Bryce Ducker, Mullumbimby.
As the former owner of Byron Air Charter spanning ten years I note with a mixture of sadness and frustration that Byron Council, with full mayoral support, has embarked on a misguided crusade against commercial helicopter operations at Tyagarah airfield. Judging from the applause from the gallery at the mayor’s personal musings at the April 20 meeting, there is considerable populist support for this stance, also, in my view, seriously misguided.
Please allow me to inject a little perspective into the issue.
To all those concerned, and I acknowledge that the concern is real, I say to you that you have absolutely nothing to worry about. We know the size of the joyflight market, and it is tiny, certainly by comparison with the skydive market. At Byron Air Charter, running a lean operation using an economical four seat fixed wing aircraft, we did fewer than 200 landings per year – not even one a day – yes, mostly from joyflights but with other flights such as aerial survey, fire spotting, charters elsewhere and so on included. Helicopters are expensive to buy, operate, maintain, crew and insure. Any rational helicopter joyflight operator setting up at Tyagarah and using correct costings and pricing and with the vagaries of weather thrown in would struggle to consistently average one joyflight a day, let alone the six-eight being talked about. Welcome to reality, folks! I suggest this level of increased activity is not worthy of any of Council’s debating time.
These comments do not apply to gyrocopters, which are a different breed and subject to different rules.
Of great concern, however, and what appears to have been overlooked so far, is the message being sent to helicopter charter operators from elsewhere. Banning commercial operations at Tyagarah captures them too. Is this the message Byron, a tourist town known internationally, wants to send to these operators and their well-heeled clients? Go elsewhere to spend your money? Where would Council have them land? Butler Street reserve, perhaps?
Thankfully, we have Tyagarah.