Ever-increasing FIFO traffic is putting pressure on Emerald airport facilities.
Ever-increasing FIFO traffic is putting pressure on Emerald airport facilities.

Traffic congestion terminal problem

THE newly redeveloped Emerald Airport terminal is already under pressure from increased charter flights carrying fly in, fly out workers swelling the ranks of regular passenger numbers.

Qantaslink now operates 34 flights a week, and airport infrastructure is battling to cope with anywhere from nine to 13 passenger aircraft movements a day reflecting a 30% rise from 2010.

“It’s getting to the point where we’re struggling to fit everything in – and that includes people in the terminal,” Commercial Services general manager Col Dziewicki said at Monday’s Central Highlands council meeting.

“A sharp rise in traffic growth is resulting in apron congestion.

“Charter flight numbers will significantly increase from (Monday) as Clermont airport closes for works on the runways and additional aircraft parking bays.

“Emerald airport will have up to 13 flights a day at times, inclusive of Qantas, Alliance Charters, Pelair Charters and Skytrans Charters.”

Airport growth, Mr Dziewicki said in answer to questions from councillors Kerry Hayes, Ross Rolfe and Peter Haylock, would be “dependent on how much worse the FIFO syndrome gets” with 15 new coal mines predicted for the Central Highlands.

“If you look at all the triggers, it’s going to keep on going,” he said.

“It’s hard to predict growth... our minimum would be 10%, and maximum 30%.”

The upgraded facility would cope “for a while”, he added, before urging councillors to plan for the next phase of expansion.

Mr Dziewicki said one possible vision was another 400 car parks, two more apron bays and the runway widened to 45m.

Passenger numbers through Emerald Airport in March peaked at 15,036 for the 2010-11 year. April saw 14,050 recorded. Figures are not yet available for May.

Mr Dziewicki said an apron plan was in development to ensure aircraft slots were available.

“It also brings forward the need for additional high-strength apron extensions,” he said.

“The newly developed terminal is already under pressure at peak times.”

Commercial Services was awaiting a response on the success of a funding application for walk-through metal detection, carry on x-ray, explosive trace detection, checked bag screening and hand-wanding equipment necessary under the new Federal Aviation legislation.

Emergency services were called to Emerald Airport twice during May.

An unattended car in the car park caught fire when the battery combusted.

A trainee pilot was unharmed when he crash-landed on the runway.

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