Light aircraft pilots flying solo on runway as council baulks

MARY MANN mary.mann@northernstar.com.au BALLINA light aircraft pilots will have to put up with turbulence for a bit longer but there is some hope for smooth take-offs down the tarmac. The Ballina Shire Council yesterday abandoned plans for a cross runway at Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport, despite a strong push from local pilots. But the council did decide to keep its options open and councillors voted to investigate, 'for future use', the possibility of a light aircraft runway that would generally run north and south. Local pilot Dr Jeffery Keir told The Northern Star the council's decision provided some hope for light aircraft pilots. "It's hoped that with a continuing representation to council they will see the need for the continuation of general aviation projects in the Ballina Shire and that a cross runway will be built," Dr Keir said. "However, it is disappointing that at this point council does not have the foresight to reserve the land for future aviation infrastructure and is not taking the safety concerns of pilots in the community seriously." Dr Keir told The Northern Star last week that to abandon the runway would put the lives of light aeroplane pilots and their passengers at risk. He is one of a growing number of professionals and business people who rely on light and mid-sized aircraft to travel to and from Ballina to locations the major airlines do not service. At the meeting yesterday, Chief Executive Officer of Australian LightWing Howard Hughes made a deputation to council describing the difficulties experienced by light aircraft pilots trying to land into strong cross winds at the airport. Mr Hughes said it was about safety and was not just a convenience issue for a small handful of aviation users. "When you're trying to land and you're crabbing sideways because the wind is so strong, you always ask yourself, 'Why don't they have a cross strip at Ballina?'" he said. "It's a nightmare." The council decided to ask GeoLink to continue preparing the Masterplan for the Southern Cross Industrial Estate on the basis that there is no cross runway planned at this time.



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