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Wednesday, 1 November 1967

Mr Collard asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:

1.   Is the Mt Magnet aerodrome suitable for the operation of Fokker Friendship aircraft?

2.   If not, what extension and upgrading would be necessary to make it suitable and what would be the approximate cost of the work?

3.   Does his Department intend to make the necessary improvements and if so, when?

4.   Which aerodromes in Western Australia now being used by MacRobertson-Miller Airlines are unsuitable for Fokker Friendship operations?

5.   Has his Department any plans to upgrade any of these aerodromes to . meet Fokker Friendship requirements. If so which aerodromes are involved and when is the work likely to commence?

Mr Swartz - Before answering the honourable member's specific questions . it may be useful to comment generally on the matter of aerodrome suitability for Fokker Friendship aircraft.

The ports served by MacRobertson-Miller Airlines can be divided into three broad categories:

(a)   Those which generate a small amount of traffic and which it is desirable or convenient to serve with infrequent Friendship services;

(b)   Those which generate a substantial amount of traffic and which it is desirable or convenient to serve with a considerable number of Fokker Friendship services per week;

(c)   Those ports which do not at present justify a service by Fokker Friendship aircraft.

Experience has shown that some natural surfaced aerodromes, although they may become unserviceable in wet conditions, can be maintained in a generally satisfactory condition for dry weather operation, provided that the number of Friendship services .is limited to one per week. On the other hand some natural surfaced aerodromes, even with this frequency, deteriorate from time to time to an unsatisfactory condition for Friendship operations, due to rough surfaces or similar factors.

Experience has also shown that where more than one Friendship service per week operates, it is normally necessary to provide a gravel runway, preferably with sealed ends, to ensure that the aerodrome can be maintained in a satisfactory condition for this increased traffic.

Against this background, the answers to the specific questions are as follows:

1.   Yes, in dry conditions and at a service frequency of once per week.

2.   Construction of a gravel runway would be necessary to make the aerodrome suitable for Friendship operations in wet conditions or with a service frequency in excess of one per week. No detailed investigations have been carried out for such a proposal but the likely order of cost is about $50,000 to $100,000.

3.   No improvements are necessary for a low frequency Friendship service and there is no current proposal to construct a runway. The traffic at Mt Magnet over the last three years has been comparatively stable, averaging less than 500 passengers per year and less than one passenger picked up or set down per aircraft movement. In these circumstances it would be difficult to justify the expenditures involved, particularly having regard to the many other development works required throughout Australia, 4 and 5. M.M.A. currently serves some 80 points in Western Australia, many of them being station aerodromes in the Kimberleys and the north west. There is no requirement to operate Friendship services to many of these aerodromes. Of the total of 80 mentioned above there are 23 aerodromes currently served by Friendship services in Western Australia. These are: Perth, Albany, Esperance, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Shark Bay, Carnarvon, Learmonth, Onslow, Barrow Island, Dampier, Roebourne, Port Hedland, Broome, Derby, Kununurra, Wyndham, Marble Bar, Shaw River, Hillside, Wittenoom Gorge, Mt Tom Price and Meekatharra. Of these, 16 have at least a gravel runway. Of the remaining 7 only Marble Bar is a Government aerodrome, which does not at present have a sufficiently high traffic loading to justify the expenditure of large amounts of money on a gravel runway. My Department is currently negotiating with the licensees of the aerodromes at Mt Tom Price, Barrow Island and Mt Newman with a view to having runways built at these places.

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