Curfew, flight caps proposed to counter aircraft noise

Savannah Meacham and Kat Wong |

A furore has erupted over noise levels at Brisbane Airport.
A furore has erupted over noise levels at Brisbane Airport.

Traffic controller Airservices Australia has been accused of misleading the federal government on the impact of a controversial Brisbane runway.

Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance Chair Professor Marcus Foth has told a Senate inquiry Airservices Australia “cut corners” before Brisbane Airport’s second runway was built.

The 24-hour airport has become the centre of a local furore, with residents complaining en masse about noise since its $1.1 billion second runway opened in 2020.

A Senate inquiry into the impact and mitigation of aircraft noise is examining potential solutions to the issue.

Prof Foth accused Airservices Australia of misleading the government in approving the second runway through fabricated noise comparison reports.

He claimed the second runway was approved without consultation or scrutiny, accusing the body of misleading the community about its impact.

“Airservices cut corners and marked their own homework,” Prof Foth told the inquiry on Monday.

The community group argued the simple solution to the noise issue was introducing a night curfew and capping the number of flights.

“Sydney Airport, which has now had a curfew and a movements cap for over 20 years is still a viable operating business,” Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance committee member Sean Foley said.

“It hasn’t suffered a profit loss and it hasn’t gone bankrupt and there is no reason to believe that Brisbane Airport would suffer those kinds of problems.”

A Qantas plane at Brisbane Airport
A Brisbane Airport curfew would provide substantial economic benefits to residents, an expert says. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Economist and University of Queensland Professor John Quiggin found the economic benefits to residents by introducing a night curfew would be substantial.

An impact of 10 decibels led to an implied $4 billion-$7 billion reduction in property values, he found.

Prof Quiggin said the cost-benefit of night flights versus introducing a curfew for residents’ health and property value was significant.

“It really is more increasing convenience for a massive impact on quality of life and on public health,” he told the inquiry.

Prof Quiggin agreed residents are being thrown under the bus despite night flights being deemed safe, necessary and economically beneficial.

Australian Airline Pilots’ Association, which represents more than 7100 pilots, made a submission raising concerns about political processes between Brisbane Airport Corporation and Airservices Australia to appease a “small but vocal segment” of the local community.

It says the complainants were “lulled into a false environmental perception by the lack of aviation activity during the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic” and are now concerned about the impact of these flights on their property values and quality of life.

Brisbane Airport’s tailwind allowance used to be 10 knots but was reduced to five in accordance with the international standard.

Now Airservices Australia has proposed increasing it to seven knots to increase the number of arrivals and departures over the bay and reduce noise during night time hours.

But Australian Airline Pilots’ Association says this change could put pilots and passengers at risk.

“While operators always state that ‘safety is our highest priority’ the reality is that the highest priority is more like ‘sufficient safety to generate maximum profits’,” their submission read.