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Sydney Airport calls for new, quieter approach procedures

written by Jake Nelson | October 25, 2023

A Malaysia Airlines A350-900 lands at Sydney Airport. (Image: Troy Mortier/Unsplash)

Sydney Airport is calling for the implementation of continuous descent approaches (CDAs) at Mascot after it was announced they would be available at Western Sydney.

The GPS-assisted approach allows planes to descend gradually over a longer flight path, as opposed to the normal stepped descent which requires planes to thrust their engines at each new altitude. Continuous descent approaches thus reduce engine noise and increase fuel efficiency.

CDAs, which have been described as highly accurate, predictable and repeatable, are not currently planned for implementation at Sydney Airport; however, in the draft environmental impact statement for Western Sydney Airport (WSA), released on Tuesday, they were flagged for implementation at the new airport where possible.

A spokesperson for Sydney Airport said the release of the EIS “reinforces the need for reform” at Australia’s main gateway.

“The WSA flight paths have been designed using technology that delivers better noise and emissions outcomes, while regulations that govern our flight paths remain frozen in time,” the spokesperson said.


“Given that Sydney Airport’s flight paths will change to accommodate WSA, we should consider further reforms that would allow our residents to also benefit from the latest technology and make airspace across the entire Sydney basis much more efficient, including implementing the Harris Review.”

Under the draft EIS, to accommodate Western Sydney services, flight paths from Sydney Airport will move from current spread-out arrangements to a “centre line” strategy, tracking generally to the west before turning towards the north, east and south as required.

In a doorstop interview, Transport Minister Catherine King said because of the existing complexity of Sydney’s airspace, it is a “really big and complex job” to introduce new flight paths in the city’s west.

“We have Kingsford Smith Airport, we’ve got Richmond Air Base, we’ve got Camden and Bankstown, and so the EIS does look at how and what changes will need to be made to flights coming in and out of Kingsford Smith, in and out of Richmond, in and out of Bankstown and Camden as well,” she said.

“I encourage people across Sydney to have a look to see whether where you live is affected, it’s why the noise tool is there, and as I’ve said, the principles under which the design of this air space has been undertaken, they’ve been around for a long time.

“Safety first, has to be first, but trying to make sure we mitigate the impact, particularly over residences as much as we possibly can has been one of the principles that all of the air space design has been undertaken under.”

In a separate interview with ABC Radio, the Minister said the new flight paths were designed to overfly residential areas as little as possible.

“Whilst it might say a particular suburb, the flight path might be more over an industrial area or over a river, or it might be over an area that doesn’t have a high level of residential properties,” she said.

“That was one of the principles, was to look at making sure those flights were minimised over residential areas as much as possible.”

The draft EIS is available and open for feedback online.

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