The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia has been closely monitoring the situation at Gympie Airport in Queensland, with positive news this week that the Gympie Regional Council are preparing to resolve the runway shortening proposal at their next meeting of council, with a motion being put forward to formally withdraw the plan. This news comes just days after learning that the Council’s external business manager (responsible for the airport) has resigned his position.
In April 2019, AOPA Australia and representatives of the local aviation community attended a public meeting organised by the Gypmie Regional Council who were seeking feedback regarding a proposal to shorten the main airport runway. At the meeting AOPA Australia Director Shawn Kelly and I expressed our firm opposition to the consultant’s proposal, receiving strong support from local aircraft owners and pilots. AOPA called on the council to suspend any plan to shorten the runway, requesting that an Airport Advisory Committee be established to review all current airport concerns, requiring all future airport developments to be consulted and approved by the AAC to help guide council on appropriate airport developments.
During a telephone meeting today with Councillor Mal Gear (who lead the public meetings), he confirmed the departure of the business manager and made clear that he would be seeking to terminate the proposed runway shortening proposal and will be seeking approval to proceed with the creation of the AAC as agreed to the meeting.
AOPA Australia commends the Gympie Regional Council for honoring the commitments it made at the April 2019 public meeting. Both the local and national aviation community value the working relationship that has been established and AOPA Australia reaffirms that it will seek to support both the council and the local aircraft owner and pilot community through the AAC.
The April 2019 meeting highlighted the risk that Council’s expose themselves to in selecting and engaging with airport consultants who lack genuine experience in general aviation, which is necessary to manage the intricacies and complexities facing our industry. The result all too often is inappropriate advice and proposals that result in unnecessary airport infrastructure degradation that triggers general aviation activity decline that negatively impacts on the business economy.
We must be collectively focused on fostering success for our general aviation community and industry, airports play an invaluable and pivotal role in this partnership.
AOPA Australia has extended an invitation for Council to work closely with the national association in assessing and reviewing it’s airport concerns, so that we may together collaborate on solutions to assist in offsetting risk for local government ownership and operation. With over 70 years of proven general aviation experience, we are well placed to help in a manner that can protect local aviation activity and business and the long term goals of local government.
The proposal to shorten the length of the Gympie Airport runway was put forward by aviation consulting firm Aviation Projects – member of the Australian Airports Association – under the leadership of Mr Keith Tonkin (https://www.aviationprojects.com.au/people-view/keith-tonkin-4), who publicly argued that the proposed changes would improve airport safety for pilots, whilst lowering risk to council. A background investigation of Mr Tonkin revealed that he is a former RAAF F111 pilot and has since established himself as an aviation consultant, espousing his Master of Business Administration, Certification as a Practicing Risk Manager, a Bachelor of Science, Graduate of Spatial Science Technology, Advanced Diploma of Aviation, Quality & Safety Lead Auditor, WH&S Officer, Representative and Rehab Return to Work Coordinator and CASR Part 139 approval to conduct Safety Inspections at aerodromes. Mr Tonkin’s website states; “We look at aviation from the ground up, delivering innovative solutions for owners, operators, corporate, regulators and agencies. We don’t just deliver answers; we solve problems…”
It appears to AOPA Australia that the aviation consultant has sought to aadress perceived risk rather than any actual risk, delivering answers that were irrelevant at best. As a consequence, his recommendations have resulted in creating significant disruption and uncertainty for local airport users, degrading the relationship between Council and community.
AOPA Australia will again meet with the Gympie Regional Council in the next two week.
If you’re not currently a member of AOPA Australia and would like to pledge your support for the association’s efforts to protect Australian airports from unnecessary restrictions or closures – now is the time. Join: www.aopa.com.au/membership For just $159 you can be helping resource AOPA Australia’s efforts to secure our general aviation industry’s future.