Push for longer runway

ODT Graphic.
ODT Graphic.
A $20 million runway extension for Dunedin International Airport is a case of "not if but when", airport chief executive John McCall says.

He confirmed this week the company was talking to several long-haul budget carriers about flying into Dunedin, with a 500m runway extension "essential to their business".

The extension would enable larger aircraft, from as far afield as the United States or Southeast Asia, to land at the airport, an attractive option for long-haul budget airlines, he said.

A $20 million runway extension would be a "hard sell" project for the airport, jointly owned by the Dunedin City Council and the Crown, because the "community may not have the appetite for this sort of risk".

Invercargill took a similar risk by extending its runway in 2005, at a cost of $5 million, but no international carrier had committed to the airport, he said.

"Our company would not take on that business risk unless we have commitments. As far as a runway extension for Dunedin is concerned, it is a case of not if but when."

If a carrier committed to the airport, a runway extension could be built within a year, as the airport company owned the neighbouring properties and had resource consent, he said.

"It is something we have always signalled in our plans."

While airlines such as Air New Zealand were suspending transtasman flights from Dunedin and Hamilton, long-haul budget airlines were going from strength to strength, despite a worldwide economic downturn.

When deciding to fly into Australia for the first time, budget carrier Air Asia X opted for the Gold Coast rather than Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, Mr McCall said.

A Boeing 747 jumbo flight would add about $1 million of gross domestic product to Otago's economy, so it was not just the airport which would benefit.

"There is no doubt air travel is still the way of the future."

Long-haul budget airlines preferred flying into airports with a 24-hour rating and Christchurch and Dunedin were the likely South Island options.

The city's attractions and close proximity to Queenstown were major selling points, he said.

Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said budget airlines had strong passenger numbers, as they had a "point of difference" compared with major carriers.

Budget long-haul carriers often preferred smaller airports, which were cheaper to fly in and out of, and "Dunedin would be seen as a gateway alternative airport to Christchurch".

"If the only thing holding us back is the correct runway length, then doing something about it would give us a greater chance of being able to service their needs".

Dunedin International Airport chairman and city councillor Richard Walls told the Otago Daily Times he hoped to see the runway extended and "747s coming in from Shanghai".

"This is the sort of infrastructure spend that should be looked at. Christchurch did it and look what happened."

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

Not limited

The Master Plan for Dunedin Airport does not limit any runway extension to 500 metres.
The Board and management are well aware of what aircraft the airlines who may use Dunedin Airport in the future are currently flying .... and they are not 747's.
When the time comes to construct any extensions to the airport - and it will - then the extent of any runway extension will be determined by user requirements, professional advice from our expert airfield advisers, financial viability and, of course, the economic benefits to the city and region.

Takeoff run specifications

Mr Walls doesn't seem to know his aircraft, which is a concern for a DIA Board Member. At MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight), the takeoff runs for the aircraft mentioned (A330, A340 and 777ER) are: A330: 2500m A340: 2990m 777-200ER: 3536m For reference, you couldn't land a 747 on the extended runway either. While the actual takeoff runs may be shorter in practice, with emergency factors included, they are longer then the proposed runway extension. In general, an international widebody flight can be accommodated on a 3000m runway. 2400m is marginal.

Aviation to develop our tourist attractions

While on the subject of airport development, and bigger aircraft in Dunedin, i.e. more passengers coming in, what are we doing for more tourist attractions to meet this? And let's not fool ourselves and try suggest the stadium would be such. I’m talking amenity, to see the diverse, world class scenery that abounds in the entire lower South Island. As in using a plane that is also a classic piece of NZ heritage. A lot of passengers wouldn’t consider an expensive price to go in a light aircraft for sight seeing, so therefore few sceinc flights happen from Dunedin. So, how about a regular scheduled flight using a classic prop driven airliner? A plane that could also be used for ad-hoc charters, like wine and caviar from cruise ship passengers while taking in some of New Zealand’s finest unfurling below them. At the same time they could be enjoying flying as they did when it was fun and glamorous. Aside this, it could undertake numerous other jobs which I’ll comment on shortly. This would be a vibrant development that would leave the stadium for dead, and it might even make money. A number of cities often us a vintage airliner, like a DC-3, for flight seeing. But as they are rare now, maybe something more modern, faster (so a wider range of places can be encompassed). As a civil aviation enthusiast, I’ve been about investigating aircraft with a New Zealand history. I’ll cover two that come to mind for this job. One is a Lockheed L188 Electra, a late 1950’s four engine turboprop, from which the maritime patrol aircraft, the Orion, which RNZAF fly, was evolved). This impressive machine with four 4000hp turbine engines represents the zenith of propeller driven airliners. It could fly at over 700kph. Carrying the same payload as 737, but using less fuel the Electra could actually beat it point to point over distances of 300km or less, due to its fast climb and descent rate, combined with impressive power to weight ratio. For this reason it is still used for freight cartage in England. It’s longevity also lies down to the type’s over-engineering, and the fact the Allison engines that power it are used in a few other aircraft still in use today. In fact that airline in England that uses them has the world’s last remaining passenger configured Electra, which was once owned by TEAL, later Air New Zealand, and it is for sale in serviceable condition. They cannot use it due to a legal wrangle disallowing second hand aircraft purchased from the USA. It has high speed capability, and yet it can slow down and circle over something quite easily. Imagine doing some steep turns over Milford, Mt Aspiring, Cook, lakes and glaciers then be back within just over an hour or so, in full fledged comfort? Combined with larger windows than a jet, this makes the Electra, not only historic, but a practical classic. It was later reconfigured as a combi, which means it has a large forward fuselage cargo door, and the seats can be removed so it can be used as a freighter. Under a company or trust, this aircraft could be charted for use all over New Zealand, be it as mentioned with cruise ships, ski charters, carting stone and pip fruit out of Queenstown, milk, in fact anything that goes inside a palletized container! It has short field capability, so virtually does what a jet can, but can land and take off from shorter runways. Queenstown, surrounded by high ground would be a cinch for the Electra. On top of that it easily fits into stage III noise limits, and given its long range it could even be used across the Tasman, even Asia, for Red Cross work, or carting central Otago stone fruit to Asia. Currently this commodity is double handled from Central Otago into a truck the carted to Christchurch before going on board a jet. The Electra, running point to point with one refuel, could beat this overall time. In a city with such rich and diverse landscapes abound in any direction, it is thus ludicrous we do not have such an investment in use. Maintenance could be carried out in Christchurch. If an Electra is too big, then a Fokker F27 Friendship, which NAC /Air New Zealand used to use, a high wing plane with large oval windows, perfect for sightseeing and now a classic. There so far has been little market because the only scenic flights are a light aircraft at a high price, and many people especially rich Americans would feel more safe in a larger plane, and one they can enjoy the dawn of jet age travel in. the Friendship is limited in speed compared to an Electra, but none the less a great plane for the job, and there is an engine centre in Christchurch that still services its Rolls Royce Dart engines. (Friendships, by the way still fly the post around New Zealand at night). Anyone interested in this classic Electra, should search online under Electra ZK-TEB, (its New Zealand registration – 1959 -72), named 'Atarau'. And to see it as stored today in Coventry, England, for sale, search under Electra N2RK. Anyway, this is the way to bring some decent interest to the city and showcase it to visitors, let us think outside the stadium square.

Thanks for the comments.....

You have it right 'Maccan'. The provision to extend the runway at DIA is in the Airport Master Plan and has been for some years.
It has never been proposed as a case of "build and they will come". Christchurch managed it 25 years ago before corporatisation. That is not really possible now.
Airlines that may require a longer runway to service Dunedin, do not fly 747’s having modern fleets using such aircraft as Airbus 330’s/340’s and Boeing 777 ER (extended range). Modelling of any extension would be done on those and similar aircraft and not on 747's as the report incorrectly assumed. Indeed my only reference was to the aircraft mentioned, in particular, the Boeing 777 ER, a smaller capacity aircraft than the 747.

In response to "Stekemol", it is interesting that the four economists who spoke to the DCC councillors a couple of months ago, did rate a runway extension very high in their investment priorities. The previous government did directly invest in Invercargill's (so-far) unused extension. And the present government is investing heavily in infrastructure. Mmhh!
Whatever, it definitely is not a case of "build and they will come".

Originally posted Sun, 05/04/2009 - 10:58am. Minor correcting edit made Wed, 08/04/2009

Re lengthened runway

Just like the business case for stadium... whats the point of all this tourists coming here when really there is no supporting infrastructure such as hotels etc.
Next, we will be saying these tourists are damaging our environment and we need to control it.


re lengthened runway

No, raven9 this doesnt seem to be a build and they will come. if you read the article, it says there would have to be a business case for it to go ahead. Yes Christchurch and Queenstown in Central Otago have well established airports but so has Dunedin, and they should be applauded for their efforts to grow their business. Re Ian Smith and the hats off to Tim, well the runway there has never been used since extended and many flights that get diverted often didn't go away down south to Invercargill as it was much easier to use Christchurch or Dunedin. Qantas was an occasional user but they have a very poor record of service to Queenstown anyway with significant disadvantages due to planes not being RNAV capable etc. Not many people who are visiting Central Otago would bother going away down south to Invercargill anyway, just more spin from ol' Tim.

Dunedin doesn't really fit the budget airline model

One of the defining characteristics of low-cost airline secondary airports is that they usually have lots of existing infrastructure (ex-Airforce, for example). Because of the existing under-utilised facility, landing costs are very low, because the infrastructure has been paid for.
In contrast, Dunedin has just got a new terminal, and is going to spend 20 mill on the runway extension. Won't they want return on investment? Which would mean higher landing fees, and therefore no budget airline?
Having said that, if there is a real chance of this, it would be fantastic.

Dunedin International Airport

If it's economic and sustainable for long haul budget airlines to use Dunedin International Airport then the extension should be a business decision by the airport company. It would seem reasonable that the firms concerned would pay a significant amount of the cost through landing charges. My concern is these budget airlines are just using Dunedin as a bargaining chip to get lower landing charges at Christchurch.
That said I don't see why Dunedin should bow to Christchurch and Queenstown. Why not grow Dunedin as a gateway for the lower South Island rather than allowing Christchurch to piggy back off the attractions of Otago towns? A truly international gateway would also be useful for immigration with many new migrants currently staying in their arrival city whether Auckland or Christchurch. Then there's the options created for growth in commerce. Dunedin as a true international airport is certainly not an idea that should be dismissed outright. It has the possibility to foster genuine economic growth.
I'm curious, is Richard Walls intimating that central government should come to the party as part of a wider infrastructure spend? At the end of the day this proposal comes down to who is going to pay for it.

Dream on, but check in with reality now and again

Oh, that John Connolly’s dream was possible! The reality is, of course, that Ireland’s achievements were mainly in the 1990s and occurred under vastly different global circumstances in a totally different part of the world in middle of major markets. They are also past history. The Irish economy is now falling to bits like those nearly everywhere else in the world. The “Celtic Tiger” is very sick indeed. GDP is expected to contract by 4 -6% or more in 2009, the unemployment rate is climbing and government debt has become the most risky in the Eurozone. Because of deteriorating public finances, an emergency supplementary budget has been announced for 7 April. One of the consequences has been (John Connolly , please note) that Dell, a very major employer of Irish labour, announced two months ago that it would close its Limerick plant and move the production lines to Poland. Ring any bells? Fisher & Paykel perhaps? The closest major markets to the Taieri are in Asia, and Asia still has cheap labour to exploit – even the ‘high tech’ labour is less expensive. Last year 3.1 million passengers passed through Shannon International Airport, about 8,500 every day. Does that really look like a feasible future for Dunedin International Airport at this point in time, or should wise counsel tell us to wait until we can see what might justify such huge increase in traffic?

Dangerous comparisons

It's important in these discussions to compare like with like. Comparing Limerick with Dunedin is not like for like. The most obvious difference is that Limerick is a one hour flight from continental Europe where there are 700 million people. Dunedin is an hour from Wellington. Limerick can be used as a stopover port enroute to the USA. The main stopover purpose for New Zealand airports is for international drug trafficking. And they don't do a lot of bungy jumping while they are here. An earlier poster hit it right on the button with this ludicrous notion that if we build something, people will suddenly flock here. Be it a stadium or an airport. With all the potential tourist locations in the world, why would tens of thousands of world travellers suddenly decide that they simply have to fly into Dunedin instead of to Athens, Cairo, Florida, or the Gold Coast. Think about it. I love the area, but it is what it is. As for the industrial development in Ireland, that was never brought about by a new airport. It happened as a direct result of massive financial aid and subsidies from the European Union. Something that the Taieri is unlikely to attract. And, again, the site is one hour delivery flight away from 700 million people. Dunedin is a million miles from nowhere. Let's focus on being the best that we can be, rather than aiming for something that we can never be. It's not being defeatest, it's just being smart. And no more talk of comparing a Dunedin stadium with those in Southampton, Toronto or Sydney. The new Sydney stadium, incidentally, is now owned by the bank as it can no longer service its debts. And guys, lay off the Richard jibes, it looks like he has agreed to lay off us now.

the difference ....

the difference of course is that Limerick is under the NY->London flyway - we're rather more off of the beaten track. Equally places like Luton and Gatwick work because they're relatively short train ride from a giant city - we're not. As someone who takes several overseas business trips a year I'd love to avoid traveling through Auckland each time - I lose a day doing that each time. I think Auckland has rather become a bottleneck to trade for the rest of us. A once a week Melbourne->Dunedin->LAX flight would be great, I doubt we'd fill a 777 though and it's not going to be economical until Dunedin is 5-10 times the size it currently is - you can't fly a 737 across the pacific or to Singapore. As someone pointed out above the "build it and they will come" attitude that may saddle us with the stadium white elephant is a problem - we need real economic development first, that's where the local powers that be should be spending their energies - things like bigger airports will happen when there's a real demand.

Longer runway at Dunedin Airport

Once again, we are relying on the concept "build and they will come"... as a city with a small population, planes flying in and out also require the residents to be also using its services. Dunedin does not have the population, nor does its residents have the dollars to travel many times. Even the Otago Southland Employers Association CEO has agreed that the City Councillors have not followed thru properly with the City strategy... CHCH and Queenstown have well established airports. Let's not rely on Dunedinites filling the planes up. One thing worries me again is that Richard Walls is involved in this as well...

Runway extension

A runway extension allowing 747s to land is a great idea! It would be great if the airport becomes our Shannon Airport (in Limerick, Ireland) and the Taieri plain become a high-technology industrial park where firms like Intel, Dell etc establish research plants here. Limerick has a very similar socio-economic and cultural status status. It has only 90000 inhabitants, so I think if Limerick can do it, why can't we? I would also be excited about the prospect for a Dunedin-Shanghai flight, as Shanghai is our sister city. I would be glad if Limerick also becomes our sister city (I was surprised to learn that it hasn't been so already). Then perhaps we will have the Limerick - Shanghai - Dunedin flight operated by Aer Lingus, (if Aer Lingus extends their service to Asia), or Air New Zealand, or most likely, Air China or China Eastern Airlines.......

Lengthened runway

Hats-off to 'Mayor Tim'and his team for their magnanimous and public-spirited gesture in providing a place for flights to divert-to, when Queenstown Airport is closed due to weather conditions. However, for those whose powers of recall extend beyond 'sound-bites' and what was deemed to be newsworthy the day before yesterday, I distinctly recall the self-same 'Mayor Tim' gushing effusively at the time of Invercargill Airport's runway extension, that the work was carried-out on a premise by the local business community, that 'No trip to Queenstown and The Lakes could possibly be considered complete without a day or two spent, coming or going, sampling the many delights of Invercargill' and, I guess, Southland generally. So Southland, Dunedin hasn't a monopoly on 'spin', after-all.

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