Bankstown’s big potential

Bankstown Airport.

Toll/IPEC is the biggest single airfreight operator

at Bankstown Airport.

Sitting on a 313-hectare piece of prime, flat industrial land, Bankstown Airport is about to combine its aviation infrastructure with industrial development to create a truly unique estate, reports Charles Pauka.

The current site was identified as early as 1929 as an ideal location for an aerodrome, and since its development as a wartime airfield in 1940, the airport has grown into one of the southern hemisphere’s busiest.

But the old apple orchard, as the site used to be, didn’t escape Sydney’s cancerous suburban spread, and today the airport finds itself sitting on what is becoming a real scarcity in the Sydney basin: undeveloped, flat industrial land relatively close to the city.

Located just 22 km from the CBD, with the M5 only 2 km away and its junction with the M7 Westlink around 10 km further on, the site is strategically located and is easily reached from most points in Sydney. In addition, the Bankstown railway line makes the airport also fairly easily accessible for workers, visitors and travellers who want to use public transport.

Aviation first

As Sydney’s second biggest airport, Bankstown has over the years developed as a training airfield, and as such, 60% of the 350,000 or so aircraft movements each year are conducted by one of the many flying schools on the field.

The other 40% is made up of passenger charters, emergency services (police, ambulance, rescue), new aircraft deliveries and, of course, freight.

“When the sun goes down, the ‘real’ flying begins,” said Mario Bayndrian, Bankstown Airport’s general manager of aviation. “The flying schools operate mainly in the daylight hours, in good weather; and there is a restriction on circuit training at night, so as not to disturb residents.

“But the freight operators fly mainly at night,” he said. “Whether it’s bringing in seafood from the South Coast or Tasmania, or the regular parcel flights, that’s when business flying takes place.”

The airport now handles over 80% of Sydney’s parcel airfreight, which is carried in aircraft ranging from single engine light planes to turboprops, young and old. Operators on the airfield are flying Convairs, Metros, large Cessnas, and Toll flies a fleet of ATR aircraft, a European-manufactured turboprop that carries 42 passengers in its RPT (regular public transport) configuration.

Toll Priority is the biggest single airfreight operator at Bankstown Airport, having recently moved into a purpose-built parcel distribution and handling facility on four hectares, that is equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art sortation equipment.

“Toll has recognised the airport’s potential for a hub,” said Kim Ellis, Bankstown Airport’s CEO. “We are closer to 1.8 million people in Sydney than Sydney Airport, close to the city, in the middle of a huge industrial area, and with a populated area around us, from which to source workers.”

The Convair aircraft can take standard ULDs (unit load devices – airfreight containers) and pallets, which allows for easy transfer of freight from larger aircraft arriving at Sydney Airport. Non-palletised freight is also easily transferred, but domestic freight can be best routed via aircraft operating out of Bankstown Airport itself.

Land, land, everywhere you look

Out of the 313.2 hectares of land, aviation and environment protection/open space areas are planned to occupy 153 ha. This leaves 160 ha, more than half of the airport’s total area, available for ‘other uses’, which are Bankstown Airport’s main earners. In fact, aeronautical income makes up only 13% of the company’s revenues, with the vast majority, 80%, coming from property.

Current major non-aviation tenants on airport land include a Bunnings Warehouse and Aldi supermarket, a service station, a school, a bus depot, and various office and warehouse/light manufacturing tenants.

“Our vision is to create a best-practice business park with a world-class general aviation airport in the middle of it,” said Mr Ellis. “We hope to attract another major freight operator to the airport, and our master plan has ample areas, which are currently vacant, allocated to an employment zone and a (non-aviation) business zone.”

While a substantial proportion of this land is already occupied by a mix of industrial, commercial and retail tenancies, other parts are either underutilised or have been released for development by the land use efficiency measures adopted as part of this master plan.

In preparation for the development of this land, a ring road around the site is being built. The ring road distributes traffic across the site, services both aviation and non-aviation developments, increases the number of access/egress points and directs as much access/egress traffic as possible through arterial roads, Milperra Road and Henry Lawson Drive, rather than collector or local roads. It has taken all the trucks servicing the airport that were previously rumbling through residential areas.

Public transport – bus, cycleway and pedestrian facilities – will be incorporated into the proposed ring road where appropriate, encouraging public transport access to the site. Analysis indicates that a number of improvements to the external road network are expected to be required, planning for which is currently underway.

Passengers are welcome, too

In addition to training and emergency services operations, airfreight and non-aviation warehousing / distribution / retail developments, Bankstown Airport is conscious of the increasing demand for air travel from Sydney’s fast-growing population, and of Sydney Airport’s restricted ability to cope.

“We see point-to-point niche interstate flights as the first RPT (regular public transport) operations. We are authorised to handle Code 3C aircraft,” said Mr Ellis. “This would start in 2009 or later.”

The airport’s master plan calls for the main runway to be extended by 220 metres, from 1,415 metres to 1,635 metres. The current runway is not of sufficient length to enable Code 3C aircraft to operate at maximum take-off weight (MTOW) without undue payload or stage length restrictions.

While these types of aircraft can and do utilise the existing runways, an extension would provide operational efficiency and flexibility. The proposed runway extension does not make Bankstown Airport capable of accommodating Code 4 aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and the A320, currently used by Virgin Blue and Jetstar, respectively, on their main interstate routes.

A full strength parallel taxiway is also likely to be needed to Code 3C standards along the entire north side of Runway 11C/29C, with connections to the runway, terminal area apron and any tenant areas proposing to utilise aircraft of this type.

Committed to growth

The airport’s ambitious growth plans are likely to require major investment, but Bankstown Airport CEO is upbeat about the future.

“There is not another area comparable to this,” he said. “Just 22 km from the CBD, with motorway access to Sydney Airport, the city, and all areas of Sydney, and with an airport in the middle of the site. We are investing millions of dollars into infrastructure and facilities, and we will make it into the place to do business in Sydney.”

Excerpted from Australasia Freight Logistics, Issue 11, April/May 2008, pp.30-2.


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