On a pre-election campaign fly-by visit to Western Sydney, Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, backed up Chris Bowen, the Federal Member for McMahon, announced his plans to create a nighttime ‘no-fly zone’ over residential areas that surround the yet to be constructed Western Sydney Airport.
Mr Shorten said, “Labor will act to ensure there is no noise impact on existing residence and communities from night time flights as part of Badgerys Creek Airport master planning.”
This is welcome news for local residents, however Mr Shorten fell short of offering up a curfew, something which people living under the proposed flight path are calling for, and something which the federal and state governments have previously ruled out.
Unlike the Sydney airport at Mascot, Western Sydney Airport won’t have an imposed curfew on it, meaning residents living under the flight paths will have planes flying over their homes 24 hours a day.
Fiona Scott, Federal MP for Lindsay, is worried strong southerly busters could hinder the take off and landing of a plane at the yet to be constructed airport. She said Mr Shorten’s plan was a “reckless thought bubble.”
“When the wind is blowing too high and the conditions won’t allow for a safe landing, what will you do? Do you simply fly around and around until the wind has eased and you can land, or will the divert flights to Sydney?” Ms Scott said.
Diverting flights is something that could happen if there is a strong southerly buster associated with a thunderstorm, said Professor Kenny Kwok, an expert in wind engineering from Western Sydney University.
“If the issue is, what happens with a southerly buster associated with a thunderstorm, the the professionals (air traffic controllers) at the airport will have a protocol to deal with it. Sometimes that might include a diversion,” Professor Kwok said. “The pilot will also have a protocol to deal with the situation. There is only one person in control of the plane, that is the pilot,” he added.
But he also said the main issue isn’t always the southerly winds, instead it could be the prevailing winds of the area.
“We are talking about the normal winds. The prevailing winds will dictate the alignment of the airport runway(s), not the southerly busters because other operational protocols will come into effect around those,” he said.
So far the proposed location of the runway will be a north-east/ south-west orientation.
Bart Bassett, a commercial helicopter pilot and former NSW Health Department helipad consultant, says the safety of all those involved and the operational requirements will always be put before any political policy.
“Whilst I accept that noise abatement should be put in place, when it comes to hard and fast rules on take off and landings that decision will always begin with and end with the pilot in command, as it always should be,” Mr Bassett said.
He also said the conditions will decide which runway will be used. “Whilst you may have a preferred runway between certain hours, when weather conditions dictate the pilot will use the runway that is safest for those conditions,” he said.
With all the pushing and shoving of government policy around the Western Sydney Airport you’d think the thing would be build within the next six months, when actual fact the airport won’t be finished until the mid 2020s. A lot can change between now and then.