Air traffic tower closure plan rejected

	Invercargill Airport manager Nigel Finnerty says the current level of service is the safest for...
Invercargill Airport manager Nigel Finnerty says the current level of service is the safest for aviation users. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO
The decision to close the air traffic control tower at Invercargill Airport has been rejected by an independent review.

Following an announcement by air navigation service provider Airways it would withdraw from Southland, Invercargill Airport Ltd commissioned a three-month review, which has now been forwarded to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said it was carried out by Astral Aviation Consultants in association with Melbourne-based R2A Due Diligence Engineers & Risk Assessors to understand what level of air traffic management would be required for the airport in the future.

The Airways announcement in May proposed withdrawing air traffic control services or airfield flight information services from seven airports across New Zealand, to cut costs in the face of plummeting air traffic.

The proposal included Airways towers in Invercargill, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, New Plymouth and Rotorua.

The airfield flight information services provided at Kapiti Coast Airport and Milford Sound Aerodrome were also being considered for withdrawal.

At the time, no date had been set for the service withdrawal.

The Invercargill Airport independent review concluded there should be no change to the current levels of air traffic control.

Mr Finnerty said the current level of air traffic control would deliver the safest outcomes.

"It clearly supports no change to the current delivery model and further, states that relying on pilot self-separation, even if enhanced with other technological options, will deliver a less safe aeronautical operation."

In the 12 months to March 31 last year, Invercargill recorded about 22,000 movements, consisting of 7000 using instrument flight rules and 15,000 using visual flight rules.

The CAA is expected to conclude its review in the first quarter of this year, and make its final decision once that is completed.

An Airways spokeswoman said it was aware of the report.

As it stood, Airways was unable to keep providing the existing services at each of the seven airports under the current commercial agreements it had in place, she said.

"The review process we are working through with the airports and the Civil Aviation Authority is to determine one of three possible options: whether we continue to provide the existing services under new commercial terms; if we provide different services at the airports under new commercial terms; or if we stop providing the service."

It was up to the CAA to decide the appropriate level of service needed for Invercargill Airport to continue operating safely.

"Should CAA decide an air navigation service is required for Invercargill Airport to operate, Airways will offer to provide that service subject to reaching a commercial arrangement with the airport."

A CAA spokesman said it had received the review and now the process would include a four-week consultation of identified interested parties and a technical assessment before an independent decision was made.

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