CAA criticises reluctance of operators

The Civil Aviation Authority says all adventure aviation operators in the Southern Lakes region should be fully certified under new regulations by Monday, but it was "not a good example" of how certification should be done.

Spokeswoman Emma Peel said three operators had been certified, two more were due to be completed yesterday and about seven would be dealt with before Monday.

The new CAA regulations for adventure aviation came into force on Tuesday.

Parachute operators were the first sector to be covered, meaning they now had to be certified in the same way as small airlines.

However, operators across the country - including in Southern Lakes - had not made the certification process easy, Ms Peel said.

"We've been really up against it. Nobody got their applications in in good time.

"Despite having six months to get these applications in, they've all arrived at the last minute.

"They've been incomplete [and] our guys have been working solidly for the last seven weeks [on the process].

"This is not a good example of how certification should be done."

Ms Peel said the CAA had put in "an enormous amount of extra effort" to get the operators "across the line" in the certification process, which was designed to give assurance to their respective clients.

When asked why operators had appeared to drag their feet, she said there appeared to be an initial resistance across New Zealand around the certification process.

"We think there was initially some ... sort of view that if they were slow or delayed in getting applications in, then somehow they wouldn't have to comply or the rule wouldn't apply ... these orders are in place for the travelling public, who don't know the risks they are or are not taking on when they buy a ticket."

APNZ reported yesterday two Northland companies - Skydive Ballistic Blondes (Whangarei) and Skydive Zone Bay (Bay of Islands) - have been temporarily grounded because they did not meet the new rules.

Ms Peel expected both companies to "get there" yesterday, but said both were grounded because it was "just another case of not getting applications in on time".

Ms Peel said the certification process gave clients an assurance when they bought a ticket for any adventure aviation activity "they don't have to be an aviation expert to determine what risks they're taking on".

While some operators had to make only minor changes to become certified, others had to upgrade from a "hobby-like environment" to a professional aviation operation.

"For some it's been a huge step up."

Sunrise Balloons owner Hugh McLellan, of Queenstown, said while he could understand where the CAA was coming from "there were probably faults on both sides".

The six months given by the CAA to ready businesses for the compliance was "a bit rushed".

"... We were working on it right over the busy time of year."


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