9 November 2015 © David Eyre
Perth Airport has announced that it has begun upgrading its infrastructure and navigational aids to permit Category III Low Visibility Operations by early 2018.
Each year, Perth Airport suffers from numerous fog events, usually during morning peak periods, causing flight diversions, delays and cancellations. This results in inconvenience to passengers and costs airlines significant operational costs.
A lack of suitable diversion airports near Perth means that international flights headed for Perth have to carry extra fuel reserves so that they can divert to Port Hedland, Adelaide or Darwin until the fog clears. Domestic flights divert to airports such as Geraldton or Kalgoorlie. Aircrew duty time limitations sometimes require that another aircrew has to be flown in to continue the journey, fuel is wasted and the aircraft has to be refuelled to continue to Perth.
On 16 July 2013, morning fog at Perth was followed by gusty wind conditions, causing delays for 220 flights. An inbound Emirates flight had to divert to Adelaide, costing the airline about $500,000. Fog was forecast for 65 days in 2013, causing flights to either turn back or carry extra fuel – reducing the payload of passengers and cargo.
Currently, Perth Airport is rated as Category I, which allows landings with visibility down to 800 metres and take-offs at 550 metres (or 350 metres with CASA exemption). Category III enables landings with visibility down to 50 metres and take-offs with visibility at 125 metres.
Following consultation with the airlines and CASA, Perth Airport is now working with Airservices Australia to install Category III lighting for runway 03/21, at a cost of $36 million.
The first phase, installation of transmissometers on runway 03/21 has been completed, and these are being commissioned. The transmissometers measure runway visual range (RVR), and allow CASA-approved aircraft to land in visibility of 550 metres, instead of the current 800 metres.
Following an electrical cabling upgrade, the Category III lighting upgrade will be installed, including runway centreline lights, illuminated stop bars, and Instrument Landing System (ILS) stop bars. The ILS will require additional accuracy monitoring, but does not need an upgrade.
In May 2015, Airservices Australia also commissioned an Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS), which identifies and locates all aircraft and transponder-equipped vehicles on the runways and taxiways at Perth, regardless of visibility.