LESS than two years since the last upgrade, Emerald Airport is yet again fast approaching capacity and in need of a revamp.
Virgin and Qantas have about 130 flights a week through the airport, with that number expected to rise to about 200 in the coming years.
But it is the increase in fly in, fly out activity that has prompted the latest solution, which is aimed at making operations more efficient and allowing the airport to meet increasing demand.
Plans are underway to create a wholly separate FIFO terminal. This will allow mine workers to pass through a completely separate building and bypass security check-in, with the idea of freeing up the existing terminal for the increase in regular passenger traffic.
"The fact is, as we continue to grow in FIFO activity, they don't all need to go through the security screens," Central Highlands Regional Council executive manager for commercial services Ashley Rosario said.
"There is no requirement for passengers who land or take-off in an aircraft that is under a certain weight to go through security screening.
"We will have to separate the two groups completely.
"So we are planning to create a separate terminal away from the current one."
As well as the need for a stand-alone building, will be the requirement to separate planes and their parking bays on the tarmac.
The plan resembles that currently in use at the Perth Domestic Airport, where a massive increase in FIFO traffic dictated the need to free up the existing terminal for regular passengers.
Planes take off on the hour, every hour, shuffling workers to remote destinations across Western Australia.
On top of the existing three terminals, a separate FIFO-only terminal operates on the grounds.
This makes Perth Domestic the fastest-growing capital city airport in Australia.
The number of passengers travelling through has doubled in the last seven years, with 12 million being recorded in 2011.
Much of this can be put down to the resources boom.
Mr Rosario said the Emerald Airport was again fast approaching capacity.
"We are also fielding a lot of enquiries related to charter flights so the demand to expand is certainly there," he said.
"We are making plans to accommodate as much of the new business as we can.
"There are a lot of forward enquiries as well.
"It's hard to tell the exact split between regular passenger traffic and FIFO traffic, but it is heading towards about 60% RPT and 40% FIFO.
"By the end of May we expect 10 RPT flights a day from Monday to Friday, and an extra 4-5 on Saturdays and Sundays."
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