Airport safety concerns residents

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
Most Frankton residents are likely to oppose night flights into Queenstown because of safety concerns, its community head says.

Frankton Community Association chairman Scott Freeman said safety concerns rather than noise issues were paramount for people living close to Queenstown Airport. 

''I suspect most are not in favour, purely from a safety point of view,'' Mr Freeman said.

''The noise issue is basically done and dusted. It's primarily a safety issue.

''The reality is Queenstown Airport Corporation and the airlines need to satisfy people that safety is not an issue.''

Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson said QAC was not legally required to consult residents, but would ask for their views.

Airport neighbour Barbara Williams said yesterday's announcement was a ''disaster''.

''Mark my words - there will be a major accident.

''The issue now goes beyond Frankton; it's now a Basin issue.''

She referred to a newspaper report in May 2012, which quoted a veteran commercial jet captain, who could not be named, saying: ''There are a lot of issues presenting during daylight operations, let alone at night.''

''I'm sorry but our greed is putting the lives of locals in jeopardy,'' she said.

Fellow Frankton resident Deryck Marshall (63), a retired air traffic controller, said he believed night flights would be safe.

''Nowadays with the systems it's no different to landing in bad weather,'' he said.

''I don't think there will be any safety issues and as for noise, I wake up early and I'm usually up at 10pm too, so it won't be a problem.

''I live here so I can watch the flights take off.''

In February, the QAC outlined plans to soundproof homes affected by aircraft noise.

More than 150 homeowners near the Frankton aerodrome will receive money for noise reduction home improvements during the next two years.

Representatives of airlines serving Queenstown refused to commit to night flights yesterday after the announcement.

''Air New Zealand hasn't yet made a decision that it will operate into Queenstown after dark but that is being considered at the moment,'' Air New Zealand chief flight operations and safety officer Captain David Morgan said.

''I think the first issue for us is to fully understand the implications of the foundation safety case for Queenstown Airport.

''Air New Zealand operations will then need to consider what it will have to do to put an application to the CAA in order to get its approval.

''The commercial implications of this decision will be considered at the same time.''

Qantas and Jetstar spokesmen said their companies held similar positions to Air New Zealand.

Fears founded in ignorance

No, Mr Freeman, the airport and the airlines do not need to satisfy the community that there are no safety issues, even though the case could easily be argued. 

If you are objecting to this reasonable step forward then the onus is on you to demonstrate why it should not be allowed to happen. 

The navigation equipment used by airliners at Queenstown is highly sophisticated and has proved its reliability.  Landing and taking off at night time will be just as safe as daytime operations. 

Furthermore the proposed widening of the main runway will make Queenstown airport a safer place to operate for the Boeing and Airbus planes that dominate the airline schedules. 

The reported comments of an undisclosed jet captain also need to be put into context.  Topography and weather have always made Queenstown one of the world's more demanding airports to fly into, but the airline pilots who fly here are well trained and briefed on those matters.  

As for Barbara Williams, what aviation expertise does she have that allows her to say so confidently that there will be a disaster? 

There is always an element of risk in aviation, as there is in any human enterprise, but her fear campaign is unfounded.