Australian  SPIN

revised March 2001

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.

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. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
*half of 5 hrs*80,000 flights
DEDUCTIONS FROM THE FACTS. 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 stations, most of that pollution is right in our centers of population.

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 limited to between towns with small populations.

archived 1998 version of this page

Created October 1997

For corrections, complaints, comments, email here.