and east of Horrie Miller Drive. It is intended mainly for regional flights, and is considered vital to the future growth of Western Australia.

Second Airport for Perth

To prepare for future long-term growth, the State Government will cooperate with Airservices Australia and other government agencies in planning studies to locate suitable sites for a future second Perth metropolitan airport and a future second general aviation airport.

Perth Airport will not reach maximum capacity until after 2050, so current work is limited but necessary for forward planning. The WA Planning Commission is leading a study to identify potential sites for a second airport for Perth in the Perth and Peel Regions. The study should be completed by the end of 2015 for Government consideration.

RAAF Base Pearce ruled out as second Perth airport

Pearce Air Base has been repeatedly put forward over the years as a potential second airport for Perth, with suggestions of joint civil-military usage of the base.

The State Government has ruled this out as an option, noting that Pearce is:

  • the busiest RAAF base in Australia in terms of aircraft movements, with over 100,000 aircraft movements annually (including those at Gingin). It has to use a satellite airstrip at RAAF Gingin for training, to reduce overall traffic congestion;
  • it is essential to military pilot training programs for Australia and Singapore;
  • unsuited for civil aviation requirements due to a high intensity air traffic environment using visual separation and pilot situational awareness to allow multiple aircraft operations in close proximity.
  • a significant contributor to the WA economy, supporting local civilian and business communities.
  • it acts at the primary defence air base for military operations in WA, including the movement of the WA-based Special Air Service Regiment, maritime patrol and search and rescue operations

Emergency diversion airport for Perth

If Perth Airport is unavailable for arriving flights due to bad weather or other unforeseen events, aircraft must land at an alternative airport. Currently, the diversion airports are limited and are quite some distance away from Perth. For larger aircraft, the options are Learmonth-Exmouth, Port Hedland, or Adelaide. For smaller aircraft, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie may also be used.

The Strategy noted that if a new official emergency alternative airport were to be selected, it would need to have a suitable runway and airside infrastructure, be away from weather systems affecting Perth, and within an hour’s flying  distance from Perth. To become an official diversion airport, it would require both its infrastructure to be improved to cater for the full range of aircraft expected to use it.

The selection and development of an emergency alternative airport to Perth Airport is made by airlines, in conjunction with Perth Airport. Perth Airport advised that the costs of establishing an emergency alternative airport outweigh the benefits at this stage.

Second General Aviation airport for Perth

Jandakot Airport is currently the second busiest airport in Australia, after Sydney Airport. The Department of Planning and Department of Transport have commenced preliminary work on identifying a site for a second Perth general aviation airport.

Regional airports

Airports in the Pilbara region of Western Australia are the fastest growing in Australia, with passenger movements increasing at about 20 per cent each year.

The State Government will encourage the private sector to fund and manage the development of regional airports to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.

The Regional Airports Development Scheme (RADS) funding priority will now go to aviation-related infrastructure where it is most needed. Regional airport development  projects where the benefits are mainly commercial or benefit a limited number of people, will be lower priority.

Aviation security costs are adding significantly to the very high intrastate airfares in Western Australia, so the State Government is going to ask the Commonwealth to share the cost equally by passengers across the entire airline network, rather than imposing the direct cost on each airport.

AIRLINES & AIRFARES

Aviation route and tourism development

WA regional airfares are generally the highest in Australia and have contributed to limited tourism within WA. It is cheaper to fly overseas, than to a destination in regional WA.

Many passengers travelling on regional flights are on work-related trips (often for cashed-up resources companies), with the airfare paid by the employer, and resource companies frequently make block bookings of seats, using up any available discount fares well in advance of a flight. There is little incentive for airlines to offer lower airfares.

To encourage tourism, the State Government intends to attract new airlines, including low-cost carriers, to Perth and regional WA, to create more non-stop routes from international and interstate cities. The Government will also develop more gateways into WA, such as Broome, and deregulate RPT routes wherever feasible to stimulate competition. The State will also urge the Commonwealth Government to ensure that international tourism into WA is not constrained by international air service agreements.

AVIATION TRAINING

The Department of Training and Workforce Development is assessing aviation training needs, and aiming to obtain agreement from training organisations on where to locate new navigation facilities, such as instrument landing systems (ILS), and non-directional beacons (NDB) and how they could be funded.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STRATEGY

Implementation of the State Aviation Strategy will commence immediately. Implementation of the Strategy across State Government will be overseen by an inter- agency steering committee led by DoT. The strategy will be formally reviewed in five years’ time.

 

David Eyre

President, Aviation Association of WA Inc

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