ⓘ Avalon Airport
Avalon Airport is an international airport located in Avalon in the City of Greater Geelong in Victoria, Australia. While located outside the Melbourne metropolitan area, it is the second busiest of the four airports serving the state capital in passenger traffic. It is located 15 km north-east of the Geelong CBD and 50 kilometres south-west of the Melbourne CBD. The airport is operated by Avalon Airport Australia Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of logistics company Linfox.
Avalon is currently served by passenger airline Jetstar Airways, which began domestic flights in 2004. AirAsia X began direct international flights between Avalon Airport and Kuala Lumpur on 5 December 2018. The airport is also the site of the biennial Australian International Airshow.
Unlike Melbourne Airport, Avalon Airport is not governed by the Commonwealth Airports Act. The airport has a single runway in addition to a helipad.
The airport is located on land of the original indigenous owners, the Wathaurong people, and a scatter stone area is preserved on the Avalon Airport site, out of respect for the original owners. The land has undergone many changes over the past century.
In the beginning, the airport was a sheep and cattle farm and homestead, founded by James Austin, an immigrant from Glastonbury, Somerset, England. James established his farm and named the homestead "Avalon" after the isle of Avalon at Glastonbury, the mythical island in the Arthurian legend. In 1952 the Commonwealth Government bought 1.754 hectares 4.333 acres at Avalon for just 110 pounds, as the land was deemed to be of poor quality farmland due to the abundance of volcanic rock littering the surface.
The airport was opened in 1953, to cater for the production of military aircraft. Previously, the Government Aircraft Factories at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne had used a runway beside the factory. However, newer jet aircraft required a longer runway for safe operations, and the Fishermans Bend runway was being encroached upon by development.
A 3.048 m 10.000 ft runway was built by Country Roads Board, with the first plane landing on 3 April 1953 – a four-engined Avro Lincoln heavy bomber flown from Fishermans Bend. The English Electric Canberra light bomber was under construction at same time at the new airport. In 1959, Qantas established a training base at the site.
In 1961, Government Aircraft Factories combined with The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, and built and serviced 110 Mirage fighters at the site, and in 1970 Jindivik Target Aircraft transferred to Avalon Airport from Fishermens Bend, adding production of 170 Nomad and 75 Hornet military jets, in addition to servicing of other jets.
In 1985 the Government Aircraft Factories changed its name to Aerospace Technologies of Australia ASTA. Aircraft produced during this time included the CAC Sabre jet fighter, GAF Jindivik remotely piloted aircraft, and Nomad civil aircraft. Under the ASTA banner, engines for the Dassault Mirage III jet fighters were produced, as well as assembly of the F/A-18 multirole combat aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force RAAF.
In October 1988, the ASTA Aircraft Services division took the first Boeing 747 to Avalon for servicing and maintenance. By December 1993, fifty 747 aircraft had been through the Avalon facility, and 820 people were employed at the site. October 1995 saw a Cathay Pacific Lockheed L-1011 flown to Avalon for scrapping by ASTA Aircraft Services, in what was a one off event.
Training of pilots from Japans All Nippon Airways commenced at the airport on 8 September 1993.
On 27 June 1995 Aerospace Technologies of Australia was privatised by the Commonwealth Government, selling the aircraft divisions to Rockwell Australia Limited, and the airport operations to Avalon Airport Geelong Pty Ltd. The ASTA airliner overhauling facility was closed in 1997.
The first scheduled passenger flights out of the airport were operated by Hazelton Airlines, who commenced flights between Avalon Airport and Sydney in February 1995. 36-seat Saab 340 aircraft were used for the service. The service was discontinued after a short time due to a lack of passengers.
1.1. History Post privatisation
In 1997, the federal Government of Australia, through the Department of Defence, granted Linfox a 50-year plus a 49-year option lease of the airport. Between 1997 and 2001 Linfox developed proposals to develop the land which formed the basis of the Avalon Airport Master Plan draft, 2013. In 1992, the airport began hosting the Australian International Airshow.
On 1 June 2004, Jetstar started commercial flights from the airport, in addition to their operations at Melbourne Airport.
In April 2010, Tigerair Australia announced it would base two aircraft and commence operations from Avalon later that year. By June 2011 however, Tiger announced it would be withdrawing several flights from Avalon, to be operated instead from Melbourne Airport. The remaining Tiger Airways services were withdrawn after a series of incidents that led to airlines operations being suspended by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority the following month.
In October 2012, the Federal Government announced that the airports lease would be amended, allowing for the construction of a new terminal and the implementation of international flights. Avalon is the second airport in Victoria to be designated as a port of entry for freight operations.
1.2. History International flights
It was announced on 4 February 2018 that AirAsia X would move their Melbourne Airport operations to Avalon Airport by the end of the year. AirAsia X Airbus A330s would service the twice daily direct flights to Kuala Lumpur. Announcing it on 10 July 2018 the airline commenced its operations from Avalon Airport on 5 December 2018.
A media release on 22 October 2019 from the Victorian Premiers Office stated that VietJet Air was expected to begin flights from Avalon to Vietnam in the second half of 2020.
On 11 December 2019, it was announced on Citilink’s Instagram social media handle that flights to Denpasar Bali, Indonesia would be added to Avalon Airport’s list of international flights. On 10 January 2020, it was stated that the daily flight would commence on 24th of January 2020.
1.3. History Airport Master Plan 2015
The Avalon Airport Master Plan was prepared by Avalon Airport Pty Ltd in September 2015 and was endorsed by the Department of Defence. The document provides for a significant expansion of the airports operations, as well as the establishment of non-aviation related developments.
1.4. History Proposed rail connection
On 3 May 2011, the Victorian Minister for Public Transport committed $3 million for the planning of a rail link to Avalon Airport. In January 2013, three route options were presented. The railway line would start by running along the existing Geelong-Melbourne heavy rail corridor, and then divert towards Avalon Airport, south of Little River, at one of three locations. The eastern option would see the line break away closer to Melbourne, near Cherry Swamp Road and Little River. The central option would place the diversion 2.5 kilometres southwest, near Peak School Road at Lara. The western route option would divert from the existing line closer to Geelong, at Plains Road, Lara. Each of the three routes would run over the Princes Freeway, north east of the Beach Road interchange at Little River, running under the flight path to a new station inside the terminal. The government would need to acquire private farmland to complete the link and is considering a number different options, including a light rail service, automated driverless trains used at several international airports.
On 4 August 2013, the state government indicated that it may alter its election promise to build the $250 million train line to Avalon Airport, and instead create a cheaper light rail link from Melbournes south-west. Department documents show the government is now considering other options to meet interim demand, such as light rail, buses, or "driverless transport options which are used at many airports around the world".
Since the introduction of Jetstar in 2004, the Avalon Airport terminal facilities have expanded from the original size of 732 square metres 7.880 sq ft to nearly 5.600 m 2 60.000 sq ft. Over $100 million has been invested in the airport thus far to complete the following:
- Fuel farm electrical maintenance and demolition of unused buildings;
- Construction of a new bus, taxi and hire car road and various rerouted roads to manage incoming passenger traffic and other road infrastructure upgrades;
- Fuel farm expansion to triple storage capacity from 500.000 to 1.500.000 litres of A1 jet fuel plus installation of new fuel pipelines;
- Installation of a Flight Information Display system;
- Significant infrastructure upgrades as part of the Australian International Airshow
- A total of seven A320 sized aircraft can now be parked simultaneously in front of the airport terminal;
- An apron expansion completed to accommodate a further four aircraft as well as enable the opportunity to accommodate an aircraft the size of a Boeing 747.
2.1. Facilities Passenger terminal
The current terminal facility is approximately 4.500 square metres 48.000 sq ft in area and houses four gates capable of servicing aircraft up to and including the size of the Airbus A321. In its present configuration, the terminal can accommodate around six domestic departures per hour. The airport has a total of eight aircraft parking bays; there are six on the Northern Apron and two on the Eastern Apron. On the Northern Apron, the airport can accommodate five Code C Aircraft Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 aircraft and one Boeing 747.
Avalon Airport can accommodate two Boeing 747s or two Boeing 787s on the Eastern Apron. The Eastern Apron is also a remote parking bay which doubles as a freight bay. The Airport is capable of fitting one Airbus A380 at a time on the Eastern Apron; this means it can also accommodate the freighter version of Boeings new 747-8, which is slightly smaller.
Currently the airport terminal is not equipped with aerobridges, and does not feature any guest lounges.
2.2. Facilities Freight facilities
The most notable freight operations include the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix, V8 Supercars and Superbikes, plus some specialist charters including livestock race horses, fresh produce, military hardware, touring rock bands. The airport can facilitate loads on all aircraft types from the Airbus 380 series down, with equipment available to load via the main deck, lower deck, nose or tail end of the Aircraft, with a maximum lift of 16 tonnes. It has three dedicated freighter parking positions: Two on its Eastern and one on the Northern Freighter Aprons.
2.3. Facilities Aircraft heavy maintenance
Avalon Airport has six hangars in total: 55.000 square metres 590.000 sq ft of hangar space, including three Boeing 747 hangars. Three of these are customised B747 hangars that were used by Qantas. The Qantas Engineering maintenance facility commenced operations on 13 May 1998.
It was also responsible for the Qantas Groups aircraft commercial project work, including cabin reconfigurations and refurbishment.
The Avalon Maintenance Facility was the first in Australia to develop and carry out a program for converting B737-300 passenger aircraft to freighters for Australian Air Express operations and was responsible for the modification of the new Premium Economy product for Qantas B747-400 fleet.
In 2012, Qantas announced that it would phase out operations at Avalon Airport, making the hangars available for other businesses.
3. Other uses
In July 2013, it was proposed by Geelong City Council that a theme park be built at Avalon, and they have held discussions with Village Roadshow and other companies concerning the proposal. African Safari World was a previous proposal at nearby Werribee Zoo that did not get approved.
The biennial Australian International Airshow operates from Avalon Airport. The project is owned by Aviation Development Australia Limited. The event attracts a total attendance of over 195.000 across the six days, including exhibitors from the international aerospace industry and government, military, scientific and trade delegates.
4. Ground transportation
Avalon Airport is linked to Geelong and Melbourne by the adjacent Princes Freeway. The airport has 1.500 airport car spaces, a taxi rank and a ride-share pick-up/drop-off bay.
In 2017, Skybus launched services from the Melbourne CBD and Geelong to Avalon Airport.
5. Accidents and incidents
- On 6 August 1976, a prototype N24 Nomad crashed shortly after takeoff at Avalon while a flight test of modifications to the tail of the aircraft. Two of the three crew members were killed in the accident, notably including pilot Stuart Pearce, father of actor Guy Pearce.
- A serious incident involving a Tiger Airways Australia Airbus A320 flight from Sydney occurred on 30 June 2011 when the crew performed a missed approach at Avalon outside of published procedures, resulting in the aircraft overflying the Geelong suburb of Leopold at a dangerously low altitude, without guidance from Air Traffic Control. The incident made national headlines and triggered a five-week grounding of the airline over a busy school holiday period while a safety audit was conducted by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.