The immediate future of Melbourne's Essendon airport has been assured with the Australian government approving a masterplan for the general aviation facility and stating that it has "no current plans" to close the airport or relax its existing curfew.
Essendon, which is just 13km (8 miles) from Melbourne's central business district, is home to Victoria's Air Ambulance fleet, police air wing, firefighting aircraft and supports more than 3,400 flights by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It is also the base for flight training, aircraft charter and maintenance operators.
Its future has been under a cloud, however, with Victoria state premier John Brumby opposed to its continued operation and a vocal Close Essendon Airport Campaign calling for its demise and the transfer of operations to Melbourne's other airports, Avalon and Melbourne Tullamarine, due to noise, environmental and safety concerns.
The masterplan sets out the strategic direction and intended uses for the airport over the next 20 years. The airport operating company, Essendon Airport, has a 50-year lease to operate the airport, with an additional 49 years option. "Essendon airport is important for GA and supports valuable emergency services," says transport minister Anthony Albanese.
Masterplan for Essendon
The government has tasked the airport operator with establishing a working group to find ways to reduce the noise and other impacts and to report back by next April.
An aerial view of the airport
The airport's masterplan includes upgrading the existing terminal building, and constructing new hangars, aprons and ancillary support areas. A range of additional commercial activities are permitted under the masterplan as long as they do not limit or affect aviation activity, says the government.