Passenger repatriated from resort in private jet

Queenstown Airport. Photo: ODT files
Queenstown Airport. Photo: ODT files
A private jet has flown from Sydney to Queenstown to pick up a single passenger for their repatriation across the Tasman to Australia.

In the fifth such repatriation flight in and out of Queenstown since the borders closed — in all cases carrying people out of New Zealand — the twin-engined Embraer Phenom 300 landed just after noon on Tuesday, with an Australian pilot at the controls.

It picked up the passenger on Tuesday — whose identify and nationality were unknown — then took off again, all in the space of about 30 minutes.

The Brazilian-made jet is owned by Australian safety equipment supplier Special Mining Services based in Glenorie, New South Wales.

Queenstown Airport safety and operations general manager Mike Clay said that three of the five flights occurred soon after the imposition of Level 4 lockdown last March.

No direct repatriation flights carrying New Zealanders home from abroad have landed in the resort.

The airport worked with border agencies, the Southern District Health Board and Queenstown Corporate Jet Services (QCJS) to ensure Covid-19 health and safety protocols were followed, he said.

QCJS manager Vickie Hill said "client and business confidentiality" meant she could not reveal the passenger’s identity or nationality.

"From time to time, during the current climate, we get requests for people to return to locations outside New Zealand," Ms Hill said.

A special application had to be made for the flight, including getting approval from the New Zealand and Australian governments, but no-one officially entered the country as the airport’s tarmac was considered international airspace.

The pilot, passenger and ground staff were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and maintained at least 4m distance from each other, she said.

Southern DHB regulatory and protection team leader Susan Moore said its role was to check appropriate procedures for disembarking, physical distancing and PPE were followed, and was satisfied that had been the case.

The pilot got out of the plane for a pre-flight inspection and refuelling of the aircraft, but had no physical interaction with anyone before getting back on board, Ms Moore said. — Mountain Scene

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