Runway extension moves to next stage

A new model for the runway extension could allow bigger aircraft to land at Merimbula Airport.
A new model for the runway extension could allow bigger aircraft to land at Merimbula Airport.

Local consultancy firm, NGH Environmental, is currently finalising an environmental assessment of plans to extend the Merimbula Airport runway by 120m at either end.

Council's project manager, Jenny Symons, said the project is needed to allow a greater range of aircraft, such as 70-seater Q400s, and airlines to provide both passenger and freight services to the region.

Ms Symons said the 120m extension or "starter extension" is a new model in Australia and if the plan goes ahead, Merimbula would be "one of the early adopters".

The model allows for the extension at either end to be used as the early part of the take-off when aircraft are not in the air which overcomes the issue of obstacles such as roads or building encroaching on the air space.

The extensions will serve a dual purpose and act as a Runway Emergency Safety Area (RESA) when an aircraft lands. This is an extra area only needed in the event of an emergency or overshoot of the runway.

"It is important to note that the proposed additions are to be used for the commencement of take-offs only. As a result, aircraft will complete their take-off and land in the current locations and consequently the flight paths and heights will not need to change," Ms Symons said.

"The successful completion of the extension, which is consistent with the current approved master plan for the site, would make the airport less dependent on the current provider and better able to adapt to the ongoing growth of passenger numbers," she added.

Ms Symons said current passenger numbers were about 60,000 a year and the extensions would allow aircraft that could ultimately handle many more passengers up to a couple of hundred.

"We have seen that destinations don't start catering for the next level of aircraft until passenger numbers reach 350,000-400,000," she said.

Council has said that a key component of the process will be "thorough community consultation, with the public set to have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposal".

An open community information session is being held on Tuesday, August 27 from 1pm- 7pm in the Twyford Hall meeting room in Market Street, Merimbula, where attendees will be briefed on the environmental investigation and invited to provide the project team with their feedback.

Council said that experts in the aquatic environment, surface water, noise, flora, fauna and biodiversity will be on hand along with council representatives.

A separate invitation only session will be held on Monday, August 26 for residents and businesses in the immediate vicinity of the airport.

Aviation experts Lambert and Rehbein, with a team including pilots, engineers and runway specialists, have led the plan development for the runway extension.

"NGH's environmental assessment includes potential impacts on the lake, flora, fauna and the surrounding community in addition to the development of a noise management plan and we are very interested to hear from the community throughout this important process," Ms Symons said.

The work around the runway extension is being conducted in tandem with the terminal upgrade that due for completion before Christmas.

Council has admitted that there is a shortfall in the projected funds needs for the airport and Ms Symons said that a budget review would be undertaken following the completion of the environmental impact statement.

Following the community consultation a report with a summary of the feedback from the community will be lodged with the state government.

If approved there will be a formal development application process to be followed.

The Merimbula Airport runway extension project is being jointly funded by the NSW government and Bega Valley Shire Council.

This story Runway extension moves to next stage first appeared on Magnet.