Singapore, Emirates and Cathay Pacific have agreed to fly in tailwinds of up to seven knots at Brisbane Airport in a bid to alleviate aircraft noise for locals.
The decision means the carriers can depart over Moreton Bay at night more frequently, rather than having to fly over more populated areas.
CASA rules currently limit airlines to flying at five knots, but airlines and pilots can “opt-in” to accept a higher tailwind at their discretion.
Noise issues have been a flashpoint at Brisbane Airport since the completion of its new parallel runway in July 2020, which allowed more flight paths to open up, but affected nearby communities in the process.
However, on Monday, the airport announced a breakthrough agreement with the three major international airlines.
A tailwind is wind that blows in the same direction that the aircraft is travelling. Aircraft generally both take-off and land into headwind – which flows in the opposite direction to the direction of travel – however they can, and do, operate in tailwinds when required.
Increasing the allowable tailwind would mean that aircraft at Brisbane Airport could continue to take-off and land over Moreton Bay, as opposed to the city, even when the wind blows in that direction up to speeds of seven knots.
Brisbane Airport head of public affairs Stephen Beckett told the ABC the three airlines “feel there is no change to safety” as a result of the change. The airport previous operated safely at 10 knots for many years prior to CASA’s intervention.
The decision is likely to be opposed by the Australian Airline Pilots’ Association, which earlier this year attacked the plan to extend tailwind limits.
It also significantly comes after safety authority CASA last year knocked back a similar plan to increase the limits from five to 10 knots. International regulatory standards say noise pollution should not be a factor in changing tailwind allowance.
In May, the Australian Airline Pilots’ Association (AusALPA) said CASA should again reject Brisbane Airport and Airservices’ attempt to increase allowable tailwind, stating it would “reduce safety levels”.
“We are calling on the Civil Aviation Safety Authority not to vary current tailwind limits at Brisbane Airport because we are concerned this will increase risk to aircraft taking off and landing,” said AusALPA president Captain Tony Lucas.
There have also been previous calls – including from the Greens – for caps and curfews, though owners Brisbane Airport Corporation pointed to a potential $1 billion annual cost to the city’s economy.
Others, including BAC, supported more flights being routed over Moreton Bay.