Australian  DIARY

revised May 2002

Aircraft are the latest and greatest symbol of the machine age.  On page 37 of the Transportation (October 1997) issue of "SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN" is a graph of projected per capita traffic volume.   The graph is part of an article by A.Schafer & D. Victor on "Global Mobility" and forecasts that high speed transport will account for 41% of passenger miles in 2050, 25% in 2020, up from 3% in 1960 & 9% in 1990.  High speed transport is aircraft or very fast train.

In Sydney Australia there are complaints about aircraft noise.  Sydney airport is about five kilometers South of the city center, and aircraft movements are inevitably over densely populated areas.  The federal government (which controls airports) has been rescheduling flight corridors in a vain attempt to reduce complaints.  The rapidly growing "No Airports" movement fails to see the necessity of airports in the Sydney Basin.  The inhabitants of Badgery's Creek in Western Sydney (where the government proposed to open a second airport) do not want an airport either.  Some of the people at the mining town of Lithgow (about 100 kilometers west of Sydney, pop. about 30,000) have indicated that they would welcome the noise & business that an airport would bring.

The intent of the Federal government to privatize Sydney airport is cause for alarm, insofar as privatization will make it that much harder and more expensive to relocate as that becomes necessary.

Below are catalogued the disadvantages of airports in cities, and reasons for concentrating airports in remote locations.

  1. Airplane (travel) spreads disease.  The first defense against the expected pandemics of the third millennium should be restrictions on rapid international travel.  Placing international airports in remote areas would simplify any human quarantine procedures found necessary.  Animal quarantine procedures could also be simplified.
  2. Aircraft are beginning to regularly fly into the ground near airports.  The probability of a serious incident can only increase as time passes. It does not seem like a good idea to have densely populated areas near airports.
  3. The events of September 11th have added a new dimension to the problem presented by airports.   Now the only method of preventing dedicated terrorists from causing a fully fueled airplane to crash into a densely populated city is to not allow such aircraft near cities, by relocating all airports away from cities and placing a total ban all flying vehicles within 10 kilometers of any dense urban area.   There were only five terrorists per aircraft on September 11th.  Given twenty unarmed combat specialists aboard a flight departing Kingsford-Smith airport, it would be impossible to prevent them from carking Parliament House.  Alternatively, a Stinger or SAM 7 man portable air defence missile could be used to bring down a fully laden civil aircraft just after takeoff into densely populated regions of a city.
  4. Airports are unwelcome additions in any city.  They are noisy and smelly.  They are an undoubted health hazard.  An Australian federal government that promised to move all commercial airports out of the Sydney basin might well earn itself an extra handful of seats in the Representatives & an extra seat in the Senate.  Melbourne people might well feel the same way.
  5. International tourism would be only marginally affected if airports were relocated to remote areas.  One international airport for South-eastern Australia near Parkes or Forbes NSW should suffice.  Forbes is probably near the centroid for population & distance for Sydney, Melbourne Brisbane and Adelaide, and is sparsely settled and very flat.  Very fast (400 KPH) trains could travel across open plains to deliver passengers within two or three hours to the major cities. Sightseeing tourists could start their holiday in "outback" Australia.
  6. Airplanes produce massive pollution and consume enormous amounts of energy.  Below I have used various sources to show that airplanes consume about half as much energy as is used to provide the total electricity budget for Australia.
*i.e. half of 5 hrs*80,000 flights
May 2002.  The following facts were obtained from the Australian Government document "Urban Air Pollution In Australia" 1997 produced under the direction of Sir Arvi Parbo.  (ISBN 1 875618 37 6).    At the date of writing, this document was available on the internet at
  1. The most efficient aircraft (767) carries passengers for a fuel efficiency of 80 seat miles/gallon.(about 28 Km/Litre).(p132)
  2. A fully laden 747 carries 217,000 litres of fuel.(p128)
  3. A 747 burns 10 l/sec during takeoff, and averages 3.5 l/sec over a journey.(p128)
  4. Sydney reported 20.3 million passengers in 95/96.  It is anticipated there will be 40.4 million in 2009/10.(p128)
  5. Sydney airport's percentage share of URBAN airshed pollution produced was 0.6%(CO), 3.2%(NOX), 0.6%(HC) (p128)
  6. The "Urban Airshed" includes only the first one minute of flying time, and the last 5 minutes of flying time.(p128)$
$ The report stated the first 5 Km after takeoff, and 20KM before landing.(p128)
 At 300 KM/H that is one minute after takeoff, and 5 minutes prior to landing.

The following table was prepared using only the Arvi Parbo document.  Since those data were only for pollution produced in the "Sydney Airshed", I have calculated the total pollution produced by aircraft movement into and from Sydney by multiplying the figure given on Table 12 (p 131) by twenty (as an average) to account for a half share of the total pollution produced by aircraft (and inflicted on the biosphere) by each national/international aircraft alighting in Sydney.  Car pollution was given in Kilotons per annum on Table 1 (p31) and has been converted to tonnes/day.

Hydrocarbons (VOC)
Sydney Aircraft total Pollution
80 tonnes/day
120 tonnes/day
320 tonnes/day
Car Pollution in Sydney Basin.
200 tonnes/day
200 tonnes/day
2000 tonnes/day


CAVEATS The conclusion?   Airplanes produce more than a quarter of the pollution that is produced by electricity generation in Australia.  The actual pollution is probably closer to one half, because power stations are comparatively clean.  And unlike power station pollution, most aircraft pollution happens right over centers of population.  Fully laden Aircraft produce more than double the pollution per passenger km of fully laden family cars.

Suggested solution?  Use suitable tax breaks, and initiate a Very Fast Train project linking Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane & Sydney to an International airport in Central NSW.  Turn existing city airports into parks.  Australia could probably manage with two international airports, one about central NSW (near Condobolin), the other at a suitable distance from Perth.  Intranational flights should be banned except between towns with small populations, and emergencies.

archived 2000 version of this page

Created October 1997

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