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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The cost of fog at Canberra airport Ward, Marion Wybourn


The airport at Canberra, the capital of Australia, is subject to fog during the winter months. Fog causes delay to passengers and aircraft, and is particularly disruptive since it occurs during the morning peak travel period. The purpose of this thesis is to find appropriate methods of evaluating the cost of delay to both passengers and aircraft, and to evaluate the cost of probable delay due to fog for a typical year, 1978-79. Possible technical and non-technical counter-measures are examined. Meteorological data show that there is a risk of fog occurrence in the morning hours from January to October. The risk is greatest in May, June and July. The risk of fog is highest in the early morning and tapers to zero by 12:30 p.m. Aircraft delay follows this pattern, and the airport is closed longer for arrivals than for departures. Estimates are made of the likely risk of delay at half-hourly intervals by month. The components of the cost of delay are the value of passenger time and the value of aircraft time. In this study the time of business air travellers is valued by a method developed by Carruthers and Hensher (1976), which assumes that the value of time savings is made up of four components: (1) productivity effect (i.e. the average value of an hour's working time and the average value of work done during an hour's business travel); (2) relative disutility costs (i.e. the costs or benefits to the employee of travel in the employer's time); (3) loss of leisure time (i.e. uncompensated to the employee); and (4) compensation (i.e. a transfer from the employer to the employee). Non-business travellers' time is arbitrarily valued at half that of business travellers. Aircraft time is valued at the marginal cost of operating DC9 aircraft on the Canberra-Sydney and Canberra-Melbourne flight stages. Marginal cost is taken as direct operating costs including a capital amortization factor, less some fuel costs, plus a factor to recognise that fog delay occurs at peak travel times. The cost of delay to passengers and aircraft is evaluated using official data on the number of passengers, and airline timetables, to estimate the number of flights and passengers likely to experience delay. The total cost of delay in 1979 values was $A236,393. Of this, 85 per cent was cost to airlines and 15 per cent was cost to passengers. Technical and non-technical countermeasures to overcome delays caused to aircraft by fog were examined. Of these a system called InterScan which provides precision guidance in landing seems likely to be adopted in new generations of aircraft. Alternative solutions include the scheduling of flights so that some aircraft overnight at Canberra and are thus available for the first morning flights to Sydney and Melbourne. This procedure has been adopted for many years and provides a good compromise between the need to meet the demand and the risk of delay. Another alternative would be to relocate the airport, but possible sites within reasonable distance of Canberra are equally subject to fog. Fog-dispersal techniques are not favoured since they are prohibitively expensive and not particularly effective. The conclusion of the study is that although fog at Canberra Airport inconveniences passengers and airlines on a few days each year, the costs of delay to both passengers and airlines are relatively small. They average about 4 cents per year per passenger, and about $A100,000 to each of the two main airlines annually.

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