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25 March 2024

PCN to PCR Transition

In accordance with the CASA advisory circular the PCN-PCR transition must occur by November 2024 (see CASA AC 139.C-07v1.0). On transition to the new rating system every aerodrome operator in Australia will be required to update its ERSA entry to replace the PCN with a new PCR for each runway. To achieve this transition timeline the new PCR must be submitted to Airservices by 8 August 2024 to meet the Aeronautical Information Regulation and Control (AIRAC) cycle.
The classification of the rating as a U (usage) or T (technical) assessment would be subject to the available information including design documentation, representative geotechnical investigation data, current traffic use and pavement performance information either through provided Pavement and Drainage Aerodrome Technical Assessments (ATI) or through site observations during the PCR assessment.
If all the information is available for your aerodrome, then the conversion could be completed as a technical (T) desktop exercise over a relatively short period of time, but if there is information missing then a geotechnical investigation will be required which will require more time and planning to complete. Alternatively, a usage (U) based assessment may be acceptable based on partial data being available.
If you require any assistance with your PCN-PCR transition, feel free to contact Rob on or 0418 913 931.
12 February 2024

Happy Birthday!

This week Earl Hill turns ONE and what an exciting first year it has been! Special thanks to our founding clients who have put their trust and confidence in Earl Hill to add value to their projects and find solution to the challenges they face as airport owners and airfield service providers. These clients included:
Newcastle Airport - Apron Expansion (Project Advisory)
Perth Airport - Airfield Works Program (Project Advisory and Design)
WCC / Fortescue Metals Group – Iron Bridge Airport (Engineering Assessment)
RAMS / Various airport projects – Pavement Design, PCN Reviews and Assessment
In delivering design services Earl Hill also collaborates with other services providers small and large, and I would also like to thank them for their fantastic contributions. It is great to work as a team when delivering these multidisciplinary airport projects and it is always an opportunity to learn and grow.
We look forward to continuing to provide value services to our existing and new clients in 2024 and leaving a positive impact on the industry.
17 October 2023

Small Regional and Mining Aerodrome – to certify or not?

In response to a client’s query and in collaboration with Annette James of Certavation we looked at aerodrome engineering and certification.

Aerodrome certification is an option that many small aerodromes may consider particularly when planning out the physical attributes but certification is not just about the infrastructure it is also about the aerodrome procedures, documentation and management all of which are scalable subject to the number of passengers and / or number of aircraft movements per financial year.

 There used to be a few different aerodrome categories but under the new Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) Part 139 an aerodrome is either:

1.      Certified Aerodrome – must comply with CASA MOS Part 139 standards; or

2.     Aircraft Landing Areas (ALA) which are uncertified and unregulated aerodromes – it is an operator's and/or the pilot’s responsibility to determine suitability of the facility for use.

 If the aerodrome will have Terminal Instrument Flight Procedures (TIFP) to enable operations in other than Visual Flight Rules (VFR) then it must be certified under Part 139.

 An aircraft operator of larger aeroplanes (more than 9 seats and a maximum take-off weight of more than 8,618 kg) conducting air transport operations under Part 121 may be subject to operational requirements that may also necessitate an aerodrome to become certified. (CASA, 2023) The need to certify then falls on the type of operations being conducted by the aircraft operator and the commercial negotiations between the aircraft operator and the aerodrome operator. Any change in operator would then initiate the need for new negotiations with the new aircraft operator.

 Becoming certified would require ongoing compliance requirements under Part 139 (see relevant CASA site link) and other relevant regulations, which would be scalable based on the number of passengers per annum and being an ALA will mean that the aerodrome operator and the aircraft operators would need to put in place provisions to ensure that the aircraft operator can continue to be compliant under Part 121 subject to the size of aircraft and air transport operations intended. Essentially, either the aerodrome operator or the aircraft operator needs to demonstrate compliance with the relevant Civil Aviation Safety Regulations.

To provide some context of the ongoing compliance requirements for a certified aerodrome under Part 139 that would have up to 50,000 passengers per annum the minimum requirements would be as follows:

1.      Aerodrome Manual – develop and maintain scalable to the size of operations

2.     Risk Management – develop and maintain a risk management plan

3.     Technical Inspections – split inspection of the various elements over every 24 months

4.     Emergency Plan - may be covered under local emergency management arrangements

5.     Emergency preparedness - emergency induction program

6.     Wildlife Hazard Management - wildlife hazard management plan recommended where a high wildlife risk exists at the aerodrome

7.     Drug and Alcohol Management Plan (DAMP) – specific and training

8.     Management Staff – Accountable Manager and a trained Aerodrome Reporting Officer (ARO) plus manual controller and AIP responsible Person

9.     Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) - Aerodrome details published in ERSA/NOTAM (Airservices Australia)

10.   Obstacles - Obstacles within the Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS) must be monitored

While there is no regulatory requirement for an uncertified aerodrome (ALA) to be inspected and surveyed in accordance with the Part 139 MOS, transport category twin turbine aircraft must meet certain flight parameters, particularly during take-off. There are obstacle clearance requirements for such aircraft, and the only way to determine that these can be met for a particular aerodrome, is to conduct an annual survey of the obstacles.

 While certification is not essential for every aerodrome, it does give the aircraft operator peace of mind that the site is being maintained to a prescribed standard and will satisfy the requirements of their own exposition under the flight operation rules and it would also contribute to the aerodrome operator’s safety obligation and commitments.

 For more information please see the CASA Advisory Circulars AC 139.A-03v1.1 and AC 139.B-01v1.1 or feel free to get in touch, we can assist with all your engineering or operational requirements.

21 August 2023


Looks like a great initiative by the Department of Transport, Western Australia and the NTRO - National Transport Research Organisation, and I look forward to seeing the outcomes if the report become available to industry or if the case study is presented at the Australian Airports Association National Conference.

Hopefully the report will also provide some correlation analysis between the HWD and the NTRO’s iPAVE vehicle and an understanding of what condition rating system will be used in utilising the comprehensive condition data that is concurrently collected.

Below image sourced from the NTRO site. Please click on image to go to the NTRO article
12 May 2023

Australian Airports Association

Pavements & Lighting Forum 2023

It was great to catchup with our tribe, as our very entertaining MC put it, during the AAA Pavements and Lighting Forum. I was very impressed by the standard of presentations as usual. The work that Melbourne Airport are doing in using their GIS in project delivery was impressive, using it as a stakeholder communications tool for their new runway project noted by Peter Parsons and also in their overlays projects noted by Louisa Pang. GIS has significant potential in airport business as usual activities and project delivery, and its great to see the fantastic work that Rod Woodford is doing at Perth Airport in realising that opportunity. Look forward to staying in touch with the tribe until our next face to face. 
13 April 2023

Embedding Sustainability in Airfield Pavement Projects

The options available for more sustainable aircraft pavements is on the increase as the demand for products that will assist airports meet their sustainability aspirations become a higher priority. Embedding sustainability into airfield projects is more than just the materials and production processes required to build the pavements just as sustainability is more than just the environmental impact. This post is purposefully focused on the narrow band of sustainability that contribute to reducing the materials impact of building new or renewing airfield infrastructure. 

The cost of aircraft pavement projects is substantially skewed toward the materials required for the construction including water, sand, aggregates, bitumen and cement. These are the primary ingredients required to producing the base materials, asphalt, bituminous seals and concrete essential to build the runways, taxiways and aprons that service an airport, putting aside for now the Airfield Ground Lighting and other support infrastructure. Initiatives that can reduce the impact of these materials, and the associated processes, will likely have the biggest sustainability return.

Flexible pavements are generally made up of crushed aggregates from a quarry to produce the subbase and base layers then topped with hot asphalt also produced using crushed aggregates and combined with bitumen. There are a number of options available to recycle existing pavements through either insitu stabilisation using bitumen or cement, or remove the existing pavement and blend with new materials prior to stabilised installation. The production of asphalt can also reuse these existing aggregates or even incorporate other recycled materials such as waste tyres, plastics and glass. Another alternative to reducing carbon emissions is lowering the production temperature to produce warm instead of hot asphalt.

Rigid pavements are concrete pavements made of crushed aggregates and cement. The production of cement requires significant amounts of energy and consequently carbon emission. Alternative mixes that reduce the impact have come to market using waste products from the energy and steel production including flyash, GGBS and slag to produce geopolymer concrete. There are a number of products on the market and a great example of this was applied by Wagners for the construction of the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport concrete aprons using Earth Friendly Concrete.

In an effort to transition both industry and community, the Western Australia Government through Murdoch University developed a new geopolymer cement “Colliecrete” using the waste products from the Collie power station:

28 MARCH 2023

Top 5 Pavement Management Challenges – What is your top 5?

“No man (or woman) is an island”, and that is particularly true when it comes to managing the infrastructure at an airport. Collaboration with internal and external stakeholders is such a critical requirement that if not done well it could undo all the good technical effort. Focusing on a pavement perspective, as terminals and security infrastructure, etc are all beasts of their own nature. I have found the top 5 challenges or activities to ensure aircraft pavements are managed appropriately are as follows:
1.     Pavement assessment and renewal/upgrade program development
2.     Economic and sustainable lifecycle pavement solutions
3.     More collaboration and securing program funding
4.     Delivering works safely within an operational airfield and managing disruption
5.     Technical oversight of works, quality assurance and defects rectification

Pavement assessment and renewal/upgrade program development

Ensuring an assessment of all the aircraft pavements and associated drainage is completed by a suitably qualified and experienced engineer as part of the annual Aerodrome Technical Assessment (ATI) is a great first step toward understanding the changing condition of your aviation infrastructure and provides the raw materials for the development (or update) of a 10- to 20-year program. The prioritisation and programming of the of works required to ensure that the assets remain in a compliant and safe condition to facilitate efficient aircraft movements without significantly impacting year on year operations is a key deliverable and foundation to the collaboration required to establish a proposed long-term airfield works plan.

Economic and sustainable lifecycle pavement solutions

Following a sufficient understanding of the proposed program ahead which has been agreed in principle operationally, focus can be turned to establishing the most economical and sustainable engineering solutions for each proposed package in the program. The solutions should provide the most economical lifecycle options, that is the lowest cost over the serviceable life of the asset, but short-term funding does not always allow for long term options to be exercised. Ensuring that infrastructure sustainability is considered in the solution will in many cases make more economic sense and contribute to the organisational sustainability targets. See Infrastructure Sustainability Council for information on 3rd party verification.

More collaboration and securing program funding

So the scope, prioritisation of works and the overall estimated cost of the program has been established and provides the foundation for the extensive collaboration required both internally and externally. The budgeting process at an airport is complex in that it not only includes the annual and medium term company budgets but you also need to secure airline agreements to ensure the program is funded at least over the medium term. If the work completed in developing the program was robust and pragmatic, then there should already be a great business case that will support the financial decision making and airline negotiations to commit to the medium-term program.

Delivering works safely within an operational airfield and managing disruption

With an in-principle operational agreement on the extent of proposed airfield disruption and sufficient funds to deliver the next package of work, preferably 2 years if there is runway impact, attention turns to the detailed planning and further communications with impacted stakeholders. Drafting of a Method of Works Plan (MOWP) is a key deliverable and foundation to the communications with impacted stakeholders including airlines, Airservices Australia, emergency services, etc. The MOWP provides appropriate details of the proposed staging of the package and in some cases, there may be critical interface between different packages. This is an important consultation document that will inform what the Final MOWP will look like and the restrictions the construction team will need to consider and price.

Technical oversight of works, quality assurance and defects rectification

The works are being delivered in a safe and considered manner with appropriate Works Safety Officers (WSOs) in place to supervise the aviation safety aspect of the works. Considering the extensive effort, disruption, and financial expenditure to get the project this far, it is time to ensure that once the works are complete there is no need to return until the next cycle of renewal. This requires collaboration between the construction team and the technical team overseeing the works both physically and through review of quality assurance documentation. All going well, there should be no need to rectify defects once completed but realistically there will almost always be minor defects that need to be closed out to ensure they do not deteriorate over time.

21 MARCH 2023

Welcoming Larger or More Aircraft

It is almost always great news when the Aviation Business Development, or in many cases the small Airport, Team secures agreements to welcome new carriers or the same carriers increase capacity by operating more and larger aircraft.

The increase in airport revenue keeps airports a viable business to support the communities they serve. In considering the increase in revenue there would also be a balanced consideration of the increase in costs and potential disruption to airfield operations. This may include more effort required to accommodate the aircraft including terminal facilities and security, fuel, and air navigation services. The other key consideration is the impact that the change in traffic is likely to have on the life of the pavement and the timing of renewal or upgrade.

The Aircraft Classification Number – Pavement Classification Number (ACN-PCN), or the new Aircraft Classification Rating – Pavement Classification Rating (ACR-PCR), has been used in making commercial decisions balancing revenue to cost where the difference in rating is not unacceptable (i.e. accepting there will be an associated future cost and disruption to undertake works).

The tipping point in that balance would consider the impact on pavement life and the associated disruption to undertake works to address the structural capacity of the pavement to accommodate the aircraft and traffic change, putting aside gross overloads that create safety concerns which would not be acceptable. The engineering behind understanding the impact requires a good knowledge of the existing pavement structures, the supporting earth, aircraft characteristics, and the current and new traffic. 

An increase in tourism, industry or resources can have positive outcomes for the community and their airport. Pavement Engineering considering the safety, cost and disruption implications of welcoming new aircraft is an important part of the commercial decision made by airport operators to enable the desired growth in aviation activity. 

The Bonza bonzer is a great example of positive outcomes that would have considered how the introduction of new services impacted those lucky airports.

11 MARCH 2023

Electric aircraft and the impact on airport pavements

Have you ever thought about what would happen to aircraft pavements if we changed to electric aircraft? Well probably not, doesn’t sound like an exciting Friday night contemplating Einstein's E=mc2, or maybe for some.

The weight of a fully charged battery as opposed to an empty one is basically the same as the weight comes from the battery cells not the charge. So in a hypothetical future where electric aircraft replace conventional fuel aircraft (putting aside hydrogen for the moment), we would need to change our aircraft pavement design principles.

Our current design methodology, for airports that have refuelling facilities, is to only consider the departing aircraft in our traffic mix when designing the pavement, and arrival are disregarded due to the significant weight difference as the fuel is consumed during flight. At an aerodrome where no refuelling is offered then every arrival and departure counts in the design process as the load is the same.

If the weight of the aircraft did not change, as in the case of electric aircraft, then we would need to double the traffic considered in the design calculations assuming every aircraft that arrived will depart. In a hydrogen scenario where the aircraft does consume the fuel, our conventional design principles would not theoretically need to change.

So, will electric aircraft ever get to a size that counts in an airports traffic mix for the design process? Well, the 100-passenger aircraft Wright Spirit based on the BAe 146 platform seems to be looking at the options.

Photo: Wright Spirit Website (