Western Sydney Airport will not affect firefighting or back-burning

Media Release


19 November 2015

A Western Sydney Airport will not hamper aerial firefighting or back-burning activities in the Blue Mountains, Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss confirmed today.

“It's time to pour cold water on the scare campaign that falsely claims a Western Sydney Airport could impact on important back-burning and aerial firefighting operations,” Mr Truss said.

“In fact, an airport this close to the Blue Mountains would help firefighting by providing refuelling services and a long runway close to where the aircraft may be needed.

“I can assure the people of the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney that firefighting and back-burning operations will not be prevented from taking place because of operations at a Western Sydney Airport.”

Responding to claims that firefighting aircraft on operations would be impeded by regular airline traffic, Mr Truss said Australian flight rules—issued by Australia's independent aviation safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority—give priority to any aircraft engaged in fire and flood relief, search and rescue, or medical evacuation over aircraft engaged in routine or normal operations.

Further, Airservices Australia, which provides air traffic control services work very closely with New South Wales emergency service agencies to assist their operations.

“There is absolutely no question that aerial firebombers engaged in the serious business of protecting lives and property will have priority, and other aircraft will be diverted around the area of operations,” Mr Truss said.

“Emergency services aircraft and commercial air traffic routinely operate safely and efficiently all over Australia. Sydney has already seen firefighting aircraft operate effectively around the flight paths over Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Royal National Park without being constrained by Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport—Australia's busiest airport.

“Helicopters dropping water over affected areas necessarily fly at, or below, 150 metres above the ground to minimise evaporation. Any passenger aircraft using a Western Sydney Airport will operate at significantly higher altitudes in the vicinity of the Blue Mountains, well away from those performing water drops.”

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is engaging with emergency services in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, such as the NSW Rural Fire Service, as part of the environmental assessment process for the proposed Western Sydney Airport.