You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Air New Zealand's former deputy chief executive says a report from the Wanaka Stakeholders Group stating ATR turbo-prop aircraft can fly direct from the town to Auckland is an "oversimplification and therefore misleading".
The group released a report compiled by Wanaka-based airline captain Terry Hetherington, who researched and calculated the capabilities of the ATR 72-600 aircraft and found they "can indeed fly between Wanaka and Auckland".
But Queenstown Airport Corporation director Norm Thompson said just because an aircraft could operate on a certain route did not mean it would.
Mr Hetherington said his research was peer-reviewed by two experts, who agreed with his findings.
To land ATRs, the Wanaka Airport runway would need to be extended, requiring some capital outlay.
"However, this would not be anything close to the development required to allow jets to land at Wanaka [as they require less runway length and strength].
"I am firmly of the view that if QAC build a jet-capable airport they will not and cannot settle for five return services a day, as they have suggested.
"Ultimately a jet-capable airport will need to be busy to be profitable.
"If the suggested redevelopment of Wanaka Airport is about putting on a reasonable number of services for the local population, then aircraft like ATRs can help fulfil that need."
But Mr Thompson said each airline had its own operating parameters, "generally more conservative" than technical specifications and consideration was given to numerous factors.
They included the environment, operational requirements, pricing, schedules and customer experience, such as flight time, passenger comfort and baggage space, particularly for oversized items such as skis, bikes and golf clubs.
"Our airline partner who operates ATR turbo-prop aircraft within New Zealand has indicated to us that they would not operate turbo-prop aircraft on the Wanaka-Auckland route, instead preferring to operate their A320 narrow-body jet aircraft on the route.
"Ultimately, it is for the airlines to decide which aircraft types they operate. However, there are clearly reasons why only narrow-body jet aircraft are operated on direct services from the lower South [Queenstown, Invercargill and Dunedin] to Auckland," Mr Thompson said.