Flight paths are not precise, defined paths like runways, but more like corridors that are often several kilometres wide.
Arriving aircraft will line up with the runway centreline and fly straight in on the runway heading. Therefore suburbs in line with the runway will be overflown by arriving aircraft. Other suburbs will be overflown by aircraft travelling to join the final approach. Non-jets will join the final approach path closer to the airport whereas jets may join it 20 kilometres or more from the runway.
The altitude the aircraft will be at when it begins its final approach will depend on how far it has left to fly to the runway. There is no regulated minimum altitude for an aircraft in the process of landing. Aircraft will generally descend on a glide slope of three degrees.
Departure flight paths allow aircraft to maintain the runway heading for a short time until they are stabilised in flight, and then to turn towards the route that will take them to their destination. Non-jets are turned off towards their headings soon after departure and jets will generally remain on the runway heading for longer.
Jet departures from Runway 05 that are headed for ports such as Sydney and Melbourne will turn towards the south-east soon after departure around Mile End and will fly over the city and suburbs such as Eastwood, Dulwich and Glenside. Jets heading for destinations such as Brisbane, Cairns, Perth, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia will continue on runway heading over suburbs including North Adelaide, Medindie, Walkerville and Klemzig. Around Holden Hill the flight path splits with some continuing northwards and others turning westerly. Of these, some head back towards the coast, passing over suburbs such as Modbury, Gulfview Heights, and Salisbury South. Others turn north-westerly.
Some jet aircraft will be directed to turn off the runway heading sooner than others. This usually occurs for traffic management reasons to ensure that safe separation is maintained between aircraft, particularly at busy times when the volume of traffic is high.
The altitude of aircraft after departure will depend on factors such as the type of aircraft and its weight, how heavily laden it is with fuel and passengers, and the atmospheric conditions at the time. All these factors affect an aircraft’s climb rate. There is no regulated minimum altitude for an aircraft in the process of taking off.
Flight path information
See below for images of typical flight paths and how frequently they were used in the quarter indicated. Please note that aircraft do fly outside the shown swathes. For example, the swathes do not extend to all the areas that are overflown by arriving aircraft being vectored or show the full length of departure flight paths. Further, aircraft may be directed off the usual flight paths for reasons including the need to avoid bad weather or for traffic management, that is, to ensure safe separation between aircraft. See WebTrak for further information about where aircraft fly. More explanation is also available in the Why Aircraft Fly Where They Do fact sheet.
You can access historical information about flight path use through WebTrak. To access this information click the “Historical” link below the text in the Quick Start Guide at the top left-hand side of the screen. Then use the tick boxes at the bottom-right of the screen to select monthly, quarterly or yearly information. Use the sliders to refine your selection to specific timeframes.