• Coffs Harbour Airport's GA precinct at the north end. No decision has yet been made to close the short 10/28 runway. (Google Earth image)
    Coffs Harbour Airport's GA precinct at the north end. No decision has yet been made to close the short 10/28 runway. (Google Earth image)

Coffs Harbour Airport General Manager Frank Mondello told Australian Flying this week that no decision has been made to close runway 10/28 permanently.

Fears for the future of the short runway and the general aviation area were fueled after the airport was leased to private company Palisade Investment Partners and plans released for commercial development surrounding the GA precinct at the north end of the airport.

The development, known as Enterprise Park, required the airport operators to close the lit taxiway E5 and close the short 10/28 GA runway to create a taxi route from the GA area to the main 03/21 runway.

However, Mondello says that at the moment, the closure of 10/28 is only temporary.

"A plan was initially developed to use a section of Runway 10/28 as a taxiway and runway simultaneously to maintain the taxi route," he explained.

"As part of our safety management system and as the airport operator we identified some safety concerns with the proposed arrangements and have taken the decision to close the runway, converting a section of the runway to a taxiway to provide safe lit access from the main runway to the GA precinct.

"This will enable us to maintain safe access to the GA precinct and allow council’s Enterprise Park construction to continue, and undertake further safety and operational analysis, through an expert aviation consultant, with a view to determine the long-term arrangements.

"There has been no decision to permanently decommission Runway 10/28 at this stage – any decisions will be guided by a range of investigations and assessments to fully understand safety, operational and commercial issues."

The safety issue stems from the need to maintain a lit taxi route from the main runway to the GA terminal. Runway 10/28 is not lit.

Mondello said there was not a lot of traffic data available for the 849-metre 10/28, but inital research showed low usage supported by weather analysis that indicated little requirement. However, the need for the runway was still being assessed by an aviation consultant.

"Investigations will include a comprehensive safety and operational analysis, supported through engagement of an expert aviation consultant to determine the long-term arrangements," Mondello said.

"While we understand the concerns of some GA operators, safety must be our number one priority and the main runway can continue to be used and accessed by all operators as it is now.

"The main point is that there seems to be some messaging circulating that says we have made a decision to permanently close Runway 10/28. This simply is not accurate. No decision to permanently close the runway has been made."

In the 2020 calendar year, Coffs Harbour Airport recorded 35,000 movements, with approximately 50% being aircraft below 7000 kg landing weight.

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