Australia’s Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) claims the government’s airport privatisation programme is not working and that privatised airports are driving out general aviation. In particular, the association cites Sydney’s Bankstown airport as forcing out GA users. But the airport argues that tenants have been subsidised by the government for 20 years and all it is seeking is fair market rents.

AOPA accuses Bankstown of a recent bout of “unreasonable rent increases” and anti-GA activity, including not renewing leases, runways being shut down and encroachment on taxi areas. “We must recognise as a fact of life the growing pressure that increasing real estate values place on all airfields, but we cannot allow a mockery to be made of government promises that aviation activities will be maintained at privatised airports,” says AOPA.

“Bankstown is not satisfied with developing the southern side of the airfield – they want to redevelop the whole airfield, taking away hangars that still have many years remaining on their leases,” says AOPA. This has resulted in there being hardly any GA operators left at Bankstown.

But Kim Ellis, Bankstown chief executive, says: “All we want from our three airports [Bankstown, Camden and Hoxton Park] is fair market rents. These tenants have been paying half the rent of everyone else in Sydney.”

Ellis says AOPA’s claim that the airport is trying to force GA users out is “absolute rubbish”. He says the future of Bankstown is aviation. In its masterplan, approved by the government and formulated after industry consultation, the airport has committed 145Ha (360 acres) of land to aviation and will grow movements from 300,000 a year to 425,000, he says.

AOPA says GA is “being destroyed” at other airports, including Archerfield, Moorabin, Essendon, Warnervale and Cooranbong. “Once a hive of activity, they are now all but dead,” it adds.

AOPA has set up a working group to co-ordinate its activities and is asking for support from members. It plans to mount a national campaign and demonstrate in Canberra. The association met transport minister Warren Truss, who asked for examples of an airport operator taking action intended to drive them out of the airport.

  •  Ron Bertram, president of AOPA Australia, was killed when the Lancair 360 he was flying crashed at Sydney’s Bankstown airport on 5 April. Bertram, who was testing the aircraft following maintenance, is believed to have encountered engine problems soon after take-off. The aircraft crashed on the taxiway.


Source: Flight International