The Campaign To Redraw Brisbane’s Flight Paths

Regular travelers to Brisbane will be familiar with the usual flight paths around the city. The single runway kept things relatively predictable. But Brisbane Airport opened a second runway in 2020, and that’s resulted in new flight paths – and not all Brisbane residents are thrilled at having aircraft starting to cruise over their suburb.

New flights paths in and out of Brisbane Airport are causing problems in local communities. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

Excessive aircraft noise upsets local Brisbane communities

According to a report by Hannah Dowling in Australian Aviation on Monday, a community group called the Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance (BFPCA) says aircraft noise over some suburbs is excessive, and a 2007 environmental impact statement (EIS) is being disregarded.

BFPCA notes the problem is occurring while aircraft traffic at Brisbane Airport (BNE) is down. Last week, BNE reported its lowest levels of passenger traffic since 1994. But Brisbane Airport has ambitions to become Australia’s busiest airport by 2035, handling 110 aircraft movements per hour. As traffic starts to pick up at the airport again, BFPCA says the flight paths need to be reworked.

“We don’t believe that current operations and noise pollution are what was to be expected under the original EIS,” a BFPCA spokesperson told Australian Aviation. “The issue is going to obviously continue to increase over the next 20 years, and currently we’re experiencing record-lows in aircraft movements, and we already see flights in excess of a number of the modeling tools that were given to the community.”

A weekday noise map at Brisbane Airport. Source: Brisbane Airport Corporation

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Aircraft traffic and noise moves north in Brisbane

Brisbane’s new second runway is positioned to the north of the existing runway. The problem seems to be that aircraft traffic approaching or departing from the new runway can fly over suburbs located north of traditional flight paths. It doesn’t help that some of the newly impacted suburbs number among Brisbane’s most upmarket – New Farm, Bulimba, Teneriffe, and Hamilton, for example.

BFPCA argues such suburbs had little or no advanced warning of the true impacts of the new flight paths. The group calls the noise “unmitigated” and “relentless.” In a survey of more than 2,000 Brisbane households affected by new flight paths, 91% of respondents said they were unprepared for the amount of aircraft flying over their homes. 81% of respondents said there was a lack of engagement from Brisbane Airport Corporation before implementing the new flight paths. 78% of respondents said information from the airport lacked accuracy and transparency.

Current flight paths around Brisbane Airport. Source: Brisbane Airport Corporation

Brisbane Airport says it is committed to community consultation

But Brisbane Airport disagrees with this assessment. The airport says it is committed to minimizing noise impacts on Brisbane residents.

“We strive to maintain a clear understanding of who our neighboring communities are and what matters to them by generating informed, respectful, honest, and ongoing conversations, particularly when it comes to our airport operations and how they may be affected,” Brisbane Airport says on its website. “This includes listening to suggestions about ways to reduce aircraft noise and investigating them thoroughly.”

Airservices Australia, who manage airspace around Australian airports, is reviewing the impact of BNE’s new runway, including noise issues. While encouraging local residents to make a submission, BFPCA is lukewarm about Airservices Australia’s commitment to resolving the issue. The community group highlights previous perceived failings by the government agency and their close working relationship with Brisbane Airport.

Before the travel downturn, business at Brisbane Airport was growing. Aircraft numbers and passenger traffic steadily increased year on year, culminating in over 192,000 commercial aircraft movements and 23.8 million passengers in 2019. With a rebound inevitable, BFPCA may have its work cut out making its voice heard.