Airspace protection

The protection of airspace is essential to provide a safe and predictable environment for the arrival and departure of aircraft using the airport. Any activity that will result in the intrusion of protected airspace, such as controlled activities, crane use, external lighting, balloons and unmanned aircraft (drones and rockets), requires approval before it can be carried out.

Controlled activities

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development protects the airspace around leased Federal airports under the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Protection of Airspace) Regulations 1996. The protection of airspace is essential in order to provide a safe and predictable environment for the arrival and departure of aircraft using an airport.

International standards have been adopted which define two sets of invisible surfaces above the ground, these include:

  1. Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS): a defined area of airspace designed to provide protection for visual flying (VFR) operations, where the pilot is flying by sight. All existing and potential obstacles must be assessed to ensure that any impact on aircraft operations is identified.
  2. Procedures for Air Navigation Services – Aircraft Operations (PANS-OPS): a defined area of airspace designed to provide protection for instrument flying (IFR), where the pilot is reliant on instrument navigation. PANS-OPS surfaces may also include protection of the airspace around navigation aids that are required for instrument flying activity. PANS-OPS surfaces are not permitted to be infringed in any circumstance.

Any activity that will result in an intrusion of protected airspace are referred to as controlled activities and must be approved before being carried out.

Controlled activities include:

  • Permanent structures, e.g. buildings
  • Temporary structures, e.g. cranes
  • Glare from artificial light or reflected sunlight
  • Air turbulence from stacks or vents, smoke, dust, steam of other gasses or particulate matter.

The approval process:

  1. Moorabbin Airport Corporation (MAC) will complete an initial assessment of a Controlled Activity Application to determine whether the activity will cause an intrusion into the OLS or PANS-OPS surface and the extent of any intrusion.
  2. If there is an intrusion, MAC is required to seek further assessment from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), to assess the impact of the intrusion on aviation safety, and Airservices Australia, to assess applications that will result in the penetration of the PANS-OPS surface or require a temporary redirection of flight paths.
  3. The comments from CASA and Airservices will then be provided to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to approve/refuse the application.
  4. Controlled activities less than 3 months in duration may be approved by MAC following assessment by Airservices and CASA.

Operating cranes

Operating cranes

Crane operations in the vicinity of an airport have the potential to create air safety hazards and to seriously limit the airport's operations. For this reason, they are required by law to be assessed and approved under the Commonwealth's Airports (Protection of Airspace) Regulations.

It is an offence under Section 183 of the Airports Act 1996 to carry out, without approval, crane operations which intrude into an airport's protected airspace. This offence is punishable by a fine. It is an offence under Section 185 of the Airports Act 1996 to contravene any conditions imposed on an approval. It is also an offence under Section 186 of the Act not to give information to the airport operator that is relevant to a proposed controlled activity.

How to apply

At least 28 days prior to the crane activity, please provide Moorabbin Airport Corporation a completed Controlled Activity Application Form.


External lighting restrictions

External lighting restrictions

CASA has the authority, under the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988, to control ground lights where they have the potential to cause confusion or distraction (from glare) to pilots in the air. To assist lighting designers and installation contractors, CASA has established guidelines on the location and permitted intensities of ground lights within a 6km radius of airports.

View diagram depicting the lighting intensity guidelines with respect to Moorabbin Airport's two lit runways (17L/35R and 13L/31R).



Small balloons (<50 grams of payload) released in large bunches can pose a safety hazard to aircraft by distracting pilots or getting caught in engines and propellers.

It is a requirement under Civil Aviation Safety Regulation – 1998 (CASR) Regulation 101.55 that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approves the release of balloons into airspace surrounding an airport.

Balloon release approval

For the release of more than 100 balloons, please email Moorabbin Airport with details of time, location and volume of the proposed balloon release. If CASA approval or notification is required, information about the balloon release must be received by MAC at least 14 working days prior to the event.


Requirements for the release of small balloons

Number of balloons to be released at one time  Distance from place of release to nearest aerodrome 
  Less than 3 nautical miles (5.5km) 3-6 nautical miles (5.5-11km) 6-12 nautical miles
Over 12 nautical miles (22km) 
 101-1,000  CASA approval  NOTAM  ATC advice  ATC advice
 1,001-10,000  CASA approval  CASA approval  NOTAM   ATC advice
 Over 10,000  CASA approval  CASA approval  CASA approval  NOTAM 

CASA approval - CASA must assess and approve the balloon release.
NOTAM - CASA approval is not required, but the information must still be provided to CASA so that a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) can be issued to aircraft operators.
ATC Advice - CASA approval is not required. However, as a courtesy to Air Traffic Control, it is requested that information about the balloon release is provided.

Unmanned aircraft

Unmanned aircraft

Unmanned aircraft, such as drones and rockets, can pose a serious hazard to aircraft operators.

The following restrictions for the use of unmanned aircraft within 3 nautical miles (5.5km) of Moorabbin Airport:

  • Unmanned aircraft can be operated in controlled airspace, which covers most of the Melbourne area, up to 400ft (120m) above ground level so long as they are operated in accordance with Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR) 101.070 and 101.075 Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) 101.070 and 101.075
  • Unmanned aircraft should not be operated within 3 nautical miles (5.5km) of Moorabbin Airport
  • Unmanned aircraft are not permitted to operate on the approach or departure paths or over the movement areas or runway of the airport
  • Unmanned aircraft must not create an obstruction of a hazard to an aircraft using the airport (see CASR 101.075)
  • For operations above 400ft (120m) in controlled airspace, or other operations that are on the approach or departure paths or over a movement area or runway of an airport, the person requires an approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and, in the case of controlled airspace, can only operate in accordance with an air traffic control clearance. Such operations are normally only ever permitted for a person operating with the requisite CASA certification and qualifications and not for a hobbyist operating their unmanned aircraft for sport and recreation purposes.

It is illegal to fly for commercial purposes (money or other reward) unless you have an unmanned operator’s certificate issued by CASA.