The Sydney Airport Curfew Act 1995 (the Act) has the purpose of limiting, as far as possible, the movement of aircraft at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (the Airport) during the curfew period. The curfew period is from 11.00 pm each night to 6.00 am the next morning.
Section 20 of the Act provides that the Minister may grant a dispensation authorising a take-off or landing which would otherwise breach the curfew where the Minister is satisfied that exceptional circumstances justify the take-off or landing. Subsection 20(5) requires the Minister to make written guidelines about the granting of dispensations.
What constitutes exceptional circumstances
Exceptional circumstances—primary criteria for assessment
Circumstances will generally only be considered exceptional so as to justify a take-off or landing within the curfew period if:
- they originated during, or during preparation for, the take-off of a flight scheduled to fly directly to, or to depart from, Sydney Airport; and
- they involve a delay caused by:
- unforeseen mechanical failure of the aircraft in relation to which the dispensation has been requested; or
- 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
- the re-screening (for aviation security purposes) of passengers and/or baggage of the aircraft in relation to which the dispensation has been requested;
- 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.
Unavailability of main runway
An exceptional circumstance will exist in relation to regular curfew traffic where the main runway is not available because of maintenance or repairs of the runway, or other maintenance or repairs necessary for the safe operation of Sydney Airport.
Protracted industrial disputes
An exceptional circumstance may exist where a protracted industrial dispute causes long-term severe disruption to an operator's aviation services and this in turn causes the delay or cancellation of flights.
Circumstances that are not generally exceptional
Exceptional circumstances will not generally exist on the basis that:
- one of the following has caused changes to scheduled flights:
- adverse weather conditions, where the operator of an aircraft scheduled to fly to Sydney Airport knew, or could reasonably have been expected to know, prior to take-off, that those conditions were likely to eventuate;
- adverse weather conditions, where the operator of an aircraft scheduled to depart Sydney Airport knew, or could reasonably have been expected to know, within a reasonable period prior to take-off, that those conditions were likely to eventuate;
- industrial disputes, other than those referred to in section 8;
- disruptions to an operator's network or schedules due to mechanical problems, other than an unforseen mechanical failure of the aircraft for which a dispensation has been requested; or
- the dispensation would allow the accommodation of airline management requirements (such as a need to reposition or crew aircraft).
Matters to be considered
In determining whether a dispensation should be granted, and the conditions to which a dispensation should be subject, a key consideration is the avoidance of any circumstances that could compromise the safety or security of an aircraft.
Other relevant considerations
In determining whether a dispensation should be granted in relation to an aircraft take-off or landing, the following matters are relevant:
- the margin by which it is predicted that the take-off or landing would fall within the curfew period;
- whether the take-off or landing would be over water;
- if the circumstances involve a delay, whether the cause of the delay was or is within the control of the operator;
- the noise level of the aircraft;
- the number of passengers that would be affected if the dispensation was not granted;
- the severity of the hardship likely to be caused to such passengers if the dispensation was not granted.
Conditions to limit noise exposure
A dispensation should generally be granted subject to a condition that specified procedures be followed to limit the noise exposure of Sydney residents. In particular, wherever possible, a dispensation should be made subject to a condition that the aircraft land or take off over the water.
Applications for dispensations
- If an operator makes an application for a dispensation by phone, the Minister should request that written confirmation of the circumstances leading to the application be provided as soon as possible.
Making decisions about dispensations
- Decisions on dispensation applications may be given by phone or in writing.
- If a dispensation is granted in writing, it must set out the conditions, if any, to which it is subject.
- If a dispensation is granted by phone, it must be followed, as soon as possible, by written confirmation of the dispensation setting out the conditions, if any, to which it is subject.