Sydney would be best served with having the proposed Badgerys Creek airport operate 24 hours without any restrictions, the union representing Qantas pilots says.
On Thursday, Opposition leader Bill Shorten, shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and transport spokesperson Anthony Albanese proposed a “no-fly zone” over the airport between 2300-0600 to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on surrounding communities.
Labor supports the economic benefits of Badgerys Creek Airport while protecting residents from night time noise. pic.twitter.com/jtVipwad2j
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) April 21, 2016
Under the Labor plan, all aircraft during that seven-hour period would depart in a south-west direction on Runway 23, while arriving flights would approach from the south-west to land on Runway 05 to avoid residential areas.
Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) treasurer Adam Susz said the Labor proposal would place a heavy restriction on the airport’s operations, noting departing aircraft would have to be well out of the approach path before arriving aircraft could land, resulting in a fairly low movement rate.
“It would not be possible to have simultaneous operations in an opposite direction on a single runway unless those operations were separated by 15 to 20 minutes,” Susz told Australian Aviation in an interview on Friday.
“That is possible with technology and the navigation systems we have and air traffic control and radar providing separation, but it is not ideal.
“From a pilot perspective we don’t want to see a curfew. We’d like to see 24-hour operations that are unrestricted by noise and other political agendas.”
The federal government’s draft airport plan and environmental impact statement for the proposed Western Sydney Airport showed a 3,700m runway on a south-west, north-east orientation.
Arrival flights will be directed to north west of the airport and be between 5,000-7,000 feet when over Penrith and 2,000ft near Bankstown when landing on Runway 23.
Meanwhile, departing aircraft on Runway 05 would be at about 5,000ft by the time they were over Blacktown and at 10,000ft by the time they were at RAAF Base Richmond if headed north, or at 10,000ft between Camden and Picton if heading south.
The master plan said it was planned for the airport to operate on a curfew free basis.
Susz, who is a Boeing 747 first officer with Qantas, said the restrictions meant aircraft would be unable to land on Runway 05 if winds were too strong.
“When there is a south westerly blowing at 10-15-20 knots it is not possible really to conduct a landing with that sort of tail wind,” Susz said.
“Our perspective would be to maintain as much operational flexibility as possible. We’d like to be able to land in the safest direction with optimal winds.
Susz said noise abatement procedures such as curved approaches, lower thrust settings on engines and advancements in aircraft technology all reduced the noise impact on the surrounding community.
“I think the impact of noise can be minimised by procedures currently available and also the technology is continuously improving with aircraft engine. They are always getting quieter,” Susz said.
“I don’t think the issue is as bad as people are making out.”
While Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport did occasionally have “simultaneous” operations, where all aircraft take off and land over Botany Bay, the key difference was Badgerys Creek would begin operations in the mid-2020s with just a 3,700m single runway, compared with two parallel runways at Mascot.
“The margin of safety is greatly improved because the aircraft are using different runways,” Susz said of the simultaneous operations at Mascot.
Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester described the Opposition’s plan as a “hastily cobbled together proposal”.
“It is far from clear that this plan is workable,” Chester said in a statement on Thursday.
“We are now working through around 5000 submissions as we develop a final EIS, including our plan to address these issues.”