Guidelines for Dispensations for Aircraft to Operate At Essendon Fields Airport During Curfew Hours and for 24 Hour Operational Restrictions

1. Introduction

1.1. Regulation Overview

Essendon Fields Airport has a curfew in place under the Air Navigation (Essendon Airport) Regulations 2001 that applies to aircraft operations between 11.00pm and 6.00am (local time) and restrictions on certain aircraft operations at all times.

1.2. General Principle

In administering these Guidelines a key consideration will be the avoidance of any circumstances which could compromise the safety or security of an aircraft.

1.3. Curfew Outline

The curfew applies to aircraft movements at Essendon Fields Airport between the hours of 11.00pm and 6.00am (local time), except where permitted under the Regulations as follows:

  • propeller-driven aircraft with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) not exceeding 8,618 kilograms, unless the specific aircraft or aircraft type has been included in a Prohibited Aircraft Schedule;
  • propeller-driven aircraft with a MTOW exceeding 8,618 kilograms that have noise emissions which do not exceed 90 EPNdB on take-off and 95 EPNdB on approach, but not allowing any trade-offs;
  • helicopters that comply with the relevant maximum noise levels contained in Chapter 8 or 11 of Annex 16, Vol 1; and
  • an aircraft involved in an emergency, police airwing operation or granted a dispensation by the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities.

Specific aircraft or aircraft type may be added to or deleted from the Prohibited Aircraft Schedule through regulatory amendment.

All operators of aircraft to or from Essendon Fields Airport during curfew hours are required to lodge a flight plan with Melbourne Airservices Australia.

1.4. Aircraft involved in an emergency

Section 12 of the Regulations provide that an aircraft may take off from, or land at Essendon Fields Airport during the curfew period if the aircraft is involved in an emergency or is resuming a flight interrupted by an emergency involving that aircraft. Section 12 states that an aircraft is involved in an emergency if:

  • the aircraft is being used for or in connection with:
    • a search and rescue operation; or
    • a medical emergency; or
    • a natural disaster; or
    • a mercy flight.
  • the pilot of the aircraft has declared an in-flight emergency; or
  • the aircraft has insufficient fuel to be diverted to another airport; or
  • there is an urgent need for the aircraft to land or take off:
    • to ensure the safety or security of the aircraft or any person; or
    • to avoid damage to property.

In these circumstances operations may take place without the need for a prior approval for dispensation.

1.5. Aircraft with MTOW of 45,000 kg or More

Aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 45,000 kilograms or more, can not take-off from or land at Essendon Fields Airport at any time, unless the aircraft is involved in an emergency, or the Secretary grants a dispensation beforehand.

1.6. Use of Essendon Fields Airport as an Alternate Airport

Under the Regulations, Essendon Fields Airport is not to be nominated or used as a planned alternate airport. The NAP in the AIP also continues to prohibit the use of Essendon Fields Airport as an unplanned alternate.

1.7. Dispensation

A dispensation in respect of aircraft movements during curfew hours must only relate to a take-off or landing for a single aircraft, but not both ie a separate dispensation is required for each movement. A dispensation in respect of movements by aircraft with a MTOW of 45,000 or more kilograms outside curfew hours may relate to both a take-off and a landing.

2. Curfew Dispensations

2.1. Arrivals

An aircraft (other than one permitted to land at Essendon Fields Airport during the curfew) planning to arrive at Essendon Fields Airport should not depart from its origin port unless the estimated time of arrival will be before 11.00pm Essendon local time. Where the estimated time of arrival will be at or after 11.00pm, a dispensation should be sought before departure.

An aircraft (other than one permitted to land at Essendon Fields Airport during the curfew) which had planned to arrive after 6.00am Essendon local time, but which subsequently arrives early, must hold until after 6.00am, or divert to an alternative airport, unless the statutory fuel reserves specified in the company operations manual will be reduced and the aircraft would be considered to be in an emergency situation.

2.2. Departures

An aircraft (other than one permitted under the Regulations to take off from Essendon Fields Airport during the curfew) must not depart from Essendon Fields Airport after 11.00pm local time or before 6am.

2.3. Dispensation circumstances

Prior approval of the Department is required before operations under dispensation guidelines may take place.

Section 14 of the Regulations provide that a dispensation may be granted authorising an aircraft to take-off from, or land at, Essendon Fields Airport in situations that would otherwise contravene the Regulations if there are circumstances justifying the take-off or landing. It should be noted, however, that there are several other curfew-free airports nearby including Moorabbin and Melbourne (Tullamarine).

Factors that will be taken into account in considering requests for curfew dispensations at Essendon Fields Airport include:

  • whether a nearby airport is available or reasonable;
  • the reason for the cause of the delay and whether the cause of delay is within the control of the operator or could have been foreseen;
    • by what margin the expected time of movement falls into the curfew period; ie, is it shortly after 11.00pm or shortly before 6.00am;
  • the number of passengers involved; and
  • the severity of the likely hardship.

It is the responsibility of the operator to demonstrate that every reasonable effort has been made to avoid the need for a dispensation.

3. 45,000KG MTOW Aircraft Dispensations

An aircraft that has an MTOW of 45,000 kilograms or more should not plan to take-off from or land at Essendon Fields Airport unless it is involved in an emergency or has previously obtained a dispensation.

A dispensation may be for both a take-off from and a landing at Essendon Fields Airport, providing both the take off and landing are outside curfew hours. A dispensation would not normally be granted for an aircraft in this category for a take off or landing during curfew hours.

A dispensation will not be granted if the aircraft is on a scheduled commercial operation (carrying passengers or freight).

Factors that will be taken into account in considering requests for dispensations for these aircraft to land at and take-off from Essendon Fields Airport include:

  • The aircraft is scheduled to undergo specialised maintenance or engineering at Essendon Fields Airport;
  • Security requirements for the passenger, freight or aircraft are such that Essendon Fields Airport is the most appropriate airport for the movement; or
  • The aircraft requires access to special facilities not otherwise available at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport such as handling facilities and parking.

A request for dispensation from Regulation 6 should normally be made well in advance. Where the request is on the basis that Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport is not suitable, the Department will normally check with the airport operator for that Airport.

4. Noise Abatement Procedures

During the curfew, aircraft should operate in accordance with the Noise Abatement Procedures set out in the Melbourne/ Essendon Fields Airport section of Airservices Australia's publication "AIP—Departure and Approach Procedures".

5. Administrative Arrangements

Requests for curfew dispensations at Essendon Fields Airport should be made to the the department on telephone number 02 6274 6998 or email All calls to this number, also used for Sydney, Adelaide and Coolangatta airport curfew dispensation requests, are received by an answering service and diverted to a duty officer of the the department responsible for handling dispensation requests.

The duty officer will contact the person seeking the dispensation, make a decision on the request and advise the aircraft operator of the decision. If appropriate, the duty officer will also advise Airservices Australia's Air Traffic Services at Melbourne Airport of the dispensation request and decision at the earliest practicable time.

The Regulations do not require a dispensation be granted in writing, however, a written record of the dispensation request, together with the reasons for refusing or granting it, will be made.

June 2001


Last Updated: 16 January, 2018