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CAA asked to take a fresh look at Taupo


02 June 2006

NZ Airline Pilots ask the Civil Aviation Authority to take a fresh look at safety concerns for Taupo

The NZ Airline Pilots Association (NZALPA) is asking Civil Aviation Director John Jones to review again safety issues at Taupo Airport.

“Earlier this week, John Jones asked pilots and aviation experts to speak up about their safety concerns in the wake of the report into the 2003 Air Adventures plane tragedy, ” Mark Rammell, NZALPA President, says.

“We have done just this. The Director’s reaction is that we are ‘scaremongering’, and our concerns are unfounded. Yet we are describing safety conditions our pilots encounter every time they fly into Taupo.”

In the past two years, 70 incidents have been reported at Taupo Airport. Taupo is now busier than most regional airports, which have air traffic control systems. It has the Southern Hemisphere’s largest commercial skydiving operation right over a commercial airfield. This involves over 40,000 jumps each year – or 110 jumps per day.

Mark Rammell says he appreciates there is a very strong commercial lobby group in Taupo, whose operators would face a small increase in commercial costs and associated levies if an air traffic control system was installed.

“Of course there will be different perspectives on this. We also appreciate some operators have been proactive in installing equipment and following procedures to ensure safety,” he says.

For example, Taupo’s biggest commercial airline has its own agreement with other commercial operators that skydivers won’t be dropped when their flights are within the vicinity. This is a safety precaution that ALPA approves. Yet no such safety precaution is known to exist with any other operator at Taupo.

“Without a system that provides for the safe and efficient flow of all traffic in and out of Taupo, we still end up with a hit and miss system – and it is the ‘hit’ potential that worries us,“ Mark Rammell says.

NZALPA is asking that the CAA review again the recommendations its own staff made in a 2004 report on Taupo Airport, in the light of current safety concerns. These recommendations requested an Aerodrome Flight Information System (AFIS) as the bare minimum. While 21 safety procedures were implemented, the report’s main recommendation was rejected on the grounds that such a service at Taupo did not provide a sufficient cost benefit.

“This is not a political issue for us. We gain no commercial benefit, we have no vested interest beyond that of concern for public and pilot safety – safety concerns that would be addressed with an Air Traffic Control System.”


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