BeCA conducted its first Management Committee Meeting last evening (Mon Feb 3rd). Cr Baberowski attended to bring the committee up to date on a variety of issues, but in particular the recent increase in Helicopter noise across not only our estate, but other areas of Caloundra.
Becker Helicopters recently won a contract for the ongoing training of helicopter pilots for groups of 50 students. Becker won the contract over other providers such as the U.S. Airforce. Becker Helicopters train more helicopter pilots per annum than the Australian Airforce. For their business to be secure into the future, it is crucial they have a safe, dedicated and permanent area where they can stage their helicopter touch n go training. This training caters for approx 30% of the total training program.
The recent closing of Teewah Airport to Becker helicopters has exacerbated the problem. Their need for a permanent long term solution is crucial for the future of their company. Becker insist they have made unsuccessful approaches to Sunshine Coast Airport Management for the provision of such a facility away from residential areas. They have unsuccessfully tried to purchase their own piece of ground. The land they require needs to be in the open as they are catering for young inexperienced trainees. Areas they have been offered so far have mainly been in state forestry areas and not suitable for their purposes. The area required for a satellite helicopter training facility should measure at least 500m x 45m.
It may be that Becker Helicopters have therefore targeted the Caloundra residential area to make their point to Airport Management, Council and the State Government on the need for a Satellite Helicopter Training Facility. Residents have been up in arms over the recent increase in helicopter activity and in turn are putting pressure on Sunshine Coast Airport Management, Sunshine Coast Council and the State Government to do something about it.
This falls right into Becker Helicopter’s hands as we as residents want exactly what Becker wants, a separate dedicated Satellite helicopter Training area where they can practise their touch n go’s, away from residential homes.
BeCA deplores this behaviour if it is true. To put the health and comfort of residents at risk to gain their commercial aim is a deplorable tactic and would clearly demonstrate a lack of consideration towards the Sunshine Coast Community.
It must be again mentioned, Becker Helicopters are not breaking any rules or regulations. However this practice is at odds with the recommendations of the recently approved Caloundra Aerodrome Master Plan. The Master Plan specifically states that any growth in Caloundra Aerodrome business should not see any resultant increase in aircraft movements.
Cr Baberowski has been in deep conversation with Becker and Sunshine Coast Airport Management. He has committed to holding off on his controversial tactic of banning Becker from using Caloundra Aerodrome in line with the Caloundra Aerodrome Master Plan, until this section of training is concluded which is due for sometime next week (Feb 11 -14 depending on weather). However he insists that in the future and if necessary, Becker Helicopters will not be allowed to use Caloundra Aerodrome as their use creates a marked increase in aircraft movements.
Becker’s next student intake is expected to be in September 2014. In the short term the problem will go away on its own accord.
Currently all suitable land is under lease. Stockland has a piece of land at Bells Pocket which both Sunshine Coast Airport Management and Becker Helicopters deem as highly suitable. This land is currently under lease and on the surface appears unavailable.
The area owned by the State Government at ‘Johnson’s Rd’ is also under lease to forestry company Hancock’s. This is seen as the long term answer to the problem but will need to wait until any lease is renewed.
The purpose of the Forum on Friday may be to seek community opinion on how deeply the State Government should become involved in the negotiations.
The Stockland situation and their lease commitments may have become another plank in discussions with Sunshine Coast Council and the future Caloundra South development.
At least residents can expect some relief from the repetitive touch n go’s of Becker’s helicopters in the next week or so.
Local operator Caloundra Aerodrome helicopter pilot trainer Chopperline will continue to use Caloundra Aerodrome for its repetitive helicopter circuits. When established, Chopperline would also use the newly established satellite helicopter training facility.
For other news on issues discussed at last night’s BeCA Management Committee meeting (Mon.) see the post below.