10 May 2023

It's like driving on the PDR: Quality of Bamaga runway slammed

| Samuel Davis
Start the conversation

BAMAGA Airport’s rutted runway has been compared to corrugations on the Peninsula Developmental Road with a whistleblower warning the strip is in urgent need of repair.

But the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority has dismissed the claims, declaring there is “no information suggesting there are concerns” despite the most recent technical inspection finding the strip in “poor condition”.

A source familiar with the airport said the state of the runway’s surface posed serious safety risks.

“The pavement itself is so soft that the wheels are pressing down into the airstrip and creating these ruts,” the source said.

“It’s like corrugations on the PDR. If you were to fix that runway you’d need to raise it by at least a metre.

“You need to get the drainage issue under control because it’s obviously not working.”

Reduced pavement strength can have dire consequences.

“The fact that they’ve got essentially a valley running through the middle of the runway, the risk is that something like a Dash 8-100s landing wheel could break through the surface,” the source said.

“One of the other issues is you get loose stones on the ground, you’ve got the very real danger of that impacting propellers.”

In a statement, a CASA spokesperson said the authority was unaware of any safety risks at Bamaga Airport.

“We currently have no information suggesting there are concerns about the capacity of the runway at Northern Peninsula Area Airport to land planes safely if upgrades are not done in the next 12 to 24 months,” the spokesperson said.

But a technical inspection conducted on October 22, 2020 found the low-lying landing strip in need of work.

“The runway continues to suffer pavement issues. The seal is mainly in good condition however the underlying pavement is in poor condition … and hence the reason for the ongoing failures and rutting,” the inspection reads.

Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council said a complete upgrade of the airport would cost $15 million.

Mayor Patricia Yusia said she raised the region’s runway problems with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday.

“If we have an accident, it’s not like we didn’t tell anybody,” Cr Yusia said.

“But we’re not giving up.”

Aviation expert Neil Hansford said both the state and federal governments should be expected to invest in the critical infrastructure.

“You’ve got to be operating a safe route … and if it’s rutted and damaged the Queensland government have to cover some of the expense,” he said.

“If the runway deteriorates to the point that it can’t service the route, then it becomes a political issue.”

Regional carrier Rex airlines wrote a letter of support earlier this year calling for the runway to be improved.

Cape York Weekly has reached out to federal Minister Catherine King for comment.

Start the conversation

Cape York Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest edition of Cape York Weekly in your inbox each Monday.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Cape York Weekly's terms and conditions and privacy policy.