INCREASING the number of planes allowed to take off and land at Sydney airport per hour could be the answer to Tamworth's air slot dilemma.
As crisis talks continue into better access to Kingsford Smith Airport, Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester met with New England MP Barnaby Joyce and member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson in Canberra, on Monday night.
Solutions suggested included increasing the number of take offs and landings at Sydney airport from 80 to 85 per hour, along with airport curfews, runway options and a review of the slot management scheme.
With concerns mounting about the impact on economic growth in the Tamworth area if peak time slots could not be maintained, Mr Anderson said a review into lifting the restrictions on aircraft movements was warranted,
“That increase also forms part of the NSW Government response to Recommendation (3) from the 2014 Inquiry into Regional Aviation Services,” he said.
“It states that the NSW Government write to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport to encourage a review of the current slot allocation and movements cap systems in place at Sydney Airport. This should include eliminating the 15 minute movements cap and the removal of regional turboprop aircraft from the movements cap.”
Mr Anderson said he met with state transport minister Andrew Constance while in parliament on Tuesday, who would follow through on the recommendation.
Meanwhile Mr Chester described the federal meeting on the issue as “constructive”.
“A constructive meeting was held (Monday) night and the Turnbull Joyce Government is considering options to improve access arrangements for regional flights in and out of Sydney airport,” he said.
The crisis talks follow an announcement by Virgin Australia last month that they were being forced to halve their night flights into Sydney from six per week to three due to slot allocations.
The move was met with public concern for air services not just in Tamworth but across the region, including Moree GP Les Woollard who told Fairfax he believed air services were disappearing in smaller towns.
Last week, The Leader revealed Mr Anderson’s plans to meet with Mr Joyce and Mr Chester. Another meeting is planned with Airport Coordination Australia CEO Petra Popovac on Wednesday.