Ward 1 Councillor Don McGregor is calling for the Katoomba Airfield to be reopened, for use in emergencies and to assist during firefighting operations.
“Representatives from aero clubs and Careflight are concerned about the airport not being available to them for emergency landings. They consider it a very important factor,” he told the June 27 Blue Mountains council meeting.
Cr McGregor later told the Gazette, in the event of high winds and poor weather conditions and with the rough, mountainous terrain, it was important that aircraft had somewhere to safely land in an emergency.
Aero clubs and Careflight are concerned about the airport not being available to them for emergency landingsDon McGregor
The airfield was also an important access point for firefighters.
“It would expand our capacity to meet the challenges of bushfires in the Mountains,” Cr McGregor, a member of the RFS South Katoomba brigade said.
“Helicopters are particularly suited to firefighting in the Mountains. They can target hotspots in inaccessible areas and put it out.”
And the giant skycranes, another vital firefighting tool, could land more easily at an airstrip.
“They are forced to do hover descents, but they are more difficult than coming into airstrips where they can come in on a more acute angle,” Cr McGregor said.
At the council meeting Cr McGregor asked for a report on the feasibility of reopening the airfield.
The airfield, at Medlow Bath, closed after the death in 2016 of flying instructor Rod Hay, who had spent more than a decade living as a caretaker at the airstrip, which is on Crown land. He had a short-term arrangement with the NSW Lands Department. Mr Hay died when his single engine Jabiru ultralight aircraft crashed into thick bush about 200m from the airfield.
Member for Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle, said she had been working with the Hay family for almost a year to assist them through a bureaucratic malaise within state government which had prevented them from renewing their lease.
“They are trying desperately to find a way to keep the airfield open as well as continue the airfield’s support for local community organisations – like the stargazing groups who visit at night, the Air Force Cadets and Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue who use the airfield for training exercises,” she said.