REX plane takes off at Ballina Airport.
REX plane takes off at Ballina Airport. Marc Stapelberg

No security screen for Rex flight

IN THE wake of the recent terror threat, patrons flying from the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport felt uneasy when no security checks were completed before they boarded their flight yesterday morning.

One passenger of the early Sydney bound flight, Kelly Anderson, said she felt extremely unsafe throughout the duration of the flight.

"With everything that has gone on in the media lately I was really shocked that there was no security at all,” Ms Anderson said.

"The regional airlines are probably the most vulnerable and they are still flying into those larger airports.”

"Anyone could have walked on with anything on that plane and no one would of even realised until something had happened.”

Ms Anderson's parents were so distressed to hear the airport's operations and security measures were so laid back, they wrote to the airport to find out why they were being so careless.

Acting Airport Manager at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, Howard Ludgate said he was sorry to have caused the patrons concern, however the airport complied with the procedures outlined in the Commonwealth Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005.

"The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development administers the Regulations and sets the security requirements for each airport based on a categorisation of the operations at the airport,” Mr Ludgate said.

"This Rex flight operated in accordance with those requirements.”

A spokeswoman from Rex said the Office of Transport Security's current assessment concludes that turboprop aircraft's weighting over 20 tonnes present a level of risk significant enough to warrant security screenings at regional airports.

"Rex's Saab 340 aircraft that are deployed on the Ballina route are below the 20 tonne threshold and do not require screening,” she said.

Lismore Airport has also received similar scrutiny in recent weeks, stating the times of the 'honour system' are outdated and regional airports need to keep up with the threats of today.

Page MP Kevin Hogan said the recent terror alert has also highlighted other airports that have also seen similar security protocols as those in Ballina.

"I think it was in Wagga, if you were flying out on a Rex you weren't subject to a screen but if you were flying out of Qantas you were - now obviously that anomaly raises questions, and I know that will be looked at.”

Mr Hogan said the Federal Government is now completing a review into security at all regional and suburban airports.

"The review will look into this and Minister Chester wants the security agencies feedback on it given the current situation.”

Both Lismore and Ballina airports have said they welcome the review and will implement whatever the Government deems necessary for each airport.

Mr Hogan said he hopes the review will be completed in the next few months.

In the meantime, Lismore City Council's Commercial Services Business Manager, Kevin Trustum, said council is already in discussions with Rex to ensure patrons safety.

"Council has been more vigilant around inspections and is working with Rex to address any security issues we may have locally,” Mr Trustum said.