Key Points:

  • Emirates, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Airlines have consented to increase the tailwind allowance over Moreton Bay, deviating from Brisbane Airport's previous norms.

  • This move is geared towards reducing aircraft noise over populated city zones by promoting more flights over the bay.

  • Past reductions in tailwind allowance by CASA led to increased noise complaints, prompting these recent negotiations.

Safety and Noise Concerns Addressed Amidst Changes in Flight Patterns

BRISBANE — In an endeavor to minimize aircraft noise over urban areas, three major airlines - Emirates, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Airlines - have decided to frequently fly over Moreton Bay during their arrivals and departures at Brisbane Airport. Stephen Beckett, Brisbane Airport's head of public affairs, emphasized the positive impact of the agreement, stating, "The higher the tail wind allowance, the more likely we are to get aircraft arriving and departing over the bay."

Understanding Tailwind Allowances

The tailwind allowance refers to the wind's speed coming from the aircraft's rear. Historically, Brisbane's tailwind allowance was set at 10 knots. However, this was reduced to 5 knots in 2016 by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The airport, in collaboration with the three airlines, has now championed a voluntary tailwind allowance exceeding the 5 knots mark. Some airlines have even begun experimenting with departures over the bay, utilizing a tailwind allowance that ranges up to 7 knots.

Balancing Safety and Noise Concerns

Aircraft noise, especially over densely populated city areas, has been a significant concern for many residents, as Beckett acknowledged. This effort to redirect planes over Moreton Bay's waters is a strategic move to address such issues. Addressing safety concerns, Beckett emphasized the 30-year incident-free track record when the tailwind allowance was pegged at 10 knots, underscoring that renowned global airlines discern no compromise to safety.

Backing from Historical Data and Audits

Gert-Jan de Graaff, Brisbane Airport's chief executive, highlighted in a recent letter to Infrastructure Minister Catherine King that the airport consistently passed safety assessments even when the tailwind allowance was set at 10 knots. He pointed out, "Noting that whilst the official allowable tailwind is 5 knots, airlines and pilots may opt to accept a higher tailwind."

Public Reactions and Proposed Legislation

Following the inauguration of the airport's $1.1 billion second runway in 2020, there was a spike in noise complaints. The Greens subsequently unveiled plans to introduce legislation capping flights at Brisbane Airport to 45 per hour. This bill, centered on noise reduction, also proposes a ban on flights between 10 pm and 6 am. However, these suggestions face opposition from the Brisbane Airport Corporation, arguing that such changes would jeopardize travel affordability.