Sunshine Coast Airport

Investigations

Investigations

Airservices proactively works with the airport and the community to investigate, trial and implement changes to improve aircraft noise outcomes.

For more information about how air traffic control works, including explanations of controlled and uncontrolled airspace, see our easy-to-understand booklet, Guide to our operations.

Runway 12 circuit training

Circuit-training aircraft may do either right-hand or left-hand circuits off Runway 12. Right-hand circuits are often used to provide separation with helicopter training to the north of the runway. When Runway 18 is in use circuit-training aircraft using Runway 12 will do either left-hand circuits or right-hand circuits depending on whether there are arrivals or departures for Runway 18.

A complainant proposed that a requirement be put in place for aircraft conducting circuits on Runway 12 to continue straight-ahead until over water and not to commence their turns until they had crossed the coastline to avoid flying low over housing.

Information was sourced from a variety of flight-training companies based at the airport. These companies stated that they abide by the Fly Neighbourly policy in place at the airport and generally the aircraft will cross the coast before turning. Investigation of Airservices flight track data supported this, indicating that up to 80 per cent of aircraft doing circuits on Runway 12 turned after crossing the coast.

The main reasons why aircraft were turning before crossing the coast, where this occurred, was found to be:

  • due to air traffic control requiring this for separation with other traffic
  • variations in how trainee pilots were flying the aircraft, especially those very new to flying

Runway 12/30 will be closed as of October 2017 for the construction of the new runway. This will mean that all circuits will then be on Runway 18/36, and this will continue to be the case until the Runway is decommissioned.

If the proposal were implemented, instances where trainee pilots were unable to comply and where air traffic control required deviation due to separation requirements would continue to occur. Given this and the high percentage of aircraft that already cross the coast before turning, implementing a requirement to this effect was considered to have limited value. It was also unlikely that such a change could be implemented before the imminent closure of the runway.

Aerobatic activities

From time-to-time complaints are received about aerobatics activities around the Sunshine Coast. The local aero club has three aerobatic aircraft.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority specifies the rules for where and when aerobatic flights are permitted. The main elements are:

  • only in clear weather conditions during daytime
  • not below 3000 feet above terrain or objects on the ground without CASA approval
  • not over residential areas or public gatherings without CASA approval.

The investigation into the complaints found that air traffic control need to have regard to a number of considerations in deciding where to send these aircraft for the purpose of performing aerobatics.

Whenever possible, air traffic control send these aircraft to the west over an unpopulated area. They cannot usually be sent over the water because other traffic to and from the airport use the over-water airspace. Further, sometimes the pilot requires the visual reference of the ground and cannot accept over-water operations.

Generally they cannot be sent north or south of the airport due to the approach and departure flight paths to and from the main runway. However this may occur at times if there is no other traffic and other factors make this the most appropriate choice. Other relevant factors include the cloud conditions at the time.

Community consultation

Community Aviation Consultation Group meetings are independent forums where community members and organisations can raise opinions and issues. These meetings address planning and development issues as well as operational matters such as aircraft noise and provide an opportunity for communication and consultation, although they may not be public forums.

Airservices attends the Sunshine Coast Airport Community and Aviation Forum meetings to provide information to the community and assist in discussions on aviation matters.