The Regional Aviation Association of Australia's (RAAA) mission is to promote and maintain the viability of regional aviation (not just regional airlines). Our slogan is “serving regional aviation, and through it the people and businesses of regional Australia”. We see it as important to our role to lobby government to develop more effective policies to ensure the continuation of a viable regional aviation industry as a critical component of the national infrastructure.
Several million Australian's rely on regional air services. Without these services the social and economic existence of regional and remote communities and many regional industries are at risk. Servicing this need are the regional operators who service more communities in Australia than the major domestic operators and provide:
As highlighted above, regional operators are a major contributor to our nation with their true value transcending the dollar value traditionally associated to the nations GDP. While it may no longer be all doom and gloom in the regional aviation industry, there are more than enough serious issues affecting us and looming in the near future to give any prospective investor in our industry cause for concern.
A reality is that increasing regulatory, security, fuel, and infrastructure costs combined with a declining rural population, the effects of the ongoing drought, and the planned introduction of a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme could threaten the existence of these services.
As a nation, we must address the major issues, which include:
Introduction to Regional Aviation
Regional Aviation is a critical element in the lives, amenity and wellbeing of people living across Australia. Given Australia's expanse and the distance between different locations, aviation is often the only means that people and businesses can use conveniently to move across large distances.
Additionally regional aviation provides economic benefit for many regional communities in Australia through direct employment of local people and using local services to facilitate operations. Many local businesses in regional and remote Australia are also reliant on aviation to receive and send goods, attract Australian and international tourists, as well as attract and retain staff. If you add the need for people living in regional and remote parts of Australia to have access to quality medical services, a quality education for their families, access vital government services or to visit family and friends, aviation must be seen as essential national infrastructure alongside telecommunication, rail, road, and sea-ports.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) classify different sections of Australia by their remoteness. In their report Regional Population Growth 2008-09 they estimate that the number of people living in Australia by remoteness structure in 2009 were:
Access to Air Services
Commercial air services in regional Australia can be categorised as:
Also see "The Industry" page in the Issues section of the website
Regular Public Transport (RPT)
Although major regional centres may be serviced by jet aircraft such as the 737-800 (158 seats) communities in regional and remote Australia are serviced by much smaller turbo prop aircraft such as the Dash 8-300 (50 seats), the SAAB 340B (34 seats), the Jetstream J41 (30 seats) and Fairchild Metroliner 23 (18 seats).
The cost of flying to many regional and remote parts of Australia is generally more expensive than flying between the major city centres. This is due to flights in regional and remote parts of Australia being conducted by smaller aircraft run by operators on very fine margins that cannot use the large number of seats available to the major operators to amortise their costs.
A further point is that, in general, regional and remote airports are owned by the local council that mostly do not have the revenue base of the city airports. The flow on effect is that some airports in regional and remote Australia are not able to obtain or have lost their RPT service due to prohibitive runway maintenance costs.
Where there is no RPT service available to a location or the flight schedule is not suitable for the needs of the traveller an individual or organisation can charter an aircraft in the same fashion as you would hire a taxi. Operators providing charter flights range from individual operators to large multi functional organisations. A charter flight provides the opportunity for an individual to have a flight to any destination at their convenience and in an aircraft type of their choice (ranging from small single engine piston aircraft or helicopters to large multi-jet aircraft).
The cost for chartering an aircraft is generally more expensive than a seat on a RPT flight and varies depending on the type of aircraft being chartered and the distance being flown. The BITRE report "General Aviation Activity 2009" highlights that the number of hours flown for charter activities (in thousands of hours) was 544.5 for 2007, 518.6 for 2008 and 469.7 for 2009.
Aero medical and Benevolent
Since 1928 the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) has been providing medical care for Australians in regional and remote parts of Australia. Today the RFDS has 21 bases around Australia, operate 53 fully instrumented aircraft, and care for nearly 270,000 people. Although the RFDS could be said to be the major operator in this sector State Governments have in recent times tendered for services. This has seen the emergence of new operators in this sector such as Pel-Air Aviation, a subsidiary of Regional Express (Rex).
Benevolent flights are operated by organisation such as Angel Flight, a charity that co-ordinates non-emergency flights to help country people trying to deal with the triple challenge of bad health, poor finances and daunting distance.
Fly In Fly Out (FIFO)
Many large resource industries operating in regional and remote area of Australia rely heavily on fly in fly out operations to sustain their activities. It is an often efficient labour movement option for a large organisation, such as a mining company, that wish to have regular flights between their operations and a major centre. An important difference between fly in fly out operations and RPT is that the flights are only available to employees, contractors and guests associated to the contracting organisation and are not available to the general public. There are many organisations using fly in fly out to assist their operations including BHP Billiton, Newcrest Mining, Rio Tinto and Xstrata to name just a few.
Fly in Fly Out operations occur in most States, including onshore and offshore operations. We are not aware of any recent official data on the aggregate value for fly in Fly Out operations, however, The Chamber of Minerals & Energy Western Australia in 2005 produced a report titled "Fly In Fly Out: A Sustainable Perspective" which highlighted that in 2005 46.6% of publically listed companies in Western Australia utilised Fly In Fly Out and estimated that in 2005 $12.6 billion per year of mining operations in Western Australia were reliant on Fly In Fly Out. The RAAA suggests that these figures have increased significantly.
An important part of the aviation industry in regional and remote parts of Australia is the movement of documents, plant, equipment, spare parts over vast distances. The BITRE report "Yearbook 2011: Australian infrastructure Statistics" page 48/49 highlights that in 2009/10 200,000 tonnes of goods were moved by air transport.