The reporter states that while the proposed pedestrian path may meet regulatory requirements, there is an obvious safety risk to pedestrians, cyclists and onlookers to airport operations being in such close proximity to the runway thresholds.
[Location] regional airport is subject to high amounts of aviation traffic, including many inexperienced pilots, due to the amount of flying schools utilising the airport. In addition, a company that conducts manufacturing test flights is also based at the airport. It is a fact that the majority of aircraft accidents occur during the take-off and landing phases, and it is not inconceivable, even probable, that an aircraft will encounter control issues given the types of flight operations in use at the airport.
An accident that occurred in Wassekuppe Germany on 15 October 2018 highlights the reality of these concerns. In that accident, three people were killed and a further five injured, when the Cessna lost control attempting to conduct a touch and go and struck pedestrians gathered on a path next to the airfield.
The reporter requests that the council reconsider alternate locations for the pedestrian path in the interests of aviation and public safety.
Operator's response (Operator 1)
The [Location 1] to [Location 2] shared path is a joint federal, state and local government funded project, aimed at promoting healthy active and connected communities. The project involves the construction of a shared pedestrian and cycle pathway between the towns of [Location 1] and [Location 2]. A section of the shared path is planned to be constructed along the western and southern boundary of the [Location] Airport, on [Location] Council land. This section of the path is within the [Location] Airport Precinct, but outside the airside boundary. The [Location] Airport is a registered aerodrome that also currently allows cattle to graze and farm access, to tend to cattle - all within airport owned land that is not located within the airside boundary.
In October 2017 Council commissioned a suitably qualified consultant, to undertake an independent risk assessment of the shared path due to its proximity to the [Location] Airport. The risk assessment considered amongst other things, user safety of the shared pathway, as well as the aviation safety for aircraft and aviation activities.
In summary the risk assessment report concluded that the location of the shared path does not compromise the operations of the airport in any way, as the shared pathway is located outside the airside boundary. Security fencing currently used by the airport is in the form of stock fencing. This fencing type not only prevents unauthorised access in the restricted areas (airside) but contains the current cattle within the designated area. To prevent public access from the shared pathway into the airport owned land, Council is intending to provide an additional stock fence for added security. This fencing provides the added benefit of segregating the cattle from the shared pathway users and enables the area to still be grazed and tended to under the current lease agreement.
[Location] Airport is bound on the northern and eastern side by two public roads. When considering the movement of people and vehicles in proximity to the airport consideration must also be given to traffic movements along these roads. Traffic counts for [Name] Road have been undertaken by [Location] Council with the total number of vehicle movements per day being recorded to be in the order of 2900. The average number of pedestrian/cycle movements anticipated each day along the shared path is anticipated to be considerably less that this amount. The airside boundary at the eastern end of each runway is the same distance to [name] Road as to the shared pathway at the opposite end. As stated previously the security fencing currently used by the airport to prevent access airside will also be implemented along the shared path, additional signage which identifies restricted access will also be installed.
The [Location] shared path is a well-supported community project, which will provide demonstrated benefits to our community. Council has taken its responsibilities around aviation and user safety extremely seriously and in planning the alignment of the path has been guided by the risk assessment. I would be happy to discuss further the steps undertaken by [Location] Council in considering any risk associated with the development of the [Location] shared path alignment.
Regulator's response (Regulator 1)
Construction for the shared pedestrian/cycle path connecting [Location 1] and [Location 2] has already begun. The REPCON reporter has expressed concerns about the path passing close to the threshold of runway 03 and 09. The distances from the closest point from the runways to the pathway are:
- Runway 03 – 220 metres; and
- Runway 09 – 160 metres.
The likelihood of a similar incident to the one referred to by the REPCON reporter has been assessed as very low.
The REPCON reporter states that there is ‘an obvious safety risk to pedestrians, cyclists and onlookers to airport operations’ by people that may use the path. In comparison to [Location] airport, CASA has conducted comparative assessments of an aerodrome that is busier than this airport at Lilydale. The Lilydale aerodrome has a much higher utilisation than [Location] airport and includes activities such as parachuting, flying training, aircraft maintenance, ultralight and microlight operations, general aviation and commercial operations. Runway 36 Left and 36 Right thresholds are only 81 metres from a very busy main road that passes the aerodrome.
This road is used extensively by pedestrians, cyclists and road traffic between Lilydale and Yarra Glen and the Yarra wine region. On 24 March 2018 an aircraft overshot runway 18 and ended up on the side of the busy road but no pedestrian or vehicular traffic were impacted by the accident other than for the road to be closed due to the accident.
As the path around the [Location] Airport is outside of the boundaries of the airport and it is assessed that the likelihood of an aircraft impacting on pedestrian or cycle traffic using the path is very low, CASA has no additional input to the REPCON.
The ATSB supplied the Department of infrastructure, Regional development and Cities with the de-identified report and a version of the operator’s response. The Department advised that any safety concerns are a matter for CASA and had no further comment on the REPCON.