Govt study to help general aviation take off?

THE Australian Government has begun a major study into general aviation (GA) in Australia which aims to remove barriers to growth.

The study will cover regulatory and cost issues affecting the sector and the government is calling on representatives of the general aviation sector to contribute to the discussion. 

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Sunshine Coast Airport declared ‘international’

SUNSHINE Coast now has an official international airport.

Sunshine Coast Airport has been upgraded with improved access to border agencies to meet Air New Zealand’s flights from Auckland.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester said, “Sunshine Coast Airport serves as an important gateway to the region. This designation will provide opportunities to promote the area as a leisure and business destination to new foreign markets. 

“The potential to attract additional international services will complement Sunshine Coast's impressive domestic traffic growth. Passenger movements at the airport are almost 20 percent higher than they were three years ago,” he said.

“This is one of a range of measures the government has recently undertaken to make it easier for foreign visitors to directly access regions outside of Australia’s major cities. Currently 45 cents out of every tourism dollar is spent in Australia’s regions.”




New air tracking system mandated 2017

A NEW aviation tracking system to allow air traffic controllers to accurately ‘see’ aircraft in parts of Australia with no radar coverage is being mandated from February 2017.

Owners and operators of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) aircraft must ensure their aircraft are fitted with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) technology from February 2 next year.

Airservices Australia said all IFR aircraft flying in Australian airspace must be equipped with ADS-B – and already the industry had made a strong start. 

Airservices executive general manager for Air Navigation Services, Stephen Angus, said the Australian aviation industry already had more than 82 percent of IFR aircraft flying with ADS-B now.

“I would like to congratulate those operators and owners who have already fitted with ADS-B and are seeing the real benefits the technology offers,” Mr Angus said.

“I would also encourage those who have not yet fitted their aircraft with ADS-B to make sure they do before 2 February 2017.”

There are around 1000 IFR aircraft that still need to be fitted in Australia prior to the mandate which includes about 90 of Australia’s IFR helicopter fleet.

Operators that are already fitted are gaining the benefits of improved air traffic surveillance coverage across the continent, enhanced situational awareness and an increased likelihood of obtaining their preferred flight levels or altitudes.

“ADS-B has proven to offer a significant increase in situational awareness for our pilots,” CHC Helicopter pilot and Jandakot base manager for Western Australia’s RAC Rescue Helicopter Service, said Mick Perren,

“When operating out of Jandakot Airport, certainly one of the busiest airports in Australia, instead of just getting an icon on the traffic display, with ADS-B we get more information about the traffic. We get a much better picture of what is happening around us and this is where we have seen the biggest advantage.”

Airservices has long been a leader in investing in new technology to improve efficiency and safety for our airspace users, with Australia the first country in the world to commission a continent-wide ADS-B surveillance network in 2009.



Aust-US researchers conquer ‘no-GPS’ drone navigation

DEFENCE researchers are working with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to develop techniques for accurate drone navigation without the use of global positioning satellite systems (GPS).

Success in this field will have immediate benefits for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) military applications and could help develop a longer-term edge for Australian UAS applications, with the eventual goal being ‘passive navigation’ capability. 

“Our aim under this project is to navigate a UAS aircraft without GPS assistance to a target location 100km away,” Australian researcher Sam Dudley said. “As part of that, to maintain range safety and for operational reasons, we need to maintain communications with the aircraft over the 100km outward journey.”

Mr Dudley specialises in trying to optimise and improve the performance of a datalink between a far-off UAS and home base.

“My work has really been examining the data link for that system and trying to keep it as reliable as possible while minimising the amount of infrastructure and complexity,” Mr Dudley said.

Mr Dudley and the team use the Woomera Test Range in the South Australian desert for these trials. The entire unmanned aerial mission must be conducted from a single launch and recovery location, to minimise the number of personnel required and to reduce infrastructure.

The team chose a flight altitude of 450m above ground to optimise safety in case of a system failure and the opportunity to capture high quality data for the on-board experimental systems.

 “Reliable datalink communications are paramount to the success of our extended-range flight trials, but the trade-off we made in flying at 450m is less-than-optimal for radio communication,” Mr Dudley said.

“My paper at last year’s International Aerospace Congress presented some solutions to this problem.”

Standard testing was insufficient in predicting the performance of the datalink, as reflections from the landscape at such altitudes causes significant destructive interference in otherwise clear line-of-sight conditions. Through modelling, Mr Dudley has shown it is possible to exploit these effects in order to minimise the impact on the datalink operations.

“I presented an experimentally demonstrated solution in the paper,” Mr Dudley said.

With the datalink well on the way to being stable, the team is able to pursue its key project research focus, namely passive navigation.

“That means using available emitters, whether it be light or some other radiation source or even the polarisation of the sky to guide our UAS. In many ways we take inspiration from biology, for example migrating birds, or insects finding their way back to the hive,” Mr Dudley said.

An AFRL contingent joined Mr Dudley and colleagues at Woomera earlier this year for a successful trial, one of many such trials that have taken place.

Mr Dudley said the US defence scientists appreciated the research flexibility available at the Woomera range, and also the flexible nature of the DST auto-pilot software.



Qantas Freight and Australia Post fly dedicated freighters

QANTAS and Australia Post are developing a new dedicated domestic air-freighter network to be used exclusively by Australia Post and its allied StarTrack customers.

The dedicated network will consist of six freighter aircraft featuring StarTrack livery, with continued priority access to cargo space in the Qantas Group's passenger fleet.  Five of the dedicated StarTrack freighters will come from Qantas Freight's existing fleet, with a soon to be delivered sixth larger aircraft, a Boeing 737-400, joining the fleet.

To be launched in July, the network is part of the five year contract, with a value in excess of $500 million, signed last year for the transport of Australia Post's domestic mail, parcels and Express Post until mid-2020. 

Australia Post managing director and group CEO, Ahmed Fahour said the dedicated Qantas freighters would further strengthen the extensive delivery and logistics network that underpins both Australia Post and StarTrack.

"This strategic alliance creates a greater opportunity for us to be first to deliver for our customers, combining our unrivalled delivery network and existing freight network with a dedicated and flexible air network," Mr Fahour said.    

"The dedicated domestic air-freighter network – featuring our StarTrack-branded planes – is our latest milestone in delivering a world-class parcels, freight and logistics network that meets the ecommerce needs of Australian businesses and consumers and connects them to global opportunities. 

"This is great news for local businesses, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and all ecommerce companies.  When they choose Australia Post and StarTrack, they will have the support to grow with access to the best air freight network."

Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, said the new arrangement focused on providing a fast, reliable and more efficient service to Australia Post and StarTrack.

"We're thrilled to provide Australia Post with a dedicated freighter network for their domestic customers. This builds on the strong relationship that has existed between the national carrier and the nation's postal service since 1922 when Qantas first started flying airmail," Mr Joyce said.

"Our transformation program has sharpened the efficiency and flexibility of our freight business, and sharing these benefits with customers is part of our competitive edge. Our focus in designing this agreement is to help our biggest freight customer better coordinate their supply chain and ultimately deliver a better service to their customers.

"Scale is a unique part of what we offer. Qantas Freight offers access to the collective belly-space on domestic Qantas and Jetstar passenger flights as well as eight freighter aircraft in addition to the Australia Post dedicated freighter network. This network, combined with the strength of our partnership and interline agreements, gives Qantas Freight significant network reach to more than 500 international and 80 domestic destinations," Mr Joyce said.




Airservices helps fly ‘Smithy’s plane’ again

AIRSERVICES  announced at the recent Wings Over Illawarra Airshow it would contribute a further $10 000 to assist the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) complete its restoration of the Southern Cross II replica aircraft.

The Southern Cross was — probably Australia’s most famous aircraft and which now rests in a special viewing hangar at Brisbane Airport – was heroically flown in 1928 by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm to make the  first crossing of the Pacific Ocean by air, touching down in Brisbane from San Francisco. 

The restoration to full flight status of the Southern Cross II Fokker F.VIIb/3m tri-motor replica is being carried out at the society’s aviation museum at Albion Park Airport, Wollongong.

Airservices manager for East Coast Services Sydney, Roger Chambers, said the donation would help promote the significant contribution made by the Southern Cross and its crew to Australia’s aviation history.

“Airservices is a proud sponsor of the Southern Cross II restoration project and we can’t wait to see this significant aircraft return to the air and visit airports around the country in the near future,” Mr Chambers said.

“While we continue to support general aviation and maintain Australia’s aviation heritage, this donation is important to Airservices as it ensures that future generations can admire the feats of Australia’s pioneer aviators.”

The Wings Over Illawarra Airshow attracted more than 20 000 spectators and the Southern Cross II replica made up part of this year’s Airservices display stand and is one of the many HARS aircraft on display at the airshow.

“We are again grateful for the significant contribution from Airservices towards our restoration of the Southern Cross II,” HARS restoration manager, Geoff Timms said.

“Once the Southern Cross II returns to the skies, the aircraft will embark on a national tour to educate the nation on Smithy’s achievements.”

As part of its commitment to preserving aviation heritage, Airservices also sponsors the Civil Aviation Historical Society and The Airways Museum located at Essendon Airport.



Gold Coast Airport cleared for take-off


THE FEDERAL Government has approved a major terminal upgrade for Gold Coast Airport.

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss said the Gold Coast Airport expansion would cater for future growth and the increased passenger numbers expected during the upcoming 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

“Gold Coast Airport currently services around 6 million passengers per year, which is forecast to grow to 16.3 million passengers in 2031,” Mr Truss said. 

“In the immediate future, more than 117,000 visitors, 5,000 athletes, 2,000 officials and 2,700 media representatives are expected to travel to the Gold Coast for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, with most arriving through the airport.

“The major redevelopment of the airport will almost double the size of the terminal, expand the apron to accommodate five additional aircraft stands and incorporate four new aerobridges — a facility long awaited by travellers.

“The expansion will also include a consolidated ground transport facility incorporating: a relocated taxi staging area; covered boarding for coaches, mini-buses and limousines; covered pedestrian walkways; and circulation roads for all ground transport modes.”

Mr Truss said the airport upgrade would create significant economic benefits for the region by generating additional employment, stimulating economic activities and facilitating tourism.

“Approximately 230 full time jobs will be created during construction, while an average of 180 additional full time workers employed once the expanded terminal is completed,” Mr Truss said.

“The development is expected to generate additional tourism expenditure of around $62 million per year and contribute approximately $426 million to the Gross Regional Product over 20 years from 2015–16 to 2034–35.”

The majority of works are expected to be completed by the end of 2017, in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The apron and taxiway expansion will be completed in two stages, by early 2021.



Details of the development can be found on the Airport's website:



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