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Ballina Byron Airport to gain digital air traffic control in 2025

written by Jake Nelson | November 21, 2023

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. (Image: Kevin Hogan MP)

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport in northern NSW will move to controlled airspace in two years’ time.

CASA will work with Airservices Australia to reclassify the space around Ballina and establish an approach control service by 12 June 2025, followed by a new digital aerodrome control service no later than 27 November 2025.

The move comes after CASA’s 2022 airspace review, which included “extensive feedback” from the industry as well as subsequent discussions with Airservices regarding timing.

“Airservices will collaborate with CASA to introduce a digital aerodrome service at Ballina,” an Airservices spokesperson confirmed to Australian Aviation.

Digital aerodrome services use cameras and computer-aided technology to allow for air traffic control to operate at an airport without the need for a physical tower. The first will open in Canberra in 2025, with Western Sydney International to also have a digital tower when it opens in 2026.


According to CASA’s branch manager of air navigation, airspace and aerodromes, Adrian Slootjes, the rollout of new air traffic services is a result of sustained aviation growth in the region, and is part of a “graduated approach to safely accommodate further growth”.

“When we review airspace it’s important that we look not only at what is happening today, but also to look at growth trends in recent years and what operators are predicting into the future,” he said.

“We consider a range of data and information, look at incidents and occurrences and take a risk-based approach to our recommendations.

“While there have been a range of incremental changes and enhancements in aviation safety in the region, we consider that these additional changes are required to ensure the safety of passenger transport operations and all airspace users in and around Ballina.”

Several improvements have already been made around Ballina, including changes to radio frequencies to alleviate congestion, the introduction of a Surveillance Flight Information Service (SFIS) to keep pilots apprised of nearby aircraft, and an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast ground station to help air traffic control more easily detect properly-equipped aircraft.

Airservices and CASA will engage with aviation and community stakeholders about safely accessing controlled airspace, as they work on an Airspace Change Proposal throughout 2024. The proposal will outline details of the new service to ensure it meets requirements.

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