East Gippsland Shire Council in Victoria is battling to retain the RNAV approach for Mallacoota after the airport lost its certification status under CASR Part 139.
The shire elected not to certify Mallacoota because the new standards would not make it practical. As a result, the airport will no longer have a NOTAM service and the RNAV approaches to runways 18 and 36 will be deleted.
Airports moving to Part 139 needed to have done so by 13 May this year.
"The heightened CASA standard that airports are now expected to meet has made it impractical for some small regional airports to maintain certification,” said East Gippsland Shire General Manager Assets and Environment Fiona Weigall.
"Mallacoota Airport will operate at a different regulation standard than a certified airport. This will not change the way the airport is maintained and all aircraft types that currently access the airport can continue to do so.
“This does not mean Council is closing the airport, nor will pilots or the public see any physical changes to the airport and how it is currently managed and maintained.
"Council is committed to still providing a functional airport for users, minus Notification to Airmen services and Terminal Instrument Flight Procedures."
According to a council spokesperson, Mallacoota had to surrender its certification under CASR Part 139 because:
- work is needed to address erosion at one end of the unsealed runway
- the taxiway area and apron used by Department of Evironment, Land, Water and Planning as a fire base needed reconstruction
- trees around the airport are outside of the vegetation management permit.
Mallacoota played a critical part in the 2019-20 bushfire crisis when the town was surrounded by fire on New Year's Eve. The RAAF took control of the airport to conduct relief and evacuation efforts. As one of only two areas in Victoria classified as remote, the airport forms an important connection to the rest of the state.
Former Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and current Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said this week that he would take up the matter with current minister Catherine King.
“The latest changes which have impacted regional airports like Mallacoota are the latest in a long list of compliance costs and regulations which are impacting the general aviation sector,” Chester said.
“The regulatory burden which falls on the aviation industry has a disproportionate impact on small regional operators who don’t have a vast administration team to do all the paperwork demanded by CASA.
“As a former Minister, I was constantly trying to get the CASA bureaucracy to understand the real-world impacts of their rules and regulations on small operators.
“These latest changes, supposedly in the name of safety, are more likely to endanger lives and delay treatment for locals and visitors to Mallacoota."
Chester all said he knew of pilots who had refused to land at Mallacoota since certification was lost and that on at least one occasion Ambulance Victoria refused to send a flight to the remote town.
A CASA spokesperson told Australian Flying that of the 350 aerodromes that needed to transition to Part 139 by 13 May, Mallacoota was one of only six that elected to surrender their certification, and that no infrastructure changes were needed in order to comply.
In 2010, 34 airports around Australia had their RNAV approaches deleted because they opted not to get certification, which CASA demanded in order to retain the instrument procedures under Part 139.