Instrument Flight Rules Needed For Airport Viability

Filed in Recent News by October 17, 2019

WHILE the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has confirmed Scone airport will not be forced to close if it does not meet new regulations being introduced in August next year, if the airport operates as an uncertified airport, instrument flight procedures would need to be cancelled.

Initial advice from a local aviation operator was the cancellation would have minimal impact on local aviation businesses, however other local operators feel strongly that the impact would be significant. 

The Scone Airport issue is clearly not straight forward and there are many perspectives and arguments. As a news service we will continue to ask questions, seek all views and fact check with the relevant authorities. We are glad other local airport users have again put forward their counter views, this time on the change to instrument flight procedures and the potential impact.

Matthew Clark, president of the Scone Aero Club, said instrument flight rules (IFR) would preclude many commercial and emergency service flights at Scone airport if it was not certified and only visual flight rules (VFR) were applied.

“It means there is no guarantee of emergency services being able to come to Scone unless it is in good weather,” said Mr Clark.

“There are also some operators who will have insurance implications on their aircraft, because some insurers don’t indemnify with accident or damage at a non-registered airports and there are a lot of commercial operators who do fly into Scone, which Council relies for income to keep it viable and they again they won’t be able to guarantee their service being able to operate here,” he said.

“There are also quite a lot of private people who rely on instrument to land as well,” he said.

“The whole thing with IFR is you call up the Melbourne or Brisbane control centre and they track you the whole flight, so there is someone watching over you and most commercial operators that is written into their standard operating procedures that they fly under all charter conditions with instrument flight rules,” he said.

“So imagine flying from Scone to Alice Springs and you’ve got seven paying passengers on board and suddenly the plane goes missing, every single passenger jet and smaller jets are operating under IFR, it’s frowned upon in commercial operations to be just flying visual, unless you are doing scenic flights where you are going low and between hills where IFR isn’t practical,” he said.

“Not having IFR could seriously impact commercial operators being able to use Scone airport,” said Matt Clark.

Matt Clark explained due to the topography of Scone airport, surrounded by mountains, there is often low cloud and fog, making visual flight rules for landing difficult.

“It’s all about where you become visual coming into your approach, that’s what it’s all about and when there is bad weather the visibility is lower,” Matt explained. 

“There is a minimum height if you do fly to an airport no matter where you are each airport has their own different minimum heights before you have to be visual and Scone’s is a fair bit higher the limit from where you’ve got to have visual contact with the ground to come in to do an approach,” he said. 

“We have mountainous terrain surrounding the valley so by having the airport instrument rated it’s extremely important, because Scone is a lot more susceptible to trickier flying conditions such as fog and low cloud,” he said.

“There was an example this morning at the airport with fog, even if the pilot was instrument rated, if there is fog on the ground nobody can land and there are very few airports you can land in Australia in fog; fog is bad for everyone if you are instrument or not,” he said. 

“But it is the low cloud with instrument flying and visual flying…as an instrument pilot you are allowed to descend down through the cloud and then provided you pop out the bottom of the cloud above the minimum height you are allowed to land, then you can continue in and land, but what the implication is, if Scone isn’t able to have an instrument approach, you won’t be able to do that,” Matt Clark said.

CASA has linked certification under the new regulations to instrument flying rules, so that pilots have predictable standards for landing at all certified airports.

“For local pilots who know the terrain and the landing conditions it’s fine, but for someone who comes in from elsewhere at night through a storm and they need to land at Scone and they have the correct instrumentation rating; they are meant to be able to come in and expect the standard of runway is the same whether they are landing at Scone or Burke or Mascot, the standard has to be the same so that way the variables are minimal and it can be a safer landing,” said Matt Clark. 

Matt Clark said he believes Scone Airport would be financially unviable if it is not able to maintain instrument flight rules.

“It becomes the discretion of the airport operator if it is going to become one that is going to be used by recreational people or daytime good weather operators and at the discretion of the insurer if they will allow that to happen,” said Matt.

“If you can’t have commercial operations there or emergency services there is no chance you’ll get the revenue from recreational people, it does come down to an all or nothing with some airports now,” Matt Clark said.

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