A proposal for the future lease of Katoomba Airport will see one runway closed to create an environmental zone and another upgraded, according the papers made public last week.
According to the lease proposal, runway 10/28 will be closed and the land allowed to regenerate, offset by an upgrade and repair to 06/24.
The airport, on an 80-hectare Crown Land site near Medlow Bath 5 km north of Katoomba, is currently closed to fixed-wing traffic due to the condition of the movement surfaces.
Earlier this year, company FlyBlue proposed leasing the airport for 50 years and revitalising it for recreational aviation and opening up non-aviation precincts for environmental protection and bushwalking.
The basics of the proposal include:
- new and upgraded facilities for visitors to the airfield
- a biodiversity agreement that will result in substantial planting of new trees
- support for tourism and benefits for the local economy
- continued full access for emergency services for both operations and training.
However, special conditions are expected to be placed on general flying operations, which include a ban on circuit training and short-cycle joy flights. Special procedures and a fly neighbourly area are also expected to be put in place.
Flight paths will also be designed to ensure residential areas are not impacted.
FlyBlue says the priority in development is to prevent further environmental erosion at the site, dedicating a quarter of the airport as a non-aviation environmental zone and taking steps to protect the Blue Mountains Hanging Swamps present on the site.
The company has also promised to plant one native tree for every flight into and out of the airfield to offset the carbon emissions generated by the flight.
Katoomba is the only airfield between Greater Sydney and Bathurst, sitting in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. It was opened in 1968 and operated under successive leases. With the last lessee dying in 2016, the NSW Department of Industry called for Expressions of Interest in leasing the airfield the following year, which identified FlyBlue as the preferred lessee. Since the lease expired in 2017, the airport has been managed on a month-by-month basis.
Currently, the FlyBlue proposal is undergoing a 56-day public exhibition, which includes a public information session to be held at the Hotel Blue in Katoomba next week. More details are available on the FlyBlue website.