Both fixed wing aircraft and helicopter training activities are conducted in and around Sunshine Coast Airport.
Circuit training is the first stage of practical pilot training focused on take-offs and landings. It involves the pilot making approaches to the runway or helipad, touching down and then applying power to take off again. This is undertaken in accordance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Regulations which are consistent with international practices.
Aircraft take off into the wind, climb to 500 feet and then turn onto the crosswind leg. They continue to ascend to 1000 feet and turn onto the downwind leg. Having turned onto the base leg the descent commences. After turning onto the final leg and lining up with the runway the aircraft will touch down and take off again.
Helicopters use a specific Helicopter Training Area located to the western side of the airport over the Sunshine Motorway and Mount Coolum National Park.
“Left-hand” or “right-hand” circuits may be conducted. For left-hand circuits, the pilot turns left after take-off and flies anticlockwise. For right-hand circuits, the pilot turns right and flies in a clockwise direction.
A simplified representation of a left-hand circuit is shown at right. The take off and final stage of the circuit is flown into the wind, as this is the safest way for an aircraft to operate. The aircraft symbols and dotted lines indicate recommended ways for an aircraft to join the circuit pattern. Click the image to enlarge it, and use your browser “Back” button to return to this page.
Suburbs affected by circuit training include Marcoola, Mudjimba and Pacific Paradise.
Air traffic control will determine which runways are used at any given time depending on the direction of the wind – this is because aircraft must generally take off and land into the wind for safety reasons.
Depending on which runway direction is in use, different suburbs will be affected by different legs of the circuit. The Noise Complaints and Information Service tends to receive more complaints from suburbs under the crosswind and base legs of the circuit. This is the case at all airports where circuit training occurs.
Training during both day and night is important for developing pilot competencies, as is experience with using different types of navigational aids.
Circuit training is restricted to between 7am and 10pm.
Please note that these times above apply only to circuit training, and not to arriving and departing aircraft.
While there are set times for circuit training it is important to note that when aircraft are arriving outside control tower hours they are required to fly a circuit before landing for safety reasons. Therefore it may seem like aircraft are flying circuits outside hours when this is not the case. Tower hours are 7.30am to 7.40pm.
Aircraft aim to fly at 1000 feet on the downwind leg. Helicopters may not fly above 500 feet. Note that these altitudes apply only to the downwind leg. This is because aircraft are ascending on the take-off and crosswind legs and descending on the base and final legs.
While attaining 1000 feet on the downwind leg is the aim, in reality the altitudes of aircraft that are conducting circuit training will always vary. Part of the reason for this is that the trainees are new to flying and factors such as their level of experience and even their degree of nervousness will affect the altitudes they can achieve. Unfortunately the nature of circuit training is to teach new pilots and therefore this variation cannot be avoided.
Other training activities
There are a number of helicopter training schools based at the Sunshine Coast Airport. Like fixed-wing aircraft training, activity fluctuates throughout the year, with courses commencing at different times. As courses progress to different types of flying, different areas will be affected.
Circuit training, which is the initial training undertaken, will occur both at the airport and at other locations, including other airports in the area, while students learn landing and taking off. Once they are proficient at this they will progress to cross-country and navigation training. In the cross-country training the helicopters travel to a variety of locations to the north, west and south of the airport. Areas used for training include other airports, such as Kingaroy and Maryborough, and navigation aids at various locations.
One of the final stages of training is night training including using night-vision goggles. When this occurs the major training school generally ceases operations by 10:30 pm, and often earlier in winter due to the increased hours of darkness.
Three helicopter training areas have been established, however training activities need not be confined to these areas. There is no restriction on where helicopter training can occur. One area is to the west of Caloundra Airport adjacent to the Bruce Highway, (shown in image below), where training may take place between 7:30 am and 10 pm. This area is used by the major helicopter training school but it is not used continuously. Another area is to the north of the airport and west of the Sunshine Motorway, and helicopter training also takes place to the west of Runway 12 at the Sunshine Coast Airport.
Click to enlarge the image and use your browser “Back” button to return to this page.
The following image shows the density of helicopter training operations over a three-month period. The colour indicates the density – the hotter and deeper the colour, the greater the number of movements. Click on the image to enlarge it and use your “Back” button to return to this page.
Select a quarter to see a chart showing the density of aircraft undertaking training activities over the quarter. This includes both fixed wing and helicopter training activities. The colour indicates the density – the hotter and deeper the colour, the greater the number of movements. Click on the image to enlarge it and use your “Back” button to return to this page.