Extended tailwind limits at Brisbane airport unsafe


Australia’s commercial airline pilots are strongly opposed to a push by Brisbane Airport Corporation and Air Services Australia to extend tailwind limits at Brisbane Airport in order to reduce aircraft noise over nearby suburbs.

The proposal would change the tailwind limit from five knots to seven knots. A proposal to increase the tailwind landing limit to 10 knots in 2021 was rejected by the regulator.

Australian Airline Pilots’ Association (AusALPA) president, Captain Tony Lucas said any increase to tailwind operations at Brisbane Airport would reduce safety levels and was being proposed to in a bid to force more aircraft to approach the airport over water.

“We are calling on the Civil Aviation Safety Authority not to vary current tailwind limits at Brisbane Airport because we are concerned this will increase risk to aircraft taking off and landing.”

Captain Lucas said as air traffic had grown post-Covid, larger numbers of aircraft using Brisbane Airport’s new second parallel runway had led to greater numbers of noise complaints.

“We understand that nearby residents may have been given a false sense of what aircraft noise levels would be, however there are many ways authorities can manage this issue, rather than increasing the risk for both pilots and the travelling public,” he said.

“Ideally, aircraft take-off and land with a headwind as it is safer and more efficient. Aircraft have more control, speed on the runway is reduced, terrain clearance is improved, there is less noise, and reduced wear and tear on the aircraft.”

“What pilots and passengers don’t need is to be landing with higher ground speed and increased risk. Normalising tailwind operations reduces the capacity of our members to operate as safely as international standards require.”

An article published by Boeing in 2012, called “Reducing Runway Landing Overruns” analysed events between 2003-2010 and concluded that in all events reviewed, 42 per cent of these incidents landed with a tailwind of five knots or greater.

“It is dangerous to normalise tailwind operations,” Captain Lucas said.

Captain Lucas said pilots are concerned that if Brisbane Airport is allowed to increase the tailwind limit above five knots, there will be nothing to stop other airports around the country seeking to adopt the same rules.

“Pilots are always extremely safety conscious and AusALPA is not comfortable increasing the complexity of our operation and consequently increasing the risk to the travelling public.”

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