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Thursday, 16 March 2000
Page: 14938


Mrs IRWIN (5:45 PM) —I applaud the Leader of the Opposition on his stand against mandatory sentencing. The Leader of the Opposition, who will be our next Prime Minister, is taking an excellent stand. I feel that the member for Barker is incorrect in his statements. It is about the lives of the children of the Northern Territory.

On Monday of this week, a light aircraft crashed close to Hoxton Park aerodrome, severely injuring its pilot. This is the third major accident at Hoxton Park in the last two years. In June 1998, the pilot and passenger in a Piper Tomahawk aircraft died following a midair collision as they entered the landing pattern at Hoxton Park. The wreckage of the aircraft crashed into a home in the suburb of Hinchinbrook in the Fowler electorate. Fortunately, the home was not occupied at the time, otherwise greater loss of life may have been suffered. In March last year, the pilot of a light aircraft died when a second aircraft landed on top of him as he prepared to take off from Hoxton Park.

After investigating the 1998 collision, the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation recommended that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority make changes to landing procedures at Hoxton Park and require pilots to increase the number of radio broadcasts when approaching runways not controlled by a tower, as is the case at Hoxton Park. I point out that Hoxton Park is the busiest airport in Australia not controlled by a tower. With 115,000 movements per year, the single runway is close to its maximum capacity. Pilots landing at Hoxton Park depend on radio messages from other aircraft in the landing pattern to avoid collisions. I should add that 95 per cent of operations at Hoxton Park involve novice pilots undertaking flight training, including touch and go circuits and bumps practice.

The forced landing on Monday of this week has reminded residents in the Hinchinbrook, Green Valley, Cecil Hills, Greenway Park and Hoxton Park areas of the ever present danger posed by the airport at Hoxton Park. There are no fewer than six schools within a kilometre of the airport, four of which are directly under the flight paths frequently used by training aircraft. With new land releases in the area, Hoxton Park airport is now surrounded on three sides by dense residential development. Further land releases will all but surround the existing airport in the near future. Power lines, radio masts and the hilly terrain around the airport add to the unsuitable nature of the location of Hoxton Park airport. Its 1,100 metre runway is restricted to aircraft of less than 1,350 kilograms, to meet these tight operating conditions.

I have raised this issue today for two reasons. The first is to voice the concern of residents over the obvious safety issues with operations at Hoxton Park airport. There have been three serious accidents in less than two years at an airport with no control tower, a busy airport where 95 per cent of flights involve trainee pilots and which is surrounded by hazards to flying. The concern of residents is not that accidents might happen. They are happening. Their concern is that next time an aircraft will crash into their home or their child's school. With three serious accidents in less than two years, these are very real fears.

My second reason for raising the issue is recent proposals to develop Bankstown airport as a centre for regional air services. Such a development would have an adverse impact on those parts of the Fowler electorate such as Lansvale and Warwick Farm, which border on Bankstown airport, not to mention many other difficulties with that proposal. But the proposal also affects Hoxton Park. I point out that the Federal Airports Corporation describes Hoxton Park as an overflow airport for Bankstown. As I stated earlier, Hoxton Park is already close to full capacity. This is a pressing issue affecting the Federal Airports Corporation with implications for the use of the sky of Sydney as a whole. It is time this government made a decision on Badgerys Creek. If we are going to have a government permanently in traction on airport issues, then we in Western Sydney and the Airports Corporation are without the means of making any decisions and planning for the future of this growing region.