Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

October 29th 2008
Island chopper service mooted

An EC120 chopper Magnetic Times recently made mention that a company is interested in operating a commercial helicopter link to Magnetic Island and was looking at the old Nelly Bay emergency pad as its likely entry/exit point. Since then we have received quite a few letters about the project. We have also been contacted by Mr Gair Bowbyes who is seeking expressions of interest in the project on behalf of Microflite, a Melbourne based company. Mr Bowbyes has provided us with an extensive press release about the project. We have reproduced it in its entirety below.

Helicopter Operations - Magnetic Island
As a handful of residents and commercial operators to the Island are already aware, I represent an organisation that is investigating the potential for a Helicopter Link to Magnetic Island.

I am acutely aware of the risks of disinformation colouring the future acceptability of such a proposal. I would like to take the opportunity, therefore, to outline our proposal and the steps we aim to undertake. Our highest priority is community support, through full disclosure and consultation, as we step through the process. It is therefore prudent that we share this information with you at this, our earliest practical, opportunity.

The Goal
The goal is to link Magnetic Island with the Airport and various attractions on the mainland via an on-demand, low-volume, low-impact Helicopter Operation. In addition to the Airport, the proposed links on the mainland include Jupiters Casino, Billabong Sanctuary, Willows Golf Course, Prawn North, Hidden Valley Cabins and on-demand work with SunFerries. The list is growing daily as we have received an extremely encouraging response via local Expressions of Interest.

The Machine
We propose a single helicopter operation utilizing an aircraft referred to as the Eurocopter EC120. The helicopter is near-new with a $2.5million replacement cost. Capable of transporting four passengers plus the pilot, the helicopter is presented in corporate trim, with leather interior, Bose headsets and an integrated iPod sound system. The Helicopter is fitted with an emergency pop-out float system for flights over water. In short, it is a stunning and luxuriously appointed aircraft.

The Crew
The three pilots likely to be flying the Helicopter in question have in excess of 75 years of flying experience between them. All three received their flight training and experience from within the ADF. They are highly respected within their field of expertise.

Noise and Environmental Impact
A new-generation Eurocopter helicopter flying overhead at 1,000 ft. altitude has a perceivable noise of 68 dB. Compared to regular road traffic, a car will be perceived at 72 dB and a motorcycle at 73 dB. The 5dB split between the noise level produced by the helicopter, and the noise level produced by a motorbike, is the equivalent of, approximately, a 30% reduction in volume. Please keep in mind that this information is valid for the very large helicopters that Eurocopter manufactures. The smallest and lightest helicopter that Eurocopter produces is the EC120. Given that it is lighter, it does not need to displace as much air to remain airborne. This further lessens noise generation and results in absolutely minimal downwash under the rotors. In other words, it produces nothing like the noise and downwash of the Queensland EMS helicopter, with which most residents would be familiar.

The EC120 is one of only three helicopter types (EC120, EC130 and EC135) capable of meeting the strictest noise abatement regulations in the World - those of the Grand Canyon National Park Standard in the USA. This is the result of continuous research into "quiet technologies" to which a large portion of Eurocopter's R&D resources are devoted.

In any case it should be made clear that no operations shall be conducted to the Island without a well-advertised series of trials. Said trials will offer the opportunity for community attendance, comment and consultation. Though it is the quietest helicopter available, it is still a helicopter. It is not, and could never be, completely silent. My family and I very much enjoy and appreciate the calm of Magnetic Island. We have no interest in shattering that calm. I wish to remain open and available for enquiries, advice and new information as deemed requisite by the residents and operators of Magnetic Island.

The old emergency helipad at Nelly Bay

Landing Areas
Two landing areas on the Island are currently being considered in parallel; the 'original' Helipad in Nelly Bay, and the Country Club at Picnic Bay.

Nelly Bay - The original helipad in Nelly Bay offers several significant advantages over other areas of the Island. From a helicopter operator's point of view, the principle advantage is safety. The pad allows for a relatively shallow approach and departure that keeps the helicopter clear of obstacles. This allows for greater power margins in the operation of the helicopter, which further enhances the safe operation of the aircraft. (Please note: we are aware of the overhead wires beyond the pad). The location also allows for an approach and departure that eliminates the over-fly of any property or dwelling, enhancing the safety and further mitigating an environmental impact. Whilst the EPA has confirmed that operations to the pad will not affect the Nature Refuge adjacent the pad, there are plans for trials to the pad. At this time further community consultation shall be sought with respect any concerns that may be raised. The fact that the trees and established vegetation of the Nature Refuge further attenuate any potential noise impact of the helicopter upon local residents is seen as an additional, major advantage.

With respect the 'original' Nelly Bay Pad, there is a recognized prior use of the area as a helipad. It offers excellent and safe access in an appropriate location that is convenient for visitors to the Island, presents well and offers a very pleasant island atmosphere upon arrival. Limited and controlled access to the pad, at the discretion of the Council, and fine-tunable to meet the requests of the residents, allows for a limited impact service to be run effectively and reasonably.

Magnetic Island Country Club - The possibility of transporting Golfers directly to the golf course in Picnic Bay will prove a major boon for the Island. There are ample areas to land with no requirement to over fly any dwellings or cause any discomfort to any of the local residents. There is no reason to over fly any portion of the National Park either. Approaches and departures can be made to/from the North West. Again, it is anticipated that trials be conducted to asses the suitability of the proposal

Profits generated by the Country Club roll over into community projects that can benefit the entire Island.

New Nelly Bay Helipad? - No doubt some will wonder why we have not pursued the use of the new helipad on the spit in Nelly Bay. Effectively the land that forms the spit is owned by DNRW, but the area was never excised from GBRMPA responsibility. Queensland Transport then leases the land that the pad is on, from DNRW, and operates to a limited permit through GBRMPA, for use by the EMS Helicopter Service only. DNRW, as the owners of the land, will not allow the pad to be used for any commercial venture.

All told, this is a good thing. If we were capable of making a legal case to operate to the new pad in Nelly Bay, the new pad would be thrown open to any commercial operator in the region, with any type of helicopter, to operate multiple sorties from that location each day. The potential would then be extant for massive disruption to the calm of Nelly Bay. There is an issue regards the erstwhile use of the pad as a public thoroughfare to the harbour entrance. In addition, beautification of the area poses its own challenges. (Because the spit is still under GBRMPA jurisdiction, one must be careful to eliminate the nutrient run-off from landscaping that would threaten the reef ecosystem. Low loam soils and adaptable plants must be sourced so as to meet with GBRMPA advice). Ultimately, the use of the 'new pad' at Nelly Bay would likely result in a significantly higher environmental and residential impact than the restricted operations proposed for the 'original' pad in Nelly Bay.

Type of Operations
The intention is to link Magnetic Island with other attractions and locations in the region, thus providing an on-demand, rapid transport link to tourists, visitors and residents alike. Certainly such a presence and potential experience has the ability of raising the profile of the Island in the minds, and memories, of its visitors.

It must be emphasized that a high volume operation is neither proposed nor intended. In other words, it is not an operation that would see multiple, ten minute sorties being flown from Nelly Bay. The pad would be used to drop off or pick up passengers that wish to travel to/from the aforementioned destinations. Occasionally the helicopter may be shut-down on the pad awaiting the arrival of a group. There may be limited opportunities to bring more visitors to the Island under specific, event-oriented circumstances. Two examples would be ferry flights from a visiting Ocean Liner, or shuttles from the yet-to-be-built, Reid Park Race Track during the proposed Townsville 400 Event.

Given the height and lateral offset restrictions imparted by the QPWS with respect the Magnetic Island National Park, it is unlikely that a scenic tour of the Island would prove viable. Most helicopter scenic flights are conducted nationally at 500' above obstacles. The 1500' restriction imposed would seriously degrade the experience. We are not planning, nor would we ever be granted, access to land within the National Park boundaries, including Five Beach Bay.

Overall, in terms of understanding the goal, the emphasis is placed upon a low-volume, on-demand shuttle service. In an ideal world the Helicopter Service would dovetail with as many of the Island's commercial operators as possible, attempting, through efficient coordination, to morph individual experiences into a singular, satisfying and rewarding experience for the visitors and residents that choose to avail themselves. Whilst operating to the various mainland attractions and destinations I foresee that the Helicopter could also take up an informal role as a recognisable 'ambassador' to the Island, enhancing the signature value of the Island in the eyes of the local residents and visitors.

Consultative Process
The success or otherwise of this venture hinges almost entirely upon the degree of support from the Community. To that end I plan to establish a website advising those with a vested interest of the progress and ongoing considerations, thus offering an additional medium for consultation and information distribution. Individual and group meetings, mailbox drops, local advertising and letters to the Magnetic Times are further avenues to bolster the consultative experience.

All going well, we would like to be up and running by Christmas time. However, the priority must be that the Project maintain its integrity throughout the consultative process. If that very process were to delay an arbitrarily proposed date for initiation of the service, sobeit.

The Process outline is proposed as follows:
Introduction of Proposal and Management of Disinformation.
Advertise Intent - Proposal Outline (link to project-oriented webpage hub for consultation coordination).
Seek community input and consultation - First Pass
Seek Limited Council Approval for flight trials to be conducted to both locations
Advertise Intent - Flight Trials to be conducted to both locations
Flight Trials conducted with maximum community attendance
Seek community input and consultation - Second Pass
Information assessment and issue resolution in conjunction with the community and TCC
(If successful, seek final Council Approval)
Advertise a "go"/"no go" decision - if "no go" the reasons shall be made public also.

We are committed to addressing concerns and working with the community to ensure initial and ongoing support for what we believe is a significant Service to the Island.

I understand that the process must be open and consultative for it to succeed. I would therefore encourage any resident or operator on the Island to contact me with their thoughts or concerns, at any time. I am also open to advice from residents and operators as to any specific element of the Helicopter Service that they would benefit from. I am keen for the Island to share a sense of ownership in this Project. I would be delighted to present to any interested body. I believe that there are additional possibilities such as school visits to the helicopter whilst in-situ, work with Navy Cadets, SES projects, local assistance for low environmental impact construction works etc.

I look forward to any and all correspondence on the issue.

Kind Regards
Gair Bowbyes
Mob. 0417 467 866

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Island chopper service mooted
Chris C
October 29th 2008
Ed - I apreciate the approach they are taking - i'ts a pity other don't do the same!

My immediate reaction is threefold:
- we don't need it
- I don't want it, and
- they wouldn't make enough to pay the mortgage on the aircraft anyway

Should they manage to get it off the ground (so to speak), I propose that the helipad be as close as possible to Bright Point or Peppers.

Another looking to make a small fortune on Maggie by spending a large one, I'm afraid

October 29th 2008
Firstly, let me express my appreciation that Mr Bowbyes has put his cards on the table. That's a great first step.
Having said that, I notice that he also tries to place other group's cards on the table - perhaps without them knowing it. For instance, with regard to the new helipad, out on the harbour breakwater that is currently used by Emergency Services, he writes that "DNRW, as the owners of the land, will not allow the pad to be used for any commercial venture." Personally, I would like to hear that statement come from the Queensland Government or the Department of Natural Resources and Water.
Another 'for instance': Mr Bowbyes writes that "All told, this (claimed non-availability of the breakwater helipad) is a good thing. If we were capable of making a legal case to operate to the new pad in Nelly Bay, the new pad would be thrown open to any commercial operator in the region, with any type of helicopter, to operate multiple sorties from that location each day. The potential would then be extant for massive disruption to the calm of Nelly Bay." Frankly, if his service is given a licence to operate at the old helipad, so that Nelly Bay has two helipads about one kilometre apart, wouldn't the old helipad be "..thrown open to any commercial operator in the region, with any type of helicopter, to operate multiple sorties from that location each day"?
Lastly, for now, I hope we won't start to see helicopters coming in just after dawn to take passengers to Townsville airport for those 6am departures. Especially passengers who are connected to the V8 Supercars. That would add insult to injury.

October 29th 2008
This is at least a less-invasive method of transporting persons to and from the that I mean, less hydrocarbons in oceans and no need for great amounts of infrastructure...albeit it limited to who can afford it.
It could be a good thing for business, as those on limited time slots could mange to get there and back to the mainland in record time and still be able to visit other attractions or attend meetings . It has potential to improve sections of the economy a little. Port Douglas benefits from its heli service, can't see why Maggie can't.
October 29th 2008
Hi all, and thank you for your comments. I shall try and address some comments straight away.

Firstly, regards the DNRW, I have exchanged a large volume of emails with Queensland Transport and received the following, final reply;

Hi Gair,

Colleen from DNRW advised me verbally on Tuesday that the nature of the lease and the conditions that QT needs to comply with for the Nelly Bay Harbour main breakwater island lease do not allow any kind of commercial activity.

She advised that an email would be forthcoming shortly to myself which I was expecting yesterday. As it hasn't arrived yet I'm letting you know of the reply information.

The helipad usage must remain emergency services use only.

I know this outcome is not good for you but at least gives you definite information that another site at Magnetic Island needs to be identified for commercial operations.

John Plaza
Maritime & Environmental Planning Officer Queensland Transport
October 29th 2008
Chris C

There is plenty of work on the mainland to allow the helicopter to operated viably from a financial point of view.

It would be a constant source of frustration however to inform potential customers that, though they may wish to fly to Magnetic Island, there is nowhere to land.

This is not a proposal linked to Magnetic Island only. It is a matter of establishing a landing site that is suitable and allows for Magnetic Island to be included in the destinations we can transport passengers to and from. Given the developments at Nelly Bay and the demographic of those choosing to now build multi-million dollar homes on the Island, it makes sense that such a low-volume operation to Magnetic Island is both feasible and desireable.
October 29th 2008

Thanks for your input. Hopefully the letter above will answer your question regards the new helipad at Nelly Bay in relation to DNRW.

Regards the use of the pads in question, Queensland transport informs me that they cannot allow a discretionary use of the new pad at Nelly Bay. If it is approved for use commercially, it has to be approved for use by anyone who wishes to use it, from their point of view.

If we were to use the original pad at Nelly Bay, that would be at the discretion of the Council, and the council only. To that end, a specific operating permit may be granted, the pad wouldn't be available to everyone and we could work with local residents to ensure that operations are conducted so as not to unduly impact upon their enjoyment of the environment. This would allow for flexibility and control in response to an on-going consultation with the community as the community develops.
one eyed sloth
October 29th 2008
I have no objection to the concept of an aerial commercial service; however the choices of site are verging on the ridiculous.
There is one and only one suitable site and that is the Nelly Bay Harbour wall for the following reasons:
1. There is a clear 270deg approach direction. Better that the old Nelly Bay site.
2. There are no trees or vegetation on the wall.
3. Any area beautification for the harbour wall site would be low drought resistant grasses for dust suppression and hence little if an run off, as it exists at the moment being bare sterile reclaimed dirt.
4. The old site is on a main road; in averse conditions vital traffic may be stopped for safety reasons. also;
a. Overhead wires (not clever)
b. Nature reserve; noise affects all life forms. Think about it and be reasonable.
c. Vegetation: It grows and when it does, it will have to be reduced (aka cut down and removed) (At your cost or council/islanders?)
d. People use the area for picnics, twitching, fishing, dog walking. The helicopter will raise dust and sand regardless of the type of helicopter (do the physics and fluid mechanics).
5. The following makes the Nelly Bay Harbour wall the ideal and only place:
a. It is well clear of residences, hence noise other than approach and take offf will be minimal,
b. An access road along the wall, a dead end, with planned parking is easily fixed,
c. The area is already a commercial area with ferry and barge, bus and taxis as well as accommodation, shopping, parkng, hire facilities etc. etc.
d. With a little bit of infrastructure, an heliport with departure and arrival lounge, perhaps a flat top bulding with some shops (income from rentals?) could be built.
6. Your problems appears to be lack of finance and trying to get a cheap option at the old helipad site. Sure DNRW and other agencies are slow moving but taking the cheap and quick fix at the old site is indicative that yours is a short term business (helicopters leased rather than bought). Hence, if you're successful, sell for a profit, if not, then minimum loss.
7. Your difficulties with DNRW, GBMPA and EPA etc refusing you access to the Harbour wall indicate that you are not prepared to do the hard yards as a professional, competent, forward thinking, well structured and financed business. If you and your backers are serious and well organised this is what you have to fight for and not roll over on a perceived difficulty. It may take time, effort and money but that is what a real business is about.
8. We on the island want long term commitment; the costs involved in paras 5b,d and 7 would convince some of us.
October 30th 2008
one eyed sloth

...where to begin...

I agree that the new Nelly Bay helipad would be ideal given the considerations you offer. That's why I worked so hard to pin down whether or not it may be available for use.

I have already posted a copy of the letter from Queensland Transport that states quite clearly that we will not be able to use the land. You seem to be suggesting that, if I really put my mind (and finances) to it, this would prove viable. Please, if you forward your contact details I can gladly send you copies of the paperwork exchanged between myself, GBRMPA, DNRW, and Queensland Transport. It is exhaustive.

Queenland Transport, who lease the land from DNRW, have stated that we would not be able to use the land because;
1 There are no allocated parking spaces
2 It would interfere with the use of the boat ramp
3 It would interfere with public access to the head of the spit.
4 It would create dust that would be blown into the surrounding houses.
5 Because of its use as an emergency services pad, we would not be able to shut down on the pad.

In addition, there is no natural noise attentuation, so the noise levels experienced by residents in the bay would be significantly higher than from the original pad.

Because the pad falls also under the jurisdication of GBRMPA we would have to apply for a specific permit, with GBRMPA community consultation. That is expected to cost upwards of $10,000. If one person decides that this is not an operation they would like to see in Nelly Bay, that money is lost - non-refundable.

We have tried a number of avenues. For example, I offered to plant the area myself, at my own expense, to prevent dust, and make for a more inviting arrival point to the island. As each issue was addressed we eventually arrived at the catagorical 'no' in the letter I have posted for your consideration.

In the case of the Red Baron, between the GBRMPA permits and court costs to resolve issues from the AAT, $70,000 was lost. You have to consider that you would have to take DNRW to task (Court?) first, to get them to release the land for commercial use. Then you would have to pay GBRMPA for the community consultation and impact analysis, and one descenting voice would render that entire pursuit fruitless. Would you do it?

It is one thing to finance an operation, but the risks of investment have to be weighed. At present it simply is not viable.

Regards your other considerations;

"4. The old site is on a main road; in averse conditions vital traffic may be stopped for safety reasons".

This is simply not true as Trials will indicate, given a chance;

"a. Overhead wires (not clever)"

The wires pass above the road BEYOND the pad. They were one of several potential safety issues for the Rescue Helicopter when risk mitigating its operations to the pad at night. We would not be operating to the pad at night.

"b. Nature reserve;"

As mentioned, QPWS does not have an issue with the proximity of the old pad to the nature refuge. Please clarify your concern in this regard, and be specific and objective if possible. Is there an animal in particular to which you refer?

c. Vegetation:

Maintenance of the area would have to be negotiated with the Council. I am more than willing to do the work myself. In the meantime the pad is enormous for such a relatively small helicopter. Over the next 15-20 years I would not foresee that there would be any reason to trim trees etc.
d. People use the area for picnics, twitching, fishing, dog walking. The helicopter will raise dust and sand regardless of the type of helicopter (do the physics and fluid mechanics).

If you believe that this would be an innappropriate use of the land, then that is certainly noted and you will have every avenue available to you express your point of view. I appreciate your feedback.

I agree with your points at item 5. That is why I pursued the use of the pad so carefully in the first instance.

Item 6? There is no lack of finance. The helicopter is but one in a fleet of eight, but the only one potentially destined for Townsville. If you believe there is a more appropriate location for a helipad that is neither of the pads in Nelly Bay, for the reasons listed by us both above, please do let me know. I would very much appreciate your input.

I believe items 7 and 8 have already been addressed, but I would emphasize that I am willing to send you all of the correspondence thus far entered into with the respective agencies for your consideration and advice.

I appreciate your candor and your time.
hoyt drake
October 30th 2008
Magnetic Isle has been "chopped" enough, without additional "choppers," thanks !
October 30th 2008
Is this an Omen....another Red, Lean Mean, Flying Machine!!!!

FLUFFYDUCK and ONE EYED SLOTH, if you are directly going to be affected, "re" the noise, stand up and be heard....don't stand behind pseudo names.....or are you afraid of the backlash that will incur for standing up for your rights ? At least give Gair your first real name!!!

Gair has been so upfront about all his companies plans by presenting this here on Magnetic Times, so we can all have a say before it's a goer.

Let's be just and present our reasons to Gair, so that he has something concrete to work with.

Other writers whether you're ***Supporters/complainants ****
please do not berate anyone that has an opinion deferring from nice,or I'll have to slap you with a wet noodle.

After all, if he was stationed here and the emergency medivac wasn't available, surely this would be a life saver for someone, if the interior of the E120 could accomodated medivac airlifts that is?

ps..I've never met or spoken to Gair but just reading his reponses indicates that he is someone that isn't arrogant and very willing to work with the community for the community....
GIVE HIM A CHANCE.... please!!!!

October 30th 2008
Gair: I'm responding to you at this article as it seems to be where the argument has shifted.

If you think being called disingenuous is hurtful then you must indeed have a thin skin. Whether I am embittered or not is beside the point - to paraphrase Chris C
one eyed sloth
October 30th 2008
Linda: Of course I am ambushing (not hiding) behind pseudonyms. Your response "a slap" was meant in humourl, but the more emotive/irrational on this island really mean a slap. In responding I don't want to end up in trouble with physical violence, slander, etc etc.

Remember the shitfight over the harbour? Attack the argument, not the opponent. A differing opinion is not a reason for verbal, let alone physical or material abuse.
one eyed sloth
October 30th 2008
Of course I am ambushing (not hiding) behind a pseudonym. Your response of a "slap" was meant in humour, but the more emotive/irrational on this island really mean a slap. In responding I don't want to end up in trouble with physical violence, slander, etc etc.
Remember the shitfight over the harbour? Attack the argument, not the opponent. A differing opinion is not a reason for verbal, let alone physical, social or materiel abuse
October 30th 2008

Thank you for your very kind words.

In being up front about our intentions I do hope that I may engage in meaningful conversations regards the Pros and Cons of various scenarios. For that to be productive I shall need specific information.

If you live in Nelly Bay and have concerns about the proposal, please ring me. I would be very happy to clear those concerns, or make note of them for closer scrutiny. There may be work-arounds. If there are not, then the proposal will not go ahead and alternative landing zones will be sought. If there is resistance to ANY landing zone on the Island, Magnetic Island won't be included in the region's Helicopter Service.

There are plans for trials to be conducted which would allow everyone in Nelly Bay to assess the impact, both at the pad and from their own balcony, backyard, pool etc. Further concerns can be raised at any point.

If you don't live in Nelly Bay and it doesn't affect you, there is little to be gained in stating that you wouldn't use the service, that you think it's a bad idea economically or citing misleading information. The noise levels shall be assessed by those concerned and the assessment during the trials will be a subjective one, conducted by the residents affected.

Anonymous chest poking, whilst anticipated, will not allow a meaningful, creative and productive exchange.

It was once said that;

"Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it". Ayn Rand

An observation? Sage advice? Perhaps a little of both.

There has been some great information passed already, and I am grateful for the time and consideration of the contributors. From the beginning, having being warned by the experiences of others, I braced myself for personal assaults. It still surprised me how cutting some can be toward a person they have never met, nor are willing to contact in person it would seem.

Overall, we are not looking to base a business on Magnetic Island. We are looking to include Magnetic Island in larger sphere of local operations. That cannot be achieved if there is nowhere to land.

Will you work with us to achieve that goal in a reasonable manner that is acceptable to the community?
one eyed sloth
October 30th 2008
Your approaches to government agencies/bodies are doomed to failure: they do not want any involvement or responsibility. Outlined below are some ideas. Your commercial venture has to be done properly or not at all. You need a partnership with some organisation that can help implement your venture.

Clearly your organisation is essentially transport and that is your forte. But, setting up a commercial helipad is the job of an entirely differet busness vis-a-vis airports/heliports. Other commercial operators do not set up airports/heliports, they just use them and pay for the service.

What your organisation has to think about is that in collusion with an appropriate heliport specialist, they will get past the government agencies by leasing or purchasing the property with undertakings to maintain and administer the site, and make a profit.
Perhaps your organisation should search out such a specialist organisation to contribute something to get a share of the operation, such as a guarantee of continuous operation.

Your approach for providing landing facilities is ad-hoc at best and government bodies know that. I am curious to know who runs/owns/operates your terminal in Townsville and Melbourne.

I am trying to advise you on your venture and suggest ways of setting up properly, not a fly-by-night operation like the Red Baron seaplane, which as a novelty, like side shows and circuses, wears off and moves on.
one eyed sloth
October 30th 2008
Previously I have addressed my suggestions to Gair, in that I am totally opposed to using the old Nelly Bay emergency helipad.

Now I am addressing both the supporters, Gair and the opponents. A trial at the old helipad site, if permitted, will create a precedent, and will be used as the "thin edge of the wedge" for continued use. No trial must be permitted at all.
For the supporters, a terminal at Nelly Bay Harbour, even on the roof of the terminal (which could be constructed as they are on high rise buildings in big cities) or a pontoon in the Harbour are the only satisfactory solutions. Otherwise, the landing site becomes a NIMBY.

So you supporters (tourism, real estate etc etc) who can see more business, support Gair with investment, donations, materiel, PR etc etc. Put your money where your mouth is.

Attack Blue on Blue, who are worried about dust and noise; they are only a minority and the car park is equally dusty and noisy. Support Gair against Blue on Blue and others who don't want a terminal/heliport in Nelly Bay Harbour.

No way must a trial on the old helipad site be allowed; protest on the site, be prepared to be arrested, even hurt, if the trial is going on.
October 31st 2008
My word Gair, what a pot you have stirred! Good luck with the anti-everything crew. Continue to address such non constructive critism so professionally and with such disclosure, follow the protocols required by this process and get your trials and subsequent permits in place. I don't doubt for one second that you will. I'll gladly pledge my support for your proposed venture if you continue the way you are going.

Good luck!

Nelly Bay Resident and home owner
October 31st 2008
Looking forward to seeing the relavant "for" and "against" petitions at local hardwares! Ha ha ha....

Stand up and be counted people!
October 31st 2008
Mr Bowbyes must think that the residents of Magnetic Island are complete idiots to believe that after outlaying 2.5 million dollars on a helicopter and employing 3 pilots that with such high overheads he intends to run a low impact business.

The fact is that to simply break even he will have to be running as many flights in and out of the Nelly Bay helipad as possible, one would think at least as many as 20 to 50 flights per day.

I would challenge Mr Bowyles to reply to this email by return email at and advise what is the maximum number of flights per day that his company is able to undertake.

A commercial helicopter business is just that,commercial.It is there for one reason only,to make money.

October 31st 2008
As a long term island resident i only see this as another nail in the cofin for the full comericialiation of the island. Residents and tourist alike are only drawn to the island due to its peacefull lifestyle.If council allow a commerical helicopter operation i only see this as the start of "what next".
I would also question the intergity of the helicopter opertor, i believe he is from southern states and has no intention to move his complete operation to the north, just set up a sateliate base and send any cash back down south. I have inquired with other local opertors who have shown an intrest in Maggie Island, all have indicated that dont see the Island as finicially viable nor do dare take on the locals.
I have also checked Gair email adress, he appears to be working for a very large global helicopter company that is heavily involved in goverment there something behind this
October 31st 2008
I think having a helicopter service to magnetic island will be a huge step forward for the island. I hate boats, get sea sick all the time. I would also LOVE to see via air the northern end of Magnetic Island and see the bays and beaches that I can not see when I am on Magnetic island. AND, can the helicopter take me to the airport in TVILLE? Well if yes, how good is that !! Please let the helicopter happen. Helicopters are exciting. In Cairns they land approx 200 metres from the public swimming pool on a purpose built pontoon. Everyone watches and gets excitied when they arrive and leave. The helicopter would be a huge improvement for Magnetic Island.
October 31st 2008
When Queensland Transport (QT) closed the Picnic Bay jetty and made Sunferries travel to Nelly Bay exclusively, residents had to accept the logic despite the obvious impact on businesses in Picnic Bay.
Later, QT arranged for the helipad to be upgraded on the breakwater so that ambulances could access at all hours and 'the government' could basically control the situation out there. It all made sense and seems to work fine. And recently QT has spent a further motza installing all sorts of flash aeronautical apparatus out there to make the helipad more functional and effective.
I don't see why that helipad has to be described as "commercial" just because some user other than the Emergency Services helicopter lands there. And anyway, the ferry terminal is a multi-user facility, why can't the helipad be the same? Oh sorry, I'm not asking the proponent to answer this's just a rhetorical question.
November 1st 2008
I agree with you. The ideal would have been that the government place twin pads on the Nelly Bay spit and consult with the local residents for commercial operations to the pad. Twin pads would allow for a helicopter to be shut-down, and still have the EMS Helicopter able to use a pad. I understand, unofficially, that the government bodies, QT in particular, were very concerned that there would be a community backlash, based upon past events. The use of the EMS Helicopter ONLY was an easier 'sell' at the time. Perhaps lobbying for a pad adjacent and outboard of the EMS pad, where the infrastructure is already in place? We can land on grass without causing damage, and the area would have to be grassed anyway. It would not cost the taxpayer, or residents a cent.

Sorry. There's no conspiracy. Give me ring or send me an email and I shall explain it to you.

BTW, not one person has taken up my offer of conversing on the phone. Many of these issues could be clarified with a two minute phone call. I 'genuinely' welcome phone calls on the issues at hand. Mob. 0417 467 866, or email me at if you prefer. If you are concerned about revealing your identity, use a pay phone or establish a hotmail account? The goal is to answer your questions.
November 1st 2008
One eyed sloth

- is opposed to the use of the old pad at Nelly Bay because of its proximity to the main road, the Nature Refuge Area, the overhead wires, the concept that vegetation would have to be trimmed as it grows, the possibility of dust being raised and the alternative community uses of the area in question.
- has offered some genuine insights and alternatives
- encourages local residents to protest, be arrested and hurt as required to prevent trials from being conducted at any time - incongruous given the aforementioned input.
This information has been published to open a channel and establish a dialogue that could proceed, calmly, openly, eliminating the need for anyone to feel they would, or should, have to go to such extraordinary lengths.

"The Argument from Intimidation is a confession of intellectual impotence."
Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, 1964
US (Russian-born) novelist (1905 - 1982)

I am sure that is not a reasonable interpretation in your case. I understand protests when all reasonable channels have been exhausted, and/or the timeline is too near to exercise one
November 2nd 2008
Sorry to be so pedantic (or perhaps I should admit intellectual impotence - whatever) I am just beginning to understand this issue a bit more. I hadn't realised that the proponent in this matter wanted to park the helicopter on site. Of course that makes a difference. It means that, unlike the ferry terminal, the helicopter will be 'stationed' at the helipad and when it is there another user cannot come in.
Naturally, Queensland Transport could not accommodate a parked helicopter (based if you like) at the breakwater helipad. Needing "twin pads" at the breakwater I can understand (now - at last!) why they would describe that as a "commercial" operation. It would be like having the limousine service parking in the taxi rank and expecting all the cabbies to move around him. It sort of turns the ground space into real estate doesn't it?
Looking at the proposal this way raises more serious issues around the 'old' helipad site next to the main road. I can see the attraction of establishing a business on valuable public (Council-owned) real estate.
So I'll toss this one back to the proponent. Why not simply visit Magnetic Island to pick up or drop off? Base the helicopter on the mainland and negotiate a landing-only arrangement at the breakwater helipad.
November 2nd 2008
Fluffy Duck

- is concerned by the potential for a high number of sorties to be flown from the pad
- states that the service would only be available to a limited number of
November 2nd 2008
A Philosophical pause
November 4th 2008

Hi. You have raised some really good points. Thank you.

(BTW, you are certainly not being pedantic. The quote was for 'one eyed sloth's' benefit only, given that a call for a potentially violent protest is tantamount to an 'Argument from Intimidation').

The helicopter would not be stationed at the Island. If dropping someone off at a helipad only, there would be no need to shutdown. If picking passengers up, those passengers would have to be briefed.

That can be achieved in one of two ways.

The aircraft is shut down, the pilot delivers a safety brief to the passengers, the passengers embark and the aircraft departs. Though this may only take ten minutes, shutting down on the EMS pad would 'black' the pad for the EMS Helicopter during that time. This is not possible.

Initially I considered that a call to Air Traffic Control, to confirm the EMS chopper was not bound for Magnetic Island, may allow a window of opportunity, to shutdown, brief and launch without cause for concern. However, the EMS chopper could be diverted at late notice from another task nearby, leaving insufficient time for us to clear the pad. The consequences of such an event, in a worst case scenario, may deprive a patient of lifesaving treatment.

The second option would be to brief passengers on the Island before the helicopter arrives, then have them escorted to the helicopter on the pad with engines running, blades turning. (Certainly in the case of Peppers, Mantra One etc this may be able to be arranged). This means that the pad can be vacated in seconds, with the pilot in radio contact with a 'potentially inbound' EMS helicopter, ready to clear the pad as required.

The worst case scenario would be an event that does not allow the helicopter to lift off the pad, in which case the EMS helicopter could still use the original pad at Nelly Bay, but it would unnecessarily raise the level of risk for the patient given the confusion that would ensue...

...but all of these considerations are avoided simply through the use of the original Nelly Bay pad. Shutting down the aircraft would only entail shutting down for a period long enough to brief the passengers; sufficient to allow the safe and timely load/unload of passengers (10min?) - in much the same way that the Ferry does already. The difference with the Ferry is that you can board the Ferry and have the safety brief whilst you are on board. It is too dangerous for the inexperienced to approach a running, rotors-turning helicopter without a brief or an escort. The period the aircraft is shutdown would only be sufficient for this safe practice to occur.

I have requested a copy of the email from DNRW that states the new pad will not be made available for commercial work. Once I have that document I can make further enquiries and hopefully offer fresh information.

I do appreciate your point with respect operating a commercial business from Council-owned land. Do you know who owns the ferry terminal? I only ask because I would have thought there were a number of parallels, with the exception that the helicopter would operate as an 'on demand' charter.

Again, they are really good points Chasmac. Exactly the sort of issues that need to be raised, in my opinion. Thanks.

November 5th 2008
OK, so let's go a bit further. Because we've become accustomed to the present arrangements which are working well - ie. helicopters at the harbour breakwater under Queensland Transport jurisdiction, old helipad becoming something else under Council jurisdiction - (if I could be the Central Scrutinizer for a day) my preference would be for the facility at the harbour to be upgraded further to accommodate new developments and keep all transport operations in the Queensland Transport enclave. I don't claim to know anything about clearances and dimensions or aeronautical regulation but I agree with the proponent that there appears to be ample space immediately beyond the current helipad where a passive 'twin' could be located. Apart from a concrete slab (with an H) and some extra soil and turf, you'd think that little else would be necessary. Perhaps another access footpath could be created around the bottom side of the perimeter fence as an alternative for pressurised moments, but otherwise all the essential infrastructure is already in place at the No.1 pad.
Also, I would be keen to keep aircraft and 'commercial' activity away from the 'old' helipad (bar exceptional circumstances) as I believe that site and its immediate surrounds are now developing some new recreational functions more in keeping with the local residential area and the wetland, creek mouth, beachfront and dune habitat. One day (soon) we will be glad we kept that strip not built up.
Also, contrary to some observations that have been made (even by me!), Queensland Transport is not a monolithic, inflexible tyrant. Occasionally stiff maybe and easily wounded sometimes because it has been handed a bit of a camel with the Nelly Bay harbour, QT has some doozy long-term quandaries in that space and I believe it is open to some constructive engagement. Let's hope they read MagneticTimes.
November 7th 2008

I agree with you. A twin pad on the spit would prove an ideal solution. The main concern seems to be with QNRW. Queensland Transport has views, but QNRW is the brick wall on this one at present.

(It is only my personal observation, but it does seem that a number of governmental agencies are particulalrly 'gun-shy' about anything to do with Magnetic Island. In seeking facts I am often confronted by opinions espousing the reasons why I shouldn't even try).

The land that the EMS pad is on is sterile, reclaimed land owned by QNRW. It is Lot 106 on SP151994. I have the gazettal information page from QNRW which is available for public distribution. I can send a copy to anyone who wishes.

When I spoke with QNRW they confirmed that we can submit a request to use the land for a commercial purpose, but it is zoned for Community Use and would therefore be turned down. Their concern is that a reversal of that zoning would no doubt draw citicism from the community also, and 'back-flip', if you like, on what the Government said it was going to use the area for. Given the controversy surrounding the original development itself at Nelly Bay, it is understandable that the government is wary of shifting the goal posts. QNRW have suggested that we may present an application, but it shall, in no uncertain terms, be declined.

I would suggest that in a competition between the two pads in Nelly Bay, the 'original' pad would have to have the better case for Community Use. Perhaps it would be possible to sample the community for a change in the zoning. Rezone the original helipad for Community Use and make a second pad available, next the the EMS pad, for commercial use? A community representation to that effect would relax the shoulders of the Government on the issue and may prove successful in the long term. But this is not something I can do myself.

I am prepared to lobby the residents of Nelly Bay in my own time. I shall walk from door to door with a petition, if that is what it takes.

A twin pad on the breakwater would be a good choice, if supported locally, and upon the understanding that it would then be available to any and all commercial helicopter operators. If not supported locally, we would be back to considering the original pad, which can afford some control over the number of sorties, times of sorties etc.

I am aware of the alternate uses that the original pad sees from time to time. Please keep in mind that it is not our intention to change the pad in any way. It would therefore maintain the beauty and integrity of the 'strip' of land you refer to.

I have spoken with two members of the kitesurfing community on the Island. Nelly Bay is an ideal location for them to practise their sport. Having said that, we are all of the opinion that we can arrange operating procedures that will allow us all to operate safely and with full enjoyment of the area. I would like to thank the kitesurfing community for their very reasonable and constructive approach to the issue.

I estimate that we would access the pad for a cumulative total of approximately twenty minutes per week, at the outside. Keep in mind that flights to/from Magnetic Island would represent 3-5% of our anticipated Rate of Effort in the region, and not all of those trips would be to Nelly Bay either.

November 10th 2008
If your company is investing a multi million dollar operation the Far North and acoording to you Maggie Is only represents less than 5% of your expected revenue then where may i ask do you intend tho make the other 95%.
I havnt seen or have heard of any other submissions for you to operate your helicopter in the Townsville region.
I believe that you see the island as the back bone of your operation.
November 12th 2008

Please refer to the release at the top of this page. There is an indication of the major proposed support options for the region, as per Expressions of Interest received from those companies and organisations listed. The sub-para heading reads 'The Goal'.

The reason you have not read or heard of other submissions in the area is simply because the creation of services in the rest of the Townsville Region has proven almost effortless. The creation of a service that includes Magnetic Island, has proven quite the reverse.

As already stated, Magnetic Island is not the back bone of the operation. It would simply be embarrassing to tell visitors to the region, and locals alike, that we cannot fly them to Magnetic Island because we cannot land there. If a solution cannot be resolved, the operation will continue in the remainder of the Region, and Magnetic Island will be excluded.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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