13 failed to pay landing fees

Cheapskate pilots or aircraft owners not paying landing fees at the Alexandra airport have been caught on camera by the Central Otago District Council.

The council's latest activities report says 13 people were caught in March and all had been billed $20 - the $5 landing fee plus a $15 booking fee.

Those landing fees, $5 for a single-engined plane or $10 for a twin-engined plane, are meant to be paid into an honesty box, with a record of the aircraft's registration number and time of landing.

The $400 motion-activated bush camera, installed near the taxiway was the plan B after the first trial option did not work out.

A six-month trial was carried out by a private contractor which recorded radio frequencies on landing but too many errors were made and the trial was scrapped.

Central Otago Flying Club president Russell Anderson said it was not local pilots but out-of-towners that were thought to be the culprits.

He said the camera was also catching ''young fellas'' driving on the runway who were consequently receiving fines of up to $2000.

Cars driving on the runway meant stones on the runway, Mr Anderson said.

Stones can be picked up by a plane's propeller and take chips out of it, potentially costing the aircraft owner up to $10,000.

Stones would also be a potential problem for aircraft taxiing to new fuel pumps but the council would pay more than $16,500 to asphalt previously undeveloped ground between the tanks' new position away from the runway.

Mr Anderson said the old fuel tanks were underground and had reached their useful life expectancy but Z Energy was building a new fuel terminal.

Council property and facilities manager told councillors this week that keeping a fuel supplier at the airfield had been a concern.

Declining use of the airfield had resulted in the supplier keeping a close eye on the volume of fuel sold.

''It was a case of touch and go whether we would retain the supply of fuel at Alexandra, or lose it as have some other smaller airports around the country recently,'' council property officer Brian Taylor said in a report to council.

Mr Kerr said had the supplier had pulled out, the airport would have had an ''uncertain future''.

Councillors approved the unbudgeted $16,500 expense, but not all were quick to do so.

''I'm not saying we shouldn't do it ... but it's never-ending, just a drain on our resources,'' mayor Tony Lepper said. Mr Kerr said retaining the fuel service would, in the long run, potentially attract more aircraft owners to build hangars, which would enable council to collect more in rates.

- sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz

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