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Residents Claims on Brisbane Airport Noise ‘Baseless,’ Pilots Tell Inquiry

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the Airport’s increased air traffic has had its detractors who think it has become a major source of noise pollution and has jeopardised people’s health

A Senate inquiry looking into ways to mitigate noise complaints levelled against Brisbane Airport has received submissions from a pilots association, accusing the airport of appeasing a “small but vocal segment” of people with vested interests.

Representing 7,100 pilots, the Australian Airline Pilots’ Association (AusALPA), said in its submission that complainants who were “lulled into a false environmental perception by the lack of aviation activity during the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic” were now making baseless claims that increased air traffic was affecting their property values.

In 2020, Brisbane Airport completed construction of its second runway rendering it capable of accommodating a wide range of aircraft, including large international jets. The runway is located parallel to the airport’s existing main runway, Runway 01R/19L, and is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation and lighting systems to ensure safe and efficient operations.

The construction of the new runway was a significant undertaking, involving the clearing of land, the construction of taxiways and other infrastructure, and the installation of navigational aids. The project also involved extensive consultation with the local community and stakeholders to minimise the impact of the new runway on surrounding areas.

Now operating 24 hours per day, the airport’s increased air traffic has its detractors who think it has become a major source of noise pollution and consequently jeopardised the health of residents and affected property prices.

Within the flight path are the leafy areas of Bulimba, Ascot, Hamilton, Hawthorne, New Farm and Newstead.

Economic Benefits for the Airport Only

Opposition group, the Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance (BFPCA): People Before Planes, was a major player in the granting of the Senate inquiry.

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Despite the minimisation recommendations from Airservices Australia, the group has taken umbrage with what they feel is limited community engagement from the agency and Brisbane Airport Corporation, and the lack of regulatory controls of aircraft noise.

Via its website and organised public meetings, the group encouraged its supporters to put forth their submissions covering factors like the plane noise’s impacts on sleep, concentration, mental health, and enjoyment of home life.

Another group Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance proposed a stop to nighttime arrivals via curfew, citing evidence from Sydney airport.

“Sydney Airport, which has now had a curfew and a movement cap for over 20 years is still a viable operating business,” committee member Sean Foley said.

A submission by the group’s chair, Professor Marcus Foth, accused Airservices Australia of misleading the government on the impact the second runway would have on Brisbane.

“Airservices cut corners and marked their own homework,” Prof. Foth told the inquiry.

Currently, an average of 575 flights arrive and leave the airport daily, the increased traffic pumps around $1 billion into the local economy, and there are plans to expand operations even further by an estimated 50 percent to 380,000 flight movements by 2040.

However the economic benefits to the city overshadowed the financial harm caused, said University of Queensland Professor John Quiggin.

In his submission to the inquiry, he said that a 10-decibel increase in noise led to a $4 billion to $7 billion reduction in property values.

“The social costs of late-night international departures exceed the convenience benefits to airlines and passengers by a ratio of around 1,000 to one, ”Mr. Quiggin’s submission read.

Currently, an average of 575 flights arrive and leave Brisbane Airport daily. (Jono Searle/Getty Images)
Currently, an average of 575 flights arrive and leave Brisbane Airport daily. (Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Noise Action Plan Could Compromise Safety, Say Pilots

A Noise Action Plan for Brisbane was initiated last year by Airservices Australia, the federal agency responsible for light path design,

Air Traffic Control and airspace management, comprises four packages of work detailing 11 recommendations and 82 individual actions, aimed at reducing the effects of noise.

Brisbane Airport’s tailwind allowance used to be 10 knots which was then reduced to five to follow international standards.

This could potentially increase to seven knots, which would allow for more daytime arrivals and reduce noise at night.

According to the plan, alternative flight paths will be developed over the next two years, including increasing flights over Moreton Bay. This will also allow flights to both arrive and depart over the runway area in a process called “simultaneous opposite direction parallel runway operations.”

“While operators always state that ’safety is our highest priority‘ the reality is that the highest priority is more like ’sufficient safety to generate maximum profits,’” their submission read.

“AusALPA does not accept the reduction of safety buffers simply for the convenience of [air traffic control] or the indeterminable benefit of a small group of private landholders. Pilots are often subject to many workplace pressures to depart and arrive on time and burn the minimum amount of fuel possible, all while fatigued.

“In the end, those pressures lead to decisions that may be uncomfortable and pushing personal and professional limits in order to achieve self-imposed or operator-specified efficiency criteria.”

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