BeCA representatives attended the March Caloundra Aerodrome Forum meeting at Caloundra Council Offices on Wednesday evening (March 5th). Also in attendance were SCA (Sunshine Coast Airport) Management, Lease Holders from Caloundra Aerodrome, and representatives from various local community groups.
The main topic centred around the recent huge increase in noise complaints arising from repetitive helicopter circuits and any updates on progress to solve the problem.
Managing an aerodrome such as Caloundra is akin to managing a public road anywhere in Australia. A car owner can drive along any road as long as the driver follows the road rules and their vehicle is suitable to use that road. No one can determine who uses a public road.
At the vast majority of aerodromes around Australia, an aerodrome is a ‘public’ place. As long as your aircraft is suitable (i.e. not oversized) and you follow the rules set down by CASA and Air Services Australia, you can use any aerodrome such as Caloundra Aerodrome. No one can declare who uses and who doesn’t use one of these types of aerodromes. Privately owned aerodromes can determine who does and who doesn’t use it.
The vast majority of Australia wide aerodromes are like Caloundra and are classed as ‘uncontrolled’ public aerodromes. That means they do not have a local air traffic control tower assisting aircraft movements around an airport an can be used by any pilot and their aircraft.
Even at the SCA, the main control tower goes off duty at 7pm. The last commercial flight departs SCA at 8pm. There are other airports around Australia used by the major Airlines, Virgin, Jetstar and Tiger which use aerodromes where there isn’t a local control tower to monitor aircraft movements. So to have an uncontrolled aerodrome is the norm.
SCA Management has no say over who can and who can’t use Caloundra Aerodrome as long as their aircraft and pilot behaviour is within the guidelines. CASA and Air Services Australia deal with aircraft which are not behaving within the guidelines. Becker Helicopters appear to be operating within all CASA and Air Services Australia guidelines.
This severely limits SCA Management to be able to deal with the recent noise problem created by Becker Helicopters. The best they can do is liaise with Becker Helicopters to limit the distress to Bellvista and Bells Reach residents from their helicopters’ repetitive circuits.
Many discussions have been occurring over recent times. SCA Management met this week with Becker Helicopters and will meet with them again early next week. If the Satellite Helicopter Training Facility doesn’t become available later this year, then it is hoped some agreement with Becker Helicopters on their usage of Caloundra Aerodrome can be negotiated.
The creation of a Satellite Helicopter Training Facility, even as a temporary solution is not a ‘definite’ outcome at this stage. However SCA Management and SC Council are more optimistic at this stage than they were a couple of weeks ago.
SCA Management continues to meet on a regular basis with the local MP Mark McArdle and with Stockland who own the land to the south of Caloundra. There appears to have been some positive steps made with both possible solutions to the problem.
The Satellite Helicopter Training Facility has a short term and a long term requirement. The short term requirement is to have something in place for when Becker Helicopters begins its next intake of 50 pilots due in September this year. The long term requirement is for a permanent area to be made available for on-going use as a Satellite Helicopter Training Facility for use by all helicopter training operators. This includes the Caloundra Aerodrome operator, Chopperline.
There was a question raised at the Forum Meeting concerning the legality of Noosa council’s closure of Teewah Airport. If the land was government land designated as an aerodrome then there may be some avenue for the state government to reopen the aerodrome itself. Though not hopeful of a positive outcome, this question is being raised with government representatives. It is anticipated Noosa Council will declare all that land as a “National Park”.
The Federal Government ‘Deed” under which the land was provided for Caloundra Aerodrome states the aerodrome should be available to all to use as an aerodrome. Investigations by SCA Management are occurring to see if this clause could possibly be modified.
It was reported that there should be a marked reduction in the use of Caloundra Aerodrome by Becker Helicopters from the end of March as the training program enters a new phase. Residents may have noticed a reduction of use of the aerodrome by Becker Helicopters over the last couple of days following recent discussions between SCA Management and Becker Helicopters.
At the Forum a presentation was given by one of the Caloundra Aerodrome Lease Holders “Pro Rotor”. This company carries out updates and maintenance on helicopters. For example if you purchase a helicopter from the USA it requires modifications for it to meet Australian Standards. Pro Rotor carry out these modifications. They service helicopters and provide a pre-sale advice service. Recently a Pro Rotor employee carried out a pre-sale assessment of a second hand helicopter located in South Africa being considered for purchase by an Australian resident. This young company is expanding at a great rate and urgently requires more hangar space.
They employ 12 workers permanently but have up to 20 on their books at certain times. They have two apprentices from a local education institution at any one time. In the past they have been able to offer two of their previous apprentices ongoing employment.
An exchange of land is being negotiated with the government to permit the expansion of the Queensland Aircraft Museum. Submissions have been completed and forwarded.
A usual feature of the Forum is a report on Airport Noise complaints. Throughout 2013 the average number of complaints per month is around 3 or 4. Following Becker Helicopters recent increase in usage, this number has spiked to an average of 60 complaints per month for January and February 2014, a 2000% increase!