NO FLY ZONE: Aviators desert Burnett airport
GLADSTONE aviator Hugh Bridge, who flies a Cessna 210 single-engine aircraft, knows to avoid Gayndah Aerodrome, also known as Ted Kirk Field.
Why? The aerodrome received a $4 million refurbishment in 2016, which included the installation of a disaster management centre. A new runway was laid and a state-of-the-art refuelling station was installed.
But a design flaw in the station, wherein the antenna which connects the card reader to the network to accept payment for the fuel is located underneath the shade structure, rather than on top.
The effect? The metal structure interferes with the connection, and aviators are left stuck unable to obtain fuel – a huge problem when aviators are legally required to keep 45 minutes of fuel in their tanks.
“Flying, for me, is all about speed (between destinations),” Mr Bridge said.
“If you know there may be a two hour hold up, you’ll avoid it.”
The issue is compounded by the fact that the contact number for the aerodrome, which is contained within the En Route Supplement Australia (ERSA), an indispensable guide for aviators, is still listed as council’s pre-amalgamation phone number, and the after-hours mobile is rarely answered.
“When the bowser was put in, I thought it was a good thing, but now it’s gone the other way,” he said.
Fellow aviator Peter Raffles, who is still involved with the Gayndah RSL Sub Branch and SES, although he now lives in Childers, said the “sad thing” is that the aerodrome “is a bloody good airfield”.
“They’ve spent millions on it and council can’t be bothered to make it work,” Mr Raffles said.
“It’s like buying a Rolls Royce and keeping it in the chook shed.”
Mr Raffles is part of an unofficial advisory board, Friends of Ted Kirk Field, which meets with council annually to provide feedback.
“You may as well have the same agenda each year, because nothing gets done,” he said.
“They just don’t seem to get it.
“Pilots do know a bit about airports, they just don’t seem to take our advice.”
Aside from sharing Mr Bridge’s concern about the refuelling station’s reliability, Mr Raffles also holds grave fears over how often the fuel is tested.
When he was in the RAF, fuel was tested daily, but Mr Raffles claimed council staff had told him the fuel at the aerodrome was tested once a week or less.
“Maybe it will be okay, but the first time they find out something’s wrong because the fuel is contaminated will be when an aeroplane crashes on the runway,” Mr Raffles said.
He said it would take only a small investment to create a small cabinet near the station containing the necessary equipment for council to test the fuel more regularly.
Mr Raffles also said council does not mow the grass regularly enough, leaving vast swathes of it to Mike Sibley, another member of the Friends of Ted Kirk Field, and his wife.
The aerodrome’s windsock was not spared Mr Raffles’ ire.
He said the “second rate” sock wraps around the pole regularly because the drum it is attached to is not long enough.
The sock is currently riddled with holes, meaning it does not give an accurate wind reading.
Mr Sibley said Gayndah is missing out on tourist dollars by not utilising its aerodrome.
He said he knows of recreational aviators who spend hundreds of dollars in each town they land.
“It’s a beautiful airfield, I want to promote its use to get money into the town,” he said.
“They land, stay for lunch and might book into a motel if the weather’s bad.
“I don’t want to knock council, I want to work with them.”
Council was contacted for comment.