Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The type of emotional rhetoric used to close an airport - in this case Hoxton Park but today's events will lead to more calls for Bankstown to close

It's obviously a traumatic and sad event when an aircraft crashes with a loss of life - and we don't need local agitators jumping on the bandwagon. But they will. Of course aircraft don't crash on approach or departure from Bankstown as regularly as cars and trucks crash on our roads - far from it - yet the fear campaign will be all about the unsuitability of having an airport adjacent to houses, schools and offices. It may be a statistically low risk but it's an emotive issue, especially so immediately after a crash occurs. It's ghoulish and sad that people will use this event in a manipulative way, but it will add to the aircraft noise debate (arguably the real issue) and may eventually cause Bankstown to be reduced in scope, or to close. Perhaps.

Sometimes issues just mount up and force a hand. Further to the west of Sydney Hoxton Park has closed, at least partly because of the fear campaigns of elected parliamentary members just "doing their job", and partly in aid of a bigger transport picture involving airport privatisation and development. The end result is another airport closure, putting more pressure on existing facilities - like Bankstown.

Now Bankstown airport has been around a long time (planned in 1929 but built during WWII) and pre-dates much of the industrial and residential development that now surrounds it. Indeed it is hemmed in and further growth is impeded. And as Sydney's airfields have closed - many of the WWII airfields such as Castlereagh or Fleurs lasting only into the '50s or at best early '60s - others have taken up the slack, like Bankstown, Camden, Wedderburn and The Oaks (despite the quote below very much an active field) . Be they the late lamented Naval Air Station at Schofields or the more recent closure of Hoxton Park the loss of landing strips forces light to medium aircraft users, owners and operators into either more distant airfields like Wedderburn or The Oaks or into busier ones like Bankstown. And we aren't actually opening any new ones, are we?

By the way I'm hardly a silvertail (read below for the bald faced rhetoric), having grown up in Marrickville in the 60's. I don't fly any more but the point is that private pilots can come from any socio-economic background. That's what our egalitarian society is all about - opportunity coupled with fairness and social mobility. Or is that just rhetoric as well?  

Hoxton Park Airport - 07/05/2002 - NSW Parliament
Mr LYNCH (Liverpool) [4.41 p.m.]: I ask the House to note as a matter of public importance Hoxton Park Airport and the surrounding suburbs. Hoxton Park Airport is located within my electorate and it is the subject of considerable controversy. Both in terms of the safety of residents living around it and in the amenity of their neighbourhoods, a substantial number of people have been calling for the airport's closure. The suburbs surrounding the airport include Cecil Hills, Green Valley, Hinchinbrook, Hoxton Park and West Hoxton. I have called for the closure of the airport on previous occasions, and I restate that call today. I have raised this matter on a number of occasions in this House. Indeed, I debated an urgent motion on the matter in 1999. It is appropriate to raise the matter again today because only several weeks ago there was a further accident at the airport.

Hoxton Park Airport is a general aviation airport. It covers 85 hectares and has one sealed runway that is 1,098 metres in length. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, circuit training is restricted to between 6.00 a.m. and 11.00 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays, 6.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 6.00 a.m. to one hour after last light on Sundays. It caters to both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, that is, planes and helicopters. It is usually busier on weekends than on weekdays, which says something about the people who are using the airport to train. As I understand the evidence, an average of about six or seven planes are in the air around the vicinity of the airport at any given time.

The airport was originally constructed in about 1942 as part of a group of airfields to be used as aircraft dispersal fields in anticipation of a Japanese air attack. Others included Menangle, Bargo, the Oaks, Wallgrove, Fleurs, St Marys, Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Ettalong. Interestingly enough, none of those airfields is currently operating as an airport. RAAF pilots also used Hoxton Park Airport for training purposes and the like. After the war the airport was leased to the Hardy Rubber Company for use as a tyre test track. Eventually its use as an airport was resumed, but its current use is very different to what it was then. It is now used overwhelmingly for training purposes.

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