Airspace protection

Find all information to provide a safe, efficient and predictable environment for aircraft to arrive and depart in all conditions.

Maintaining a safe operating environment

The protection of the immediate airspace around Darwin International Airport is essential to ensure that we maintain a safe operating environment and to provide for future growth for the airport.

The airspace around Darwin International Airport is protected under the Commonwealth Airports Act 1996, the Airports (Protection of Airspace) Regulations 1996. Darwin International Airport is jointly used with the Department of Defence and the Defence Aviation Areas Regulations 2018 also apply for RAAF Base Darwin.

Protected airspace
International standards have been adopted which define two sets of invisible surfaces above the ground around the airport. The airspace above these surfaces forms the airport’s protected airspace. These two surfaces are:

The OLS is generally the lowest surface and is designed to provide protection for aircraft flying in or out of the airport when the pilot is flying visually (by sight).

The PANS-OPS is generally above the OLS surface and is designed to safeguard an aircraft from collision with obstacles when the aircraft’s flight may be guided solely by instruments.

Controlled activities
Controlled activities require assessment and approval before they can be carried out and include the following:

  • Constructing permanent structures, such as buildings, intruding into the protected airspace
  • Temporary structures such as cranes intruding into protected airspace
  • Any activities causing intrusions into the protected airspace through glare from artificial light or reflected sunlight, air turbulence from stacks or vents, smoke, dust, steam or other gases or particulate matter.

The Regulations differentiate between short-term (less than 3 months) and long-term controlled activities. The regulations provide for the airport operator (in consultation with Defence and Airservices) to approve short-term activities. Long term controlled activity requires approval by the Department of Infrastructure and Defence, any long term intrusions of the PANS-OPS surface are prohibited.