• Draft of flight path proposals for Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek. (Department of Infrastructure and Transport)
    Draft of flight path proposals for Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek. (Department of Infrastructure and Transport)

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia (AOPA) has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urging him to drop the Western Sydney Airport project at Badgerys Creek in favour of developing Richmond Air Force base instead.

The letter, dated yesterday and signed by AOPA Executive Director Ben Morgan, cites a lack of industry consultation and significant disruption to training at Bankstown and Camden as reasons to halt the $5 billion project.

"The new WSA [Western Sydney Airport] location will create significant airspace planning conflicts that will preclude pilot training flights from Bankstown and Camden airports in the Sydney basin, forcing operators to undertake these flights a greater distance to the north and to the south," Morgan says in the letter.

"This will force the costs of pilot training to increase by as much as 40% or more and will make flight training services in Sydney uneconomic."

Camden Airport is only 11 nm south of  Badgerys Creek, which AOPA says will put it in the runway splay for the proposed 05/23 alignment for Western Sydney Airport, and ultimately force Camden to close. This is contradicted in the airport plan dated December 2016, which shows Camden being outside the splays of both planned runways.

According to AOPA, if either or both of Bankstown and Camden were to close, the taxpayers would likely to be forced to compensate the lease holder Bankstown Airport Corporation, which AOPA has estimated as being as high as $5 billion.

Instead, AOPA wants the Prime Minister to develop the existing airport at RAAF Richmond as an alternative.

"The Sydney basin is already home to three multi-billion dollar airports that the Australian taxpayers own (Bankstown, Camden and Richmond) of which Richmond is ideally suited to be Sydney's second airport," Morgan states.

"The airport site is already configured for Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) heavy transport and jets, the airport has existing fuel stores, navigation aids, a working airspace design and emergency services. The site is connected via a rail link and has highway connections servicing the area."

In a study published in 2013, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport found that the existing airport at Richmond would reach its capacity of five million passengers in the mid 2030s if civil operations were permitted. In order to increase the capacity to 20 million, a second runway would need to be built at an estimated cost of $2 billion and extend the capacity out to the late 2040s.

The report found that civil operations into Richmond could commence sooner, but that the airport was not a viable long-term options to meet Sydney's needs.

AOPA, however, still sees Richmond as the ideal solution from a general aviation point of view.

" ... selection of the Richmond Airport site would provide clear guarantee to the general aviation business community within the Sydney basin  as there would be no need to restrict any airspace," Morgan says. "This would then provide clear assurance to the lease holders of Bankstown and Camden airports that their aviation business precincts would remain a viable investment opportunity to the end of their leases."

Western Sydney Airport is now a government project scheduled to begin operations in 2026 at Badgerys Creek.

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