Monday, February 28, 2011

Moranbah Airport Maintenance and Possible Redevelopment

Pacific Survey has recently started work on the Moranbah Airport maintenance works for Fulton Hogan. Initial works will involve the maintenance works to the runway pavement surface. The airport services the residents and workers of the Moranbah district and it provides a critical transport link for these workers and the expanding population of the Isaac Regional Council.

In other news, BMA Coal has announced that it has commenced studies to investigate the potential for an airport relocation and/or upgrade, to allow larger capacity aircraft to fly in and out of the Moranbah region.

The development of a new airport may be required, in time, to access coal that lies in the vicinity of the existing Moranbah airport.

While the scale, location and timing of this project is yet to be confirmed, it is envisaged that an airport development would be designed and constructed on the following broad criteria:
• the airport will be sited so as to ensure that the overall amenity of the residents of Moranbah is not adversely affected;
• sizing of the airport facilities (runway, terminal, refuelling capability) will be such that larger aircraft (including high capacity aircraft) can directly service the Moranbah area and potentially a wider region; and
• flexibility of operation could be such that the airport may be owned and managed either by BMA or by a third party.

It is anticipated that the development of a new airport could involve the following:
• clearing of onsite vegetation, and cutting and filling of the site to manage stormwater and to provide suitable site levels to construct the runway;
• construction of a new runway facility capable of allowing a variety of aircraft types, including high capacity aircraft;
• construction of a new terminal facility enabling the processing of passengers and associated luggage; and
• construction of ancillary airport infrastructure such as fuel storage, aircraft hanger facilities, runway lighting systems, ground aircraft navigation equipment, vehicle parking, security facilities/fencing and internal roads.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Skytrans and Maroomba Dash-8s at Clermont Aerodrome

Some recently spotted Dash-8-100s at Clermont Aerodrome. All are flying for Skytrans on fly-in fly-out operations for the local Rio Tinto Clermont Coal Mine.

VH-QQH was spotted on Friday 18 February 2011.

VH-QQJ was spotted on Monday 21 February 2011.

VH-QQE was spotted on Friday 25 February 2011, wearing the titles and colours of Maroomba Airlines which is a charter and RPT airline based in Perth, West Australia.

VH-QQE will shortly be ferried from Brisbane to Perth, where it will replace one of the two Dash-8-100s that Skytrans have leased to, and are currently operated by Maroomba.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Virgin Blue Announces ATR-72s for Regional Australian Airports

Virgin Blue announced on Wednesday 23 February that it has chosen the ATR-72 as its regional turboprop airliner to be operated under its recently announced alliance with Skywest Airlines. Under the wet lease arrangement, Skywest will provide the technical and cabin crew and source the maintenance provider of the fleet.

The ATRs – to be fitted with 68 seats – will replace the Embraer E-170 Regional Jets in Virgin Blue service. According to the airline, the ATR offers less than half the fuel burn and fuel costs, and will cover an average 150nm sector in the same block time as the E-170.

It is believed the choice was between the ATR-72 and the rival Dash-8-Q400.

Virgin Blue expects to take delivery of its new ATR-72 turboprops from May, with the -500 variant first to join the fleet. The carrier will have four of the type by the end of July. It also announced an order for up to 18 ATR-72s, comprising both the -500 and -600 variants. The ATR72-600 variants will replace the -500s from next February.

Virgin Blue announced last August that it was removing its six E-170s as the aircraft was not a right fit for its network. We await further announcements about the E-170 fleet's removal, and the existing and possible new routes the ATRs will be used on.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Extra Flights for Prosperpine / Whitsunday Coast Airport - Yet

The Whitsunday Regional Council and Tourism Whitsundays are continuing to push for extra flights into the Proserpine / Whitsunday Coast Airport.

However, at this stage no extra flights have been confirmed.

Mayor Mike Brunker has reportedly met with representatives of Tourism Queensland's aviation department last week to discuss the future plans for the airport. He said he had also held talks with Tiger Airways in December 2010.

Cr Brunker said Council had set clear goals in their aviation plan. “Our goal is to get another Sydney to Whitsunday flight, another flight to Brisbane and another carrier,” he said.

But Cr Brunker said despite putting proposals to Jetstar, Virgin Blue and Tiger Airways, they were restricted in moving forward too rapidly until the current construction work at the airport had been completed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Virgin Blue Computer Problems Causes Cancelled Flights to Mackay Airport

It has been reported that flights to and from Mackay Airport were delayed or cancelled on Sunday 20 February as a one-hour power outage in Sydney caused disruptions nationwide to Virgin Blue's airline check-in system.

Several passengers were lucky enough to complete their journeys late last night however, with two flights arriving into Rockhampton from Brisbane late yesterday. Passengers were then forced to board a bus and travel three hours up the Bruce Highway before eventually arriving in Mackay.

Other passengers would be able to fly to Mackay today.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rockhampton Airport Sale Option to Return (??)

The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin Newspaper reported on Tuesday 15 February that the sale of Rockhampton Airport could be back on the radar sooner than many thought.

This comes after the Mayor of the Rockhampton Regional Council, Cr Brad Carter, was asked on morning radio if council would reconsider selling the valuable asset. The airport suffered extensive damage in excess of $1 million during the recent floods and needs a major injection of funding to become flood proof.

Cr Carter said that selling it is “certainly is an option”.

The issue was likely to be discussed this week as part of council's long term financial management strategy. The Council is looking at how to handle a budget black hole of at least $3 million from the floods. This could be even higher if ratepayers have to absorb further costs, such as repair work to the airport.

Public Slanging Match Erupts Over Rockhampton Airport Flood Repairs Funding

Tensions have recently arisen between the Mayor of the Rockhampton Regional Council, Brad Carter, and the Federal Member for Capricornia, Kirsten Livermore, after the mayor aired his concerns that Prime Minister Julia Gillard could abandon the Rockhampton region, leaving the council to foot the damage bill for last month’s flood.

Cr Carter said his and the community’s concern was “very genuine” in relation to recent comments by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has even written to the Prime Minister, seeking an assurance, and putting pressure on her to provide an assurance that crucial funding will be made available to cover council costs associated with last month's flood – like those associated with the airport – that may not be covered under National Disaster Recovery and Relief Arrangements.

The Council specifically wants the funding to cover the repairs to the Rockhampton Airport and other revenue-earning business such as water and sewerage; the day labour costs associated with repairs to our road infrastructure; and the costs associated with the clean-up, removal of flood-damaged material and operations of landfills for this purpose.

The Prime Minister has claimed that she was misrepresented by certain reports that came out in Southern media. She said that the proper process her government would follow was to work with the Queensland Government and the state’s recovery authority, which would determine which projects would be funded outside arrangements.

Meanwhile, the man leading Queensland’s reconstruction effort, Major General Mick Slater says Rockhampton Airport is a vital piece of regional infrastructure, “especially given its transport, tourism and defence importance”. Major General Slater, who will visit Rockhampton in coming weeks, said he was yet to see a formal request for assistance in relation to the airport or any other proposed work in Rockhampton.

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Emerald Airport Terminal Officially Opened

The Central Highlands Regional Council revealed a case of “terminal optimism” in the economic outlook of the region with the official opening of its $7.7 million expansion of the Emerald airport last Wednesday 9 February.

The airport is set to soar to new heights with a passenger record of 170,000 expected this year.

State Local Government Minister Desley Boyle said, “The Central Highlands region is growing steadily and traffic through Emerald airport is expected to increase in line with that growth. The work (at the airport) includes a conveyor baggage system for drop-off and pick-up, a new check-in area, office space including a pilot lounge, upgrades to the amenities as well as additional security including passenger metal detection facilities. These are all the facilities that a modern airport requires and certainly it will be a major boon for business travellers involved in the resource and citrus sectors.

The airport staff also came in for much praise from the Council for keeping the airport operational during the recent flooding.

With talks already underway to attract a second major carrier to Emerald, Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire said a potential change in federal safety compliance laws could necessitate another $6-7 million being spent on the airport to widen the runway from 30 metres to 45 metres to enable jet landings.

The Council is also considering committing another $4 million to the upgrading of Pilot Farm Rd and the construction of a new entrance to the airport.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

QantasLink Bites Back with Discount Flights and a Lounge at Gladstone Airport

QantasLink has released reduced airfares between Gladstone and Brisbane. One-way fares are now on sale until Monday 21 February for $65 per person. They are valid for travel from 26 March 2011 to 8 May 2011. This comes after QantasLink also announced plans to build a new 'Regional Lounge' at Gladstone Airport.

The lounge will reflect the same style as Qantas Club lounges across Australia and offer Qantas Club members and Platinum and Gold Frequent Flyers a range of services including wireless internet, pay TV, and a selection of food and drinks.

Two Qantas Regional Lounges are already available in Queensland at Mackay and Rockhampton, with a new lounge also planned for Emerald in the coming months.

These announcements appear to be a direct response by QantasLink to the news this week that Strategic Airlines will commence services between Brisbane and Gladstone. Stategic is offering introductory fares from $59 per person for travel from April 18 2011.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Strategic Airlines Announces Flights to Gladstone Airport


On Tuesday 15 February Strategic Airlines, Australia’s newest full service airline, has announced Gladstone as its latest destination, with plans for 20 jet flights weekly between Gladstone and Brisbane commencing from Monday 18 April 2011.

Fares for the new flights went on sale from today starting from $59 one-way, with Business Class seats from $399, one-way inclusive of taxes.

Strategic Airlines will introduce two daily return flights Monday to Friday linking Gladstone and Brisbane with flights operated by an Airbus A320 jet aircraft. The aircraft will feature 8 business class seats and 144 economy seats.

Brisbane-Gladstone flights will depart Brisbane Airport from Monday to Friday at 6.10am and 2.45pm arriving in Gladstone at 7.15am and 3.50pm.

Gladstone to Brisbane flights will depart Gladstone Airport at 8.25am and 4.35pm arriving in Brisbane 9.30am and 5.40pm respectively.

In-flight services will include complimentary meals and refreshments for all passengers.

Of this attempt to break the QantasLink monopoly on the Brisbane to Gladstone run, Strategic Airlines said that is was pleased to not only offer the people of Gladstone a jet service, but to also offer a greater availability of seats, affordable fares and competition to the Gladstone market.

Strategic Airlines is also impressed with the development of the Gladstone area and the future growth projections expected. Following discussions and consultation with the Gladstone Area Promotion and Development Limited, Gladstone Regional Council, local businesses, tourism and the mining industry it was Strategic Airlines' obvious next new destination.

Strategic Airlines' Airbus A320-200 VH-YQB flew a promotional flight into Gladstone from Brisbane Tuesday afternoon and is pictured below receiving the traditional welcome from the Gladstone Airport firefighters.

Bookings for this new service are available through the Strategic Airlines website or through participating travel agents.

Monday, February 14, 2011

CQ Rescue Crew and Helicopter Return to Mackay Airport After Cyclone Yasi Clean-up

The Central Queensland (RACQ-CQ) Rescue Helicopter crews have been flat out since one of the rescue helicopters was deployed to Townsville on Thursday 3 February to help out with the clean-up after Cyclone Yasi.

The rescue helicopter has assisted in the clean-up with aero-medical tasks, which has freed up the Emergency Management Queensland rotary and fixed-wing aircraft for counter-disaster work.

Bell 412 - VH-NSV - was noted arriving back into Mackay Airport on Tuesday 8 February after completing its service in Townsville.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Recent Clermont Aerodrome Sightings

On Tuesday 8 February, Advance Aviation flew a recently acquired Piper PA-31 VH-FIA into Clermont Aerodrome on FIFO duties. The all-white Navajo Chieftan is pictured below preparing for departure to Mackay.

Also noted on Tuesday morning were Skytrans Dash-8-100s VH-QQH (pictured below with VH-FIA), and VH-QQF.

Meanwhile, back on Wednesday 2 February, Aerospatiale AS.355F2 VH-NTV of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC Television), spent the night parked at Clermont Aerodrome before heading North the next day to assist in the reporting of the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi.

Some Saturday Spottings at Emerald Airport

Some interesting aircraft were spotted and are pictured below at Emerald Airport during a sultry day last Saturday 5 February.

Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain VH-TSO of TS Air Charter (Sydney), is pictured at the refueling bowser before departing.

On the Advance Aviation (formerly Central Airlines) parking ramp were PA-31 Navajo Chieftan VH-LWW and PA-32 VH-MSR, which both wear the company's new titles and colours.

Parked nearby was an aging Cessna 310K, VH-CKB, which was visiting from Bundaberg.

Lastly, locally operated Jabiru J-230, 24-5436, returned from a local training flight.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One Saturday Morning at Mackay Airport

On a recent trip into Mackay on Saturday 29 January, I called into Mackay Airport and noted many new aircraft, including a couple of Bell 206 Helicopters. Pictured below are VH-MVZ of Choppair Helicopters (Victoria) and VH-CKU of Aviation Tourism Australia (Mackay Helicopters).

Also on the field was Piper PA-11S Cub Special VH-AKD - pictured below.

Lastly, Cessna 402 VH-KCL, which is operated by Australasian Jet but has 'United Photo & Graphic Services' titles, is pictured below being prepared for another flight to the nearby Whitsunday Islands.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TRIP REPORT – Mackay to Brisbane to Mackay – Jetstar Airways (A320) / Virgin Blue Airlines (ERJ190)

Trip report – Mackay to Brisbane – Monday 3 January – Jetstar Airways – JQ883 – A320-200 – VH-VQK.

With most of the state of Queensland affected by devastating flooding, we had our driving holiday plans scuttled, and so it was necessary to fly to Brisbane from Airlie Beach to attend a friends wedding. Unfortunately at the short notice we needed the flights, there was only a limited availability out of Proserpine with only the most expensive seats available - $400 plus one way each person!

We decided to check Mackay and much to our surprise, most flights from Mackay to Brisbane were still available in the cheap bracket. The downside was a 2-hour drive from Airlie Beach to Mackay Airport South along the Bruce Highway.

Our outbound flight was with Jetstar, which meant we needed to be at the airport by around 9.15am to meet their half-hour check-in requirement. So we hit the road early and after a good drive we parked at the Mackay Airport Secured Undercover Long Term carpark – cost about $14 per day.

No-one in the check-in line so straight up to the counter. Bags checked-in and an unsuccessful enquiry about seats with extra legroom. We were assigned an isle and centre in the three-abreast seating of this Jetstar A320 aircraft - no windows available - and a telling off from the check-in agent to use the Internet to check-in early for a preferred seat! Fortunately, Jetstar's leather seats are quite comfortable and roomy enough for my 6-foot frame - except for when a back-rest is put on your legs!

Time for some overpriced breakfast from the Airport café and a walk around the Mackay Airport redevelopment site. A nice new newsagency to enjoy – “RELAY” – and plenty of boarding up where future shops are being built - as shown below.

Jetstar’s A320 VH-VQK arrived from Brisbane so we went through security – single line – which that took a some time while everyone had problems removing change and phones etc from their pockets!

We took our seats in the waiting area for the 9.30am boarding call - limited views to the aircraft parking area shown above. Our departure time at 9.45am came and there had been no announcements… until… it was announced we would be delayed by 15 minutes… and then… due to an engine problem… we would be delayed “indefinitely”.

Our plane was broken and we were going nowhere.

Turns out Jetstar ground crew had fixed the problem, but needed a licensed engineer to sign off on the work. Because there are none in Mackay, one was summoned from Cairns and it was announced that he would be flown down and due to arrive about 1.30pm, meaning we would hopefully be getting airborne about 2pm.

Jetstar handled this quite well – they kept all passengers well informed – in fact even the captain of our flight – who was obviously stuck too – came over the microphone to inform us all about what was happening. That was a nice touch.

Anyway, we went back to the main airport waiting area for some coffee and then lunch – again from the overpriced café – although selections were pretty limited due to the café being low on stock.

At 1pm we went back through security into the waiting area. At 1.20pm a small Cessna arrived and parked next to VH-VQK. An engineer popped out of the Cessna and into the A320. At that time we were invited to start boarding. As we approached VH-VQK at the front stairs, the engineer came down the back stairs and back in the Cessna and off they went… in all a 5-minute job for the engineer!!

So at 2pm, we were off – back-taxied and then rumbled down Mackay’s Runway 14.

It was a very bumpy climb through the clouds – the passenger with the window beside me bumped her head on the side wall at least twice – poor thing. I reckon the seat belt sign stayed on until we were nearly at our cruising altitude of 36000ft. Some pictures shown below taken out of the window - some of the flooding in Central Queensland can be seen.

Cabin service was very quick – suppose all the passengers had lunch in the terminal – although the alcohol was a popular option for some passengers!

The captain came on shortly before descent and advised us of our landing time and conditions in Brisbane. He then turned on the seat belt sign advising us that there was some ‘weather’ between us and Brisbane. A few bumps on descent – nothing major – but a very long final down the ILS and then touch down on Brisbane’s Runway 01.

We parked on Gate 29 (AKA Gate 37) which is one of the stand-off gates at the end of the centre finger of the Domestic Terminal at Brisbane which is being re-developed. This meant a walk along the tarmac and through a new ground level walkway and across an internal road before entering the ground floor of the Brisbane Domestic Terminal – right at the baggage collection carousel. Some photos below show this walkway and the developments taking place – complete with a new additional baggage carousel.

On the whole, it was a good flight, although the length of the delay did muck up plans we had for that day. I suppose engineering problems always crop up with airlines. In my opinion though, Jetstar handled our delay well – we were kept well informed – and they made every effort to get us away as quickly and as safely as possible.

Trip report – Brisbane to Mackay – Monday 10 January – Virgin Blue Airlines – DJ609 – Embraer ERJ-190 – VH-ZPA.

It was a very wet start in Brisbane and after driving through rain all the way to the airport we were glad to be under cover and in the terminal. Returned the hire car without drama and proceeded to the virgin blue check-in area.

We used the quick check kiosk (interesting to hear these maybe done away with soon) and we were assigned two seats in the very back row. Checking if other seats were available I could see that the Embraer ERJ-190 we were to fly on, was full.

I'm starting to wonder how airlines allocate seats as I seem to always now have seats assigned in the rear section of the planes I am travelling. Dropped the bags off and through security to enjoy a coffee and watch planes through the rain! Soon after VH-ZPA arrived on Gate 40 to take us to Mackay.

The rain had stopped and boarding soon started. We boarded via the tarmac and rear stairs. It was announced that push back would be delayed whilst connecting passengers joined us from another flight. Should be about a 5 minute delay.

We were actually ready to go at 10.50am, but once these passengers came and the plane was closed, we eventually pushed back at 11.15am, that was 15 minutes late.

Quick taxi to Brisbane’s runway 01 and we were airborne after a long and rough take off roll. Plenty of wind and bumps as we climbed, and the seat belt sign was off about 20 minutes into the flight.

The seats in the Embraer ERJ-190 are quite cosy but not uncomfortable. They are in a 2-by-2 configuration. It also helps when the passenger in front doesn't put their seat back onto you!

Several passengers were interested in the views out of the plane of the flooded areas of Central Queensland. The photos below show what Bundaberg looked like.

Cabin service was complete after about 10 minutes with not too many people buying lunch - we decided to wait until we arrived at Mackay as well!

It was fairly clear outside and as we commenced our descent there were some lovely views out to the Whitsunday islands, and the coal terminal at Hay Point with all the ships parked in the sea waiting to load, as shown below.

I'm sure the other side of the plane would have had the less pretty views of the flooded city of Rockhampton.

Soon Mackay Airport was visual out the left side of the plane and with a sweeping left turn were on finals and then touched down on Runway 14, about 10 minutes late. Plenty of apron works this week with drainage pipes being replaced, so a longer than normal taxi past the northern apron with the Pel Air Saab freighter and a nice surprise of a Convair 580 freighter of Pionair, We parked next to another Embraer, with this one coming up direct from Sydney.

We were one of the last off the plane with only the front stairs used at Mackay to disembark the plane – always. Into the construction zone that is the terminal and to wait for our bags which took about 15 minutes to come through in fits and spurts - connecting bags first - direct bags like ours, near then end.

Off the carpark, paid the big bill, and off for lunch. A great trip in the Embraer, enough room for my big frame, but I am getting a bit sick of always being allocated seats at the back amongst the screaming kids!