THE Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association of Australia has added its voice to calls to save Katoomba Airfield after it was closed at the end of February.
AOPA CEO Benjamin Morgan said, “Common sense must prevail, and the future of Katoomba Airfield be assured”.
Katoomba Airfield had a critical role in the protection of both lives and property in the Blue Mountains community and beyond from bushfires and other natural disasters.
It also provided an ‘airborne safety ramp’ for all small aircraft traversing one of the most inhospitable terrains in NSW, and delivered opportunities for tourism and business benefits.
“Katoomba Airfield is an invaluable community asset for the residents of the Blue Mountains, and recently it demonstrated its value as a front-line base of operations during the bush fire crisis,” Mr Morgan said.
“Lives, homes, businesses, the World-Heritage Blue Mountains bushland and millions of fauna and flora are all placed at significant risk, should the airfield be closed and made unavailable to both fixed-wing and rotary aerial firefighting services.”
The airport’s two runways are currently in an advanced state of disrepair, with the airport requiring over $3m in capital works to return it to a safe status.
“There is no appetite from the Blue Mountains City Council to step in and provide critical funding, nor has there been any interest from the Department of Lands,” Mr Morgan said.
“Whilst community consultation is critical, the process undertaken by the Department of Lands has been substantially flawed and permitted opposing submissions from persons to which the airport has no direct or meaningful relationship.
“Furthermore, the consultation was undertaken prior to the recent bush fire emergency.
He said that should a new consultation process be started, it is likely that there would be a far more positive appreciation for the value of the community airport.
Former licensee of the Katoomba Airfield, FlyBlue, has also issued statement criticising the community consultation process.
“All we are asking for is an independent review of the community consultation process – one that isn’t highjacked by environmentalists and activists,” said FlyBlue director Floyd Larsen.
“With the airfield closed this will directly impact jobs, business and tourism in the Blue Mountains – especially for a community that is already hurting after the recent bushfires and Coronavirus has dealt another huge blow to local tourism.”