Whyalla Airport is a public airport located four nautical miles (7.4km; 4.6mi) southwest of Whyalla, South Australia. It has been operated by the council of the City of Whyalla since 1991 after it was handed to the council by the Federal Labor Party who was in power at the time. From the airport’s current Pavement Classification Number (PCN) of 8, the main runway’s PCN has declined to 13. As a result, all heavy aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, are not allowed to use the airport anymore. Although these types of aircraft never operated on a RPT (Regular Passenger Transport) basis, they were a fairly common sight at Whyalla Airport due to charters. Until the late 1990s, Whyalla Airport remained open for use by the Department of Defence C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. Because of the accelerating damage caused by C-130 operations, the City of Whyalla asked the Federal Government for financial assistance to upgrade the main runway to accommodate unrestricted C-130 operations, for the airport to be able to accommodate medium-sized commercial jets like the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft. However, the government declined to offer the City of Whyalla financial assistance to upgrade the main runway. Then-mayor John Smith terminated all C-130 operations in Whyalla immediately, which caused the RAAF to use either RAAF Woomera Airfield or RAAF Base Edinburgh to fly in troops and supplies for the nearby Cultana Army Training Range. The restriction is still ongoing.
As of 2008, the main runway remains substandard for anything other than Saab 340 use or lower. However, the airport is still listed by Qantas and Virgin Australia as the alternate for Adelaide Airport, in case the airport becomes inoperable for whatever reason. Later on, the council underwent the process of handing over the day to day running of the airport to another company, which then will conduct its feasibility study by 2009. At present, however, the airport is still operated by the Corporation of the City of Whyalla and it is believed that a bulky goods store will be established on the airport grounds along with a foodbank.
Airports near Whyalla: