Cairns Airport

Investigations & Consultation

Airservices proactively works with the airport and the community to investigate, trial and implement changes to improve aircraft noise outcomes.

Investigations at Cairns Airport include:

Runway 15 departures non-compliance
In April 2018 the Noise Complaints and Information Service conducted an investigation to review the concerns raised in complaints from community members and the Airport Environmental Consultative Committee about non-compliance with the Runway 15 departure procedure.

Read the Investigation Report.

Runway 15 departure turns
The Airport Environmental Consultative Committee requested an investigation into concerns that some airlines were not performing the required turn correctly after departure from Runway 15. Aircraft are required to begin their turns at the earlier of the end of the runway or when they reach 400 feet. Non-compliance is followed up by air traffic control.

Data on 4178 jet departures from July to November 2016 was analysed. The investigation found that variations in the turns were not confined to any one airline, and were the result of the differing turn performance of different aircraft types. While aircraft were beginning their turns at the correct point in flight, some aircraft types would take longer to complete the turn than others, creating a wider arc.

Alternative helicopter route to/from airport and reef

In Cairns there is significant helicopter traffic to and from the reef. While helicopters usually track direct between the Cairns Airport helipad and the reef, at times helicopters are tracked over residents to the north of the airport resulting in concerns being raised by residents.

Discussions with air traffic control revealed that due to the helipad’s location to the west of the runway, at times there was conflict with arriving or departing fixed wing aircraft which prevented helicopters tracking directly to or from the helipad.

A possible noise improvement was identified that, where it was not possible to provide direct tracking and where it is operationally feasible, helicopters be instructed by air traffic control to track via the inlets and not over the residential areas. This would mean that track miles would be increased on these occasions. Further discussions with air traffic control will be undertaken.

Late turns off Runway 15

Aircraft making late turns after departure from Runway 15 impacts on residents in the Esplanade area in Cairns. The investigation established that this was occurring more frequently than expected. Airservices wrote to the airlines to communicate the community concerns and ask for confirmation that they would comply with the requirements of the departure procedure at all times, unless there were critical reasons not to do so (ie emergency or weather). Subsequently community representatives on the Airport Environment Consultative Committee noted that they had seen a difference.

Helicopter movements over Palm Cove
Around five helicopters a day flew over Palm Cove because of the location of a reporting point. The investigation found that moving the reporting point over water was feasible from a safety and efficiency perspective and would be a noise improvement for Palm Cove. The change was implemented.
Departures over Yarrabah
An investigation looked at whether departing aircraft could avoid the township of Yarrabah. Analysis showed that few aircraft actually flew over the township and those that did were at around 8,000 feet, presenting few noise issues. The investigation was closed without change.
Smart Tracking arrivals to Runway 15
Airservices investigated whether the Smart Tracking (RNP) arrival flight path to Rwy 15 could include a “kink” to avoid the suburb of Holloway’s Beach. Due to the capabilities of Smart Tracking navigation, this was feasible and a change was delivered.

Community Aviation Consultation Groups

Airservices attends Community Aviation Consultation Group meetings at Cairns Airport to provide information to the community and assist in discussions on aviation matters. The Cairns Airport group is the Airport Environmental Consultative Committee.