Airservices is Australia's air navigation service provider - we provide air traffic control, aviation rescue and fire fighting and air navigation services.

2014 Changes

Brisbane departure flight paths

Aviation is critical to the broader economy and effectively links our people with each other and the rest of the world. Brisbane Airport is a vital part of the national transport system, however, managing the impacts of aircraft noise remains a key challenge for an industry that is experiencing high levels of growth.

In December 2014 Airservices changed two departure flight paths from Brisbane in order to increase airport runway capacity and potentially assist airlines to improve their on-time performance.

One of the flight path changes was entirely over Moreton Bay.

The other change moved up to six flights a day from a flight path over south-eastern suburbs onto a long-established flight path to the north of the airport as shown in the map below. This allows greater use of Runway 14 (the shorter, cross runway).

These changes also provided a range of safety improvements in the way aircraft are managed at Brisbane, reducing workload and complexity within air traffic control and better aligning management of the airspace over Brisbane with world’s best practice.

Brisbane departure flight path

Figure 1 – existing departure flight paths (purple) and proposed new flight paths (green)

The changes did not expose any new areas to aircraft noise.

When in use, the north-easterly flight path can be used by up to 45 aircraft a day and an additional six aircraft are not expected to be noticeable

Likewise, six fewer aircraft a day may not be noticeable by residents in areas underneath the south-eastern departure flight path.

These changes also increase the capacity of Runway 14 for arriving flights, which is expected to provide noise respite in the evening for some residents on the northern side of the airport.

A review of the change was undertaken and a report is available. These changes were considered necessary by air traffic control to manage the increasing number of flights to and from Brisbane Airport safely and more efficiently. Industry supported these changes and the environmental assessments indicated the impact on the community would be negligible.

Since implementation there have been no ongoing complaint issues or negative feedback specifically associated with these changes. Airservices considers this proposal has been successfully implemented.

Due to the greater distance that will be flown by some aircraft as a result of these changes, additional aircraft emissions are estimated to be 1400 tonnes a year.

Related information:

Canberra departures

Airservices proactively works with Canberra Airport and the community to improve aircraft noise outcomes.  At the request of the airport, a flight path was changed for south and west departures to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on residential areas.

Aircraft commenced flying the new flight path in November 2014.

Previously, jet aircraft departing to the north from Runway 35 on the Standard Instrument Departure (SID) turned left on reaching 7000 feet (ft), which is in accordance with Canberra Noise Abatement Procedures.  Aircraft that reached 7000 ft early flew over residential areas to the north-west of Canberra, such as Gungahlin. The change requires aircraft to reach a ‘waypoint’ north of Canberra’s suburbs before turning left, rather than turning left as soon as they reach 7000 ft.  This means that aircraft now fly more over non-residential land rather than residential areas in Gungahlin.

New flight path from Canberra Airport from November 2014.

New flight path from Canberra Airport from November 2014.

Flight path from Canberra Airport prior to November 2014.

Flight path from Canberra Airport prior to November 2014.

Around 5000 aircraft use this flight path each year, with more than 20 using it on a busy day.  The change does not impact on the number of aircraft using this departure flight path.

A review of the change has been undertaken and a report  is available. Airservices concludes that the change has been successfully implemented.

An environmental assessment was conducted and concluded the noise benefit was expected to be minor.  A copy of the environmental assessment is available.

Related information:

Roleystone arrivals

Airservices has worked closely with the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman to identify potential noise improvement opportunities for the region. Following consultation with the Perth Airport Community Forum and Noise Management Consultative Committee, Airservices has trialled a new flight path that is designed to reduce aircraft noise for some suburbs to the south-east of the city.

Some aircraft arriving from the north to land at the southern end of the runways at Perth Airport fly over high-density residential areas including Roleystone, Bickley, Byford, Carmel and Martin. During the trial, the modified flight path will be further east to reduce the number of aircraft flying over residential suburbs. This means that the flight path will be closer to Karragullen, Pickering Brook and Bickley East.

The trial commenced on 22 August 2013 and was underway for more than 12 months to cover normal seasonal variations. A review of the trial was undertaken and a report is available. The report notes that community feedback demonstrates there was a noticeable benefit from the trial and that the change should become permanently implemented.

This flight path was permanently implemented in 2014.

Roleystone flight path

Diagram of existing and modified flight path over Roleystone, WA. (Click on map to enlarge)

Roleystone current flight paths

Roleystone flight paths before the trial starts

Roleystone proposed flight paths

Roleystone flight paths during the trial

Roleystone all flight paths

Roleystone all flight paths

Further information:


To see the modelled noise impact on the ground from a large wide-bodied jet, an Airbus A330.

To see a comparison of the existing flight path (blue) and the trial flight path (red) against a satellite image background.

To see a comparison of the existing flight path (blue) and the trial flight path (red) against a suburb image background.

Mildura realignment

As part of the transition to Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) as the primary means of navigation, a number of navigation aids around the country are being replaced and/or relocated to support a Backup Navigation Aid Network.

A navigation aid is a piece of equipment that is often located at or near an airport. It helps pilots to navigate through airspace, and, in some cases, guide them to a runway at an airport.

Navigation aids at Mildura Airport were replaced and, as requested by the airport, were also being relocated 800 metres to the west of the main runway.

As a result, four flight paths were realigned. Aircraft commenced flying the realigned flight paths in November 2014.

In 2013 there were approximately 30 flights a day using these flight paths.

No new residential areas around Mildura Airport were exposed to aircraft noise. Some residents of Merbein may have noticed an increase in aircraft noise of up to 4.2 decibels.

An environmental assessment was conducted and concluded the environmental impact from this change was expected to be minor.

Map showing the current and future flight path for Mildura

Old flight path corridor is shown by a green centre line and two parallel green lines and the new flight path corridor is shown by the purple centre line with purple banding either side. The air route identifiers are noted in block text.

Related information

Bankstown arrivals

In November 2014 Airservices changed an existing flight path to Bankstown Airport. This followed a review of air traffic control procedures to ensure they were appropriate for modern navigation aids and to further enhance the safe operations of Sydney’s airspace.

The change sees aircraft flying an ‘instrument’ approach into Bankstown Airport using a modified flight path which is about 2.5 kilometres west of the previous flight path (see map below).

An instrument approach relies on a pilot navigating to the runway using ground based navigation aids and ‘instruments’ within the aircraft cockpit.

This meant that the suburbs of Plumpton, Rooty Hill, Blacktown, Mount Druitt, Whalan, St Marys, Erskine and Minchinbury would see an increase in aircraft flying overhead at an altitude of around 3000ft (roughly 1km).

While residents of these suburbs may have noticed an increase in aircraft noise, even the noisiest aircraft will generate noise levels of just 60dB – roughly the same level of noise as a normal conversation.

Use of the new flight path was expected to be relatively low, with fewer than 10 flights on most days and rarely more than 20. The vast majority of these flights will be between 6am and 10pm.

A review of the change was undertaken and a report is available. The report notes that community feedback demonstrates there was no noticeable noise impact on the community as a result of these changes. Airservices therefore considers the changes to have been successfully implemented.

Map showing flight path change

Brisbane Runway 19 southern departures realignment

Airservices proactively works with Brisbane Airport and the community to improve aircraft noise outcomes. To reduce the impact of aircraft noise on local residents and at the request of the community, a flight path was modified for southern departures from Brisbane Airport.

Aircraft commenced flying the modified flight path in December 2014.

Existing and proposed departure paths

Existing departure flight path (pink) and proposed departure flight path (blue), green area shows the flight path corridor for aircraft departing from Runway 19.

Some aircraft departing from Runway 19 at the southern end of Brisbane Airport previously flew over residential areas near the airport, including Pinkenba, Hemmant and Tingalpa.

The modified flight path moved approximately 200 metres west of the previous flight path and 500 metres from Pinkenba, continuing to maximise use of non-residential land between the Brisbane River and Tingalpa.

In 2013 around 22 000 flights used this path, averaging 53 flights a day, ranging from one to 137 on a single day. The change did not impact on the number of flights using this departure flight path.

It was expected that there would be a minor reduction in aircraft noise for residential areas closest to the airport, particularly Pinkenba and Hemmant, with no noise increase at Tingalpa.

An environmental assessment was conducted and concluded the noise benefit was expected to be minor. Read the environmental assessment summary.

A review of the change was undertaken and a report is available. Airservices considers the change has been a success as a noise improvement.

Related information:

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport Smart Tracking

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport commissioned Airservices to install Smart Tracking at the airport, and the procedures were implemented in February 2014.

Previously, pilots had to be able to see the runway from an altitude of 660ft (approximately 200m) in order to make a landing at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. This means that in inclement weather conditions, pilots sometimes have to do a ‘go around’ (pull out of the approach, go around in a circle and try again) or divert to another airport. With Smart Tracking, the altitude at which the runway must be seen is just 250ft (approximately 75m), allowing more landings to take place in poor weather.

Airservices developed Smart Tracking arrival flight paths for both Runway 06 and Runway 24. These are close to existing conventional flight paths, so no new residential areas will be over flown.  There are also be no significant changes in the heights at which aircraft will fly over residential areas as a result of Smart Tracking. However, it is possible that Smart Tracking, which is a precise navigation technology, will lead to flights being concentrated more along the flight path.

Runway 24 Smart Tracking arrival flight path (shown in green, with conventional arrival flight path to Runway 06 shown in red)


Runway 06 Smart Tracking arrivals flight paths


Initially, only Jetstar has committed to using Smart Tracking at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, so change in the use of flight paths will be gradual. Over the next few years, other commercial airlines are expected to equip their aircraft and train their crews to use the system, so use of Smart Tracking will increase.

Gold Coast Smart Tracking

Airservices is implementing Smart Tracking at Australian airports to make air travel safer, cleaner and more dependable for approved operators. This new path was made available in December 2014.

Aviation is critical to the broader Australian economy and essentially links our people with each other and the rest of the world. In recent years, satellite technology has proved to be a quantum leap in aircraft navigation capability and new aircraft are increasingly being designed to be more capable with this technology. Satellite-assisted navigation is recognised internationally for its safety benefits which are achieved through navigation with high precision. For simplicity, we refer to the most advanced technology currently available as ‘Smart Tracking’.

Smart Tracking aircraft has been successfully trialled by some aircraft landing at Gold Coast Airport since 2008. To achieve the best aircraft safety, noise and emissions outcomes for the Gold Coast, Airservices is working towards making Smart Tracking technology permanently available for all suitably equipped aircraft landing at this airport.

A growing number of modern aircraft are now fitted with navigation systems that use satellite-assisted guidance. Specialised flight management systems in the cockpit use GPS information to fly aircraft with high accuracy and only a small variation in the actual tracks flown from one aircraft to another. These systems are known in aviation circles by the technical term ‘Required Navigation Performance’, meaning the aircraft can perform in accordance with a strict set of navigation parameters.

The trial flight path is entirely within a longstanding flight path corridor for aircraft arriving from the south-east to land from the north on Runway 14. This maximises flight over the ocean, crossing the coast at Currumbin Creek which is just a short distance from the airport. Community feedback about this trial has been positive due to the intended design of the procedure to minimise flying over land.

There will initially be no change as all aircraft that can currently use Smart Tracking technology at Gold Coast are doing so. During 2015, other airlines which are not part of the trial will start to fit-out their planes and train their crews – meaning that over the next decade an increasing amount of aircraft will fly this path.

The new path can be used by all suitably equipped aircraft (whether arriving from the south or north) that will land on Runway 14. The new track closely replicates the existing trial track. However, it has a slightly wider turn radius before also crossing the coast at Currumbin Creek as shown in the map.

Map showing Smart Tracking path for Gold Coast

Current Smart Tracking path (blue)
Proposed Smart Tracking path (orange)
Current flight path used by aircraft not equipped for Smart Tracking in deteriorating weather (green)

Despite the new path being a small distance closer to the coast (about 300 metres closer to Palm Beach) aircraft using it continue to be within an existing flight path corridor. As such, there will be no difference in the noise level from a single flight for Palm Beach and Currumbin residents.

However, as more aircraft begin to use Smart Tracking, and with continued airport growth, it is expected during the next 5-10 years there will be an increasing number of noise events over 60 dBA and 70 dBA for those communities.

It is estimated Smart Tracking will immediately save 950 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

For aircraft arriving from the south-east, the Smart Tracking approach is shorter in distance by about 15 nautical miles (28 kilometres) to Runway 14 than either of the existing alternate instrument approaches. Airlines have advised this represents a difference in aircraft fuel consumption of 200 kilograms per flight which equates to about 300 tonnes of fuel a year.

Pilots landing at airports must be able to see the runway by a specified minimum altitude and distance from the runway before they can land; otherwise they must circle in a holding pattern while waiting for weather conditions to improve or divert to another airport. For Runway 14 at Gold Coast Airport, the critical decision altitude for pilots currently not using Smart Tracking technology is 700 feet when four kilometres from landing.

The height at which a pilot must make a decision while flying a Smart Tracking approach is 500 feet and 2.1km visibility to the runway. The cloud base in the vicinity of the airport is rarely below 500 feet.

Related information