Flight paths in Sydney are designed to accommodate and keep segregated aircraft arriving from and departing to ports in different directions and to avoid the military restricted areas that surround Sydney, at Holsworthy, Richmond and off the coast to the south. There are different flight paths for jets and non-jets.
Aircraft will approach Sydney from all directions before they join the final approach path. Jet aircraft will join the final approach from a considerable distance out from Sydney Airport and fly towards the runway in a straight line. Aircraft are “vectored” by air traffic control to join this final approach. Many areas of Sydney not under the final approach path will experience aircraft being vectored over their areas. For example, when the final approach is from the north, aircraft approaching from the west will be vectored over the north-west.
Aircraft will generally join the final approach at around 3,000 feet in altitude. Aircraft being vectored will be at altitudes as directed by air traffic control. These will generally be 5,000 feet or less, but their altitude will depend on how far they have left to fly as they are already well into their descents. There is no regulated minimum altitude for an aircraft in the process of landing.
When the parallel runways are being used in a northerly direction, jet aircraft departing from runway 34L will turn north-west and those departing from Runway 34R will turn either north-east or east after take-off.
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.