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Coober Pedy gets runway upgrade, keeps Rex service

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 13, 2014

REX's Saab 340 service to Coober Pedy will continue, with the airport's runway to be widened to 30m. (Andrew McLaughlin)
Rex’s Saab 340 service to Coober Pedy will continue, with the airport’s runway to be widened to 30m. (Andrew McLaughlin)

Construction on widening the runway at Coober Pedy Airport will commence in November after the project secured state funding, in a move that ensures Regional Express (Rex) will be able to maintain services from Adelaide using Saab 340 aircraft.

The South Australian government has backed $1.3 million project to widen the runway to 30 metres, from 18 metres currently, so it will meet international regulations.

Coober Pedy district council mayor Steve Baines said the council was ready to begin work once the paperwork was settled.

“The threat to our vital air service has been lifted,” Cr Baines said in a statement.

“Losing the Rex flights would have killed off the tourism industry and had major impact on the residents of Coober Pedy and surrounding areas. Council and I are delighted that this has been resolved.”


Figures from the SA government showed 75 per cent of passengers on flights to Coober Pedy were visitors to the town.

SA transport and infrastructure minister Stephen Mulligan said the runway upgrade would allow regular passengers services to continue unrestricted to Coober Pedy.

“The prospect of losing commercial flights to Coober Pedy was unacceptable to the South Australian Government,” Mulligan said.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said on September 4 aspects of the current arrangements for Rex to operate to Coober Pedy did not provide the “appropriate continued management of safety on an 18-metre sealed runway with gravel edges”.

“CASA believes it is in the best interests of the travelling public to introduce new safety standards for all narrow runway operations across Australia, including Coober Pedy,” CASA said.

CASA said Rex would be permitted to operate into Coober Pedy while the runway widening work was carried out.

“It should be noted that leading aviation nations such as the United States, Europe and New Zealand do not allow narrow runway operations under the arrangements that have been in place in Australia,” CASA said.

“However, CASA believes it is in the interests of the Coober Pedy community to allow these flights to continue in the short-term because any restrictions could cause social and economic disruption.”

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Comments (4)

  • john doutch


    What has changed to make CASA “believe” it is in the best interests etc…………Is this buracreacy going stupid again?

  • Adrian


    So is it alright to have a 30m wide unsealed runway.

    Will the Department of Infrastructure be making grants ad/or loans to upgrade the rural 18m runways to 30m?

  • NeilP


    These runways have been operating under what is, effectively, a dispensation to conduct operations from an unsuitable runway. This is an Aussie quirk that is finally being addressed. This is another small step in bringing us more in line with ICAO requirements. Sealed or unsealed is neither here nor there, it’s actually the width that is the issue. There are currently jet charter ops being conducted in WA in to and out of a dirt strip. Whilst it may appear that CASA has struck again, unfortunately it is one of those that has been put in the too hard basket for a very long time.

  • Adrian


    Thank you Neil, it is good to know there is an unsealed option to have as an alternative to a possible costly sealed solution. Consistent runway dimensions will aid VFR approaches.

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