27 Sep Australia is meeting aviation capacity demand head-on
Air traffic growth forecasts across Australia’s eastern coastal cities remain above 2% annually. Greater Sydney, with over 5 million inhabitants, is seeing strong urban growth while Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth have grown at around 25% in the past 10 years. Australia is beginning to bridge the gap between demand and capacity with additional runways, and through innovative airspace and flight path design.
Perhaps the most flexible approach has been adopted for western Sydney Airport
Impact of developing additional runways
Strong urban growth in Western Sydney has prompted the Australian government to approve a second airport there. Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth airports are all in the process of adding runways that are expected to be operational between 2020 to 2025. These additional runways are a significant capacity increase, almost double at Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
Having no recent precedents to follow, these airports are navigating individual pathways through aviation regulations and procedures to plan for the airspace changes that will be needed. Brisbane and Melbourne included descriptive environmental and community impact assessments, but perhaps the most flexible approach has been adopted for Western Sydney Airport.
Designing efficient airspace and flight paths
The Western Sydney Airport Plan does not define airspace and flight path specifics, but instead describes guidelines by which those elements will be developed, and allowing airspace and flight path designers to address key design elements directly.
Airspace and flight path designers must maximise performance in each of these key areas if they are to satisfy stakeholders with differing priorities. Each stakeholder in the airspace design process has a different, unique perspective. While everyone prioritises safety, airport operators also seek to maximise capacity, airlines favour efficiency and the local community will focus on environmental impact.
Good airspace and flight path design balances these complex, conflicting requirements. Minimising aircraft noise, considering visual amenity, putting safety first, and designing efficient aircraft operations, not to mention fulfilling capacity expectations for an airport investing billions, can seem diametrically opposite requirements; yet, this is what the designer delivers.
Next step: managing ATC workloads
Adding runways across at least three major airports in Australia will soon generate more aircraft in our skies. That naturally increases the complexity in our already busy airspace. Routes between the larger Australian capital cities are already some of the busiest in the world. With air traffic only increasing, now is the time to consider how that will affect the aviation network and how to manage it effectively.
Now that work is being done to relieve the runway capacity constraints on the network, it’s time to look for innovative ways to manage the next constraint. Now is probably a good time to start considering better identification and management of ATC workloads, and managing air route demand and capacity in open, collaborative environments.
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