Plans for night flights into Queenstown took a major step
forward yesterday, a move hailed as a coming of age for the
• Airport safety
NZSki chairman Sir John Davies welcomed yesterday's
announcement that New Zealand and Australian civil aviation
authorities have approved in principle the safety case for
flights in hours of darkness.
''It's the coming of age for Queenstown Airport,'' Sir John,
a former chairman of Queenstown Airport Corporation, said.
''It will make an enormous difference being able to get in
here at 7pm or 8pm in winter and get out at the same time. It
will just be like the summer.''
Destination Queenstown and Tourism Industry Association
bosses welcomed the news.
At present, flights are only permitted to take off and land
during daylight hours, which restricts airport operations
during shorter winter days, with no flights usually by about
It was announced yesterday that aviation authorities and
airlines will embark on a safety study to assess whether
flights can be made in and out of the resort until 10pm each
The airport corporation must make 66 improvements to
technology and infrastructure, costing up to $10 million,
before night flights are allowed.
Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Scott Paterson
described the news as a potential game-changer.
''The decision by the authorities on both sides of the Tasman
to approve the foundation safety case for after-dark flights
is a potential game-changer for Queenstown's tourism industry
and the regional economy.
''Realistically, evening flights wouldn't be introduced
before winter 2016, but we now have a very clear road map of
the technology, infrastructure and operational steps
And airlines must assess demand for evening services and
apply to the regulator for individual operator approval.
The main changes that must be in place before night flights
start are. -
• Widening of the runway from 30m to 45m.
• Aeronautical lighting for runway, taxiway, approach and
• Customised crew selection and training.
• Fully using the existing ''fly-by-wire'' required
navigation performance (RNP) technology.
This allows pilots to effectively fly blind through the
mountainous approach into Queenstown in fog and limited
• Changes to on-board flight procedures to reduce pilot
workload on final approach.
Mr Paterson said the airport would not press ahead with the
upgrades until it was clear there was commercial demand from
Asked how much of a game-changer it would be for tourism in
the Wakatipu, Mr Davies, whose NZSki firm operates Coronet
Peak and the Remarkables skifields, said it would be a
massive boost to the ski industry.
''There's no question it's going to be an enormous change,
particularly in that winter period when you've got short
daylight hours. It will make an enormous amount of
difference,'' Mr Davies said.
Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd described
it as a boost to tourism.
''It is a significant development in supporting the future
growth of the visitor market into Queenstown and will enhance
the visitor experience given that airline schedules will be
able to be extended to more convenient hours across the
The safety case to the transtasman authorities was presented
jointly by Queenstown Airport Corporation and Navigatus
Mr Paterson said advanced navigation technology now in place
in Queenstown had been a key enabler for night flights.
Required navigation performance authorisation required flight
procedures were introduced by Airways New Zealand in 2012,
allowing jets to fly precise paths in a range of weather
Technical experts from Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas,
Airways, QAC and Navigatus began working together on a
foundation safety case in 2012.
''The absolute focus during this highly professional
collaborative process has been safety and I'm very pleased to
say that at no time during development of the safety case
have commercial influences affected operational risk
judgements and decisions,'' Civil Aviation Authority general
manager air transport and airworthiness Stephen Hunt said.
''This has been the most comprehensive safety case that has
been presented to Civil Aviation.''
QAC minority shareholder Auckland Airport, with 24.99%, has
praised the decision.
''Today's announcement will benefit New Zealand's tourism
industry more than we can imagine,'' Auckland Airport general
manager corporate affairs Charles Spillane said.
''It is great news for our travel and tourism industries.
''Evening flights will significantly benefit passengers and
Tourism Industry Association acting chief executive Chris
McGeown said night flights had the potential to boost
Queenstown's tourism sector and the wider economy.
''Not only will after-dark flights create jobs at the
airport, but they will also create opportunities for
businesses across the region served by the airport.''