CASA Confirms: Scone Airport Won’t Close

Filed in Just In by October 16, 2019

THE Upper Hunter Shire Council has claimed if they do not make urgent upgrades to the Scone Airport to comply with legislation being introduced in August next year, the airport will close, however the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has confirmed this is not the case.

As recently as this week, the General Manager of Council again made a plea to save the airport:

“Council is committed to saving Upper Hunter’s only regional airport…..but if we fail to act now, it will not be licenced by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) by the end of 2020.”

However, the regulator, CASA has stated “there is no requirement to meet compliance to the new regulations and standards unless individual facilities are upgraded or replaced.”

An example provided by CASA for how this would work in practicality: if the Council were to replace or upgrade the lighting, then it will need to be upgraded to the new standards, but not before.

This approach is often termed ‘grandfathering’, which was the description used by former general manager Daryl Dutton in a letter to the editor, which also pointed out the airport could continue to operate.

However, Mr McDonald rebuked Mr Dutton’s claim and CASA’s advice, in statement this week:

Mr Dutton is incorrect about grandfathering provisions of the new regulations. Scone Regional Airport is currently a registered airport and will be required to become a certified airport under the new legislation which commences on 21 August 2020. CASA will not ‘grandfather’ known and/or existing safety hazards and non-compliance items where an order to rectify has been issued.

CASA explained the airport does not need to be ‘certified’, Council can ‘nominate to deregulate’ and continue operating. 

As a deregulated airport the only change under the new legislation would be the cancellation of instrument flight procedures, which aviation operators at the airport have said will have minimal impact. (Please also read: Instrument Flight Rules Needed For Airport Viability.)

Mr McDonald said if there is a safety issue at the airport and CASA issues a compliance order, Council must comply with the order.

CASA has confirmed is true, but is a separate issue to if an airport is regulated or unregulated.

scone.com.au has asked CASA and the Council if there are currently any compliance orders for the airport, but we are yet to receive clarification.

The full statement from CASA:

The aerodrome operator—in this instance Scone Airport—may choose to certify the aerodrome to the revised regulations that will become effective in August 2020, or nominate to deregulate. CASA will work with the aerodrome operator to address any concerns there are to achieve compliance under the new regulations.

This will require details of compliance for the original facilities to be documented to demonstrate compliance prior to the change in legislation, including compliance with the regulations in force at the time of introduction to service for individual facilities.

Where previous compliance can be demonstrated there is no requirement to meet compliance to the new regulations and standards unless individual facilities are upgraded or replaced.

Alternatively the aerodrome may remain open for operations as an unregulated aircraft landing area. Instrument flight procedures would need to be cancelled should the aerodrome operator choose to deregulate.

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