Aviators planning legal action

Doug Maxwell.
Doug Maxwell.
Alexandra aviators are planning legal action over an application by Christchurch company Skybase to establish 500sqkm of restricted airspace in Central Otago.

Helicopter operator Doug Maxwell told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he expected hiring a lawyer would be necessary to ensure Skybase's application to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was not granted.

Skybase wants an area in which to test unmanned aircraft ''beyond line of sight'' but has run into turbulence resulting from Alexandra aviators' concerns about safety and restrictions on their normal flying activities.

''We're all putting in money to pay for the legal side because we've got nowhere with CAA,'' Mr Maxwell said.

''We've got no knowledge to be able to fight them (Skybase), so you've got to go the legal way.''

The public has until November 7 to make submissions to CAA on Skybase's application.

Skybase chief executive Michael Read said yesterday he was asking CAA for more time to deal with the issues arising from the application.

''It takes time to get around and talk to people and we want to make sure people feel consulted and so we are going to request CAA just push the timelines to the right to give everyone some time and space to communicate and talk.

''That's something we are discussing with them at the moment.''

Mr Read said the restricted airspace would be used to ''operate occasionally'' and would be ''temporary'' until testing was completed.

''It's not in anybody's interests to have a restricted area.

''So, this is why it's temporary, and we use it occasionally and as little as possible.''

When asked how long the restricted airspace might be required for, Mr Read said: ''We have a target of mid-next year of having made significant progress with it, but at this stage there are still lots of unknowns''.

The CAA document put out for public consultation refers to the restricted airspace having a ''permanent designation'', however Mr Read said that was incorrect and not what he had applied for.

''It's temporary.''

Mr Read said last week that, because of the opposition, he was considering going elsewhere to carry out testing. However, yesterday he confirmed his application had not been withdrawn.

mark.price@odt.co.nz

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