A review into civil aviation access to military airfields, released for public comment by Defence Minister Stephen Smith last Thursday, warns against further easing of access restrictions to RAAF bases around Australia, and argues there is “no case” to open bases near major capital cities to RPT airline operations.
“The major capital city airports have adequate capacity to meet current and future civil air traffic demands,” the report, dated September 2010 and authored by Air Vice-Marshal Robert Treloar and Air Commodore Paul Devine, argues.
If the report is accepted by government, that conclusion would effectively close the door on any airline operations from RAAF Richmond (northwest of Sydney), RAAF Edinburgh (north of Adelaide) and RAAF Amberley (west of Brisbane). In the past Jetstar in particular has expressed interest in operating from RAAF bases, given their potential to provide competition to otherwise monopoly major city airports.
Rapid growth in low cost airline A320 and 737 operations into Newcastle Airport, on RAAF Williamtown, the Air Force’s major fighter base, has created unforeseen issues, the report notes.
“The WLM [Williamtown] experience provides sufficient warning that civil aviation access can have unintended consequences for Air Force, including costs, capability loss or skewing personnel requirements (ATS and ARFFS), and ultimately reduced military access to the airfield, with attendant significant, possibly irretrievable, capability loss.”
The report also says that further general aviation access to RAAF bases, including the major pilot/instructor training bases of Pearce and East Sale, “is not recommended, either during normal operating periods or out of hours. Once significant general aviation activity is approved at Air Force airfields, reversing the decision would be difficult.”
The public consultation process on the review, which can be downloaded here, closes on October 31.