Sydney Airport arrivals – south flow
Suburbs to the north of the airport are affected by aircraft arriving to the parallel runways when they are being used in a southerly direction, (“south flow”) as shown by the flight paths labelled A1, A2, A3 and A4 in the image, right.
Arriving aircraft must align with the runway from a considerable distance out from the airport, and fly straight in. The aircraft that fly over the northern suburbs are either travelling to align with the runway and join the final approach (flight paths A2, A3 and A4), or are already lined up with the runway and on the final approach (A1).
Aircraft travelling to join the final approach are being “vectored” by air traffic control. This means each aircraft is being given its own heading and altitude to allow it to intercept the final approach path, while maintaining safe separation from all the other aircraft around it.
These aircraft are well into their descents for landing and are continuing to descend under air traffic control instructions. This means that the altitude of each aircraft will vary according to how far it has left to fly before intercepting the final approach and the altitudes of other aircraft in the area. Aircraft will generally intercept the final approach at around 3000 feet in altitude.
Learn more about noise sharing and the Long Term Operating Plan
While it might seem like the northern suburbs are a long way from the airport, in aviation terms they are relatively close. For example, the flying time to the runway from Wahroonga is less than five minutes, and less than three minutes from Hunters Hill.
The images below show the actual tracks of aircraft arriving over the northern suburbs. These show the spread of aircraft that is created by the act of vectoring. This spread is deliberate as it is part of the noise sharing strategy set out in the Long Term Operating Plan for Sydney Airport.
The first image is zoomed in on your area:
The next image is zoomed out to show the approach all the way to the runways.