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 (Essendon Airport) has a curfew in place under the Air Navigation (Essendon Fields Airport) Regulations 2018 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 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 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 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. Jet Aircraft with MTOW of 50,000 kg or less

Jet aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 50,000 kilograms or less, cannot take-off from or land at Essendon Airport during the curfew, unless the aircraft is involved in an emergency.

1.6. Use of Essendon Airport as an Alternate Airport

Under the Regulations, Essendon Airport is not to be nominated or used as a planned alternate airport. The Noise Abatement Procedure in the Aviation Information Publication also continues to prohibit the use of Essendon 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.

2. Curfew Dispensations

2.1. Arrivals

An aircraft (other than one permitted to land at Essendon Airport during the curfew) planning to arrive at Essendon 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 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 Airport during the curfew) must not depart from Essendon 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 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).

Primary Criteria

For a dispensation to be granted, three primary criteria would need to be satisfied:

    • The circumstances were immediate in origin, i.e. they originated during, or during preparation for, the take-off of a flight scheduled to fly directly to, or to depart from, Adelaide Airport.
    • The circumstances involve a delay caused by:

(i) unforeseen mechanical failure of the aircraft in relation to which the dispensation has been requested; or

(ii) the offloading of baggage from the aircraft in relation to which the dispensation has been requested, which was required due to passengers failing to board; or

(iii) the re-screening (for aviation security purposes) of passengers and/or baggage of the aircraft in relation to which the dispensation has been requested; or

(iv) the circumstances are otherwise of such a character that they could not reasonably have been foreseen by the operator.

    • The operator has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Minister that it has made every reasonable effort to avoid the need for a dispensation but was unable to make alternative arrangements to the take-off or landing.

Factors that will be taken into account in considering requests for curfew dispensations at Essendon 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.

4. Noise Abatement Procedures

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

5. Administrative Arrangements

Requests for curfew dispensations at Essendon Airport should be made to the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities on telephone number 02 6274 6998 or email chapter2@infrastructure.gov.au. 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 Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities 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.

January 2019

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Last Updated: 14 February, 2019