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Queenstown Airport Welcomes Green Light on Evening Flights

Media release from Queenstown Airport Corporation

QUEENSTOWN AIRPORT WELCOMES GREEN LIGHT ON EVENING FLIGHTS
Go ahead from CAA and CASA paves way for flights until 10pm once new technology in place.

Queenstown, New Zealand (6 May 2014) – Future holiday makers could fly year-around into Queenstown up to 10pm following a decision by aviation authorities today to approve the foundation safety case for after-dark flights into New Zealand’s premier four season resort.

Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) Chief Executive Scott Paterson welcomed the green light from New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

“The decision by the authorities on both sides of the Tasman to approve the foundation safety case for after-dark flights is a potential game changer for Queenstown’s tourism industry and the regional economy,” he said.

Queenstown Airport has long been consented for flights until 10pm, however in practice this meant evening flights could only occur in summer, as flights are currently limited to daylight hours.

Advanced navigation technology now in place in Queenstown has been a key enabler for after-dark flights. Required Navigation Performance Authorisation Required (RNP AR) flight procedures were introduced by Airways New Zealand in 2012, allowing jet aircraft to fly very precise paths in a range of weather conditions, improving airspace capacity and operational efficiency.

“Realistically, evening flights wouldn’t be introduced before winter 2016, but we now have a very clear roadmap of the technology, infrastructure and operational steps required to enable it to happen,” Mr Paterson said.

The next step would be for airlines to assess demand for evening services and apply to the regulator for individual operator approval should they wish to operate after-dark flights to Queenstown.

“Evening flights would be a huge plus for travellers and for local businesses, particularly in the busy winter months,” said Mr Paterson. “Extending the airport’s operating window would give travellers more flexibility, provide better connectivity across airline networks, and improve their airport experience – peak times would be more spread, with less pressure on facilities and services.”

Mr Paterson also paid tribute to all those involved in researching and reviewing the safety case over the past two years.

“Safety always comes first and this has been a huge collaborative effort for us all to put aside our individual commercial interests to work together and prepare a comprehensive safety case.”

Technical experts from Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas, Airways and QAC, facilitated by risk management experts Navigatus Consulting, began working together in June 2012. They researched the safety requirements to meet and exceed all the safety thresholds for evening operations in the Queenstown airspace environment, taking advantage of new technologies such as RNP AR.

The working group found that the additional infrastructure and onboard technology required to land and take off in darkness would also enhance the safety of operations during the day.

The main elements required to be in place before the commencement of after-dark flights are:
• Widening the runway to 45m (from the current 30m)
• A comprehensive aeronautical lighting package (runway, taxiway, approach and off-airport lights)
• A customised crew selection and training package
• Employing the full capability of the existing RNP AR technology
• Changes to on-board flight procedures to reduce pilot workload on final approach
• Individual airline applications and approvals.

“Queenstown Airport will keep the community informed as we make the required investment, and work through this process with our airline partners and aviation authorities,” Mr Paterson said.

The ability to offer evening flights is expected to more evenly distribute the peak load on the airport, which has seen passenger numbers grow by 30 per cent over the past three years. According to New Zealand Airports Association research (2013), the economic benefits associated with Queenstown Airport are almost $275 million per year and this is now expected to grow.

The introduction of further evening flights would require the introduction of a ‘split-shift’ operating model at the airport, potentially adding significant numbers to the 300 people already working in and around Queenstown Airport.

Mr Paterson said in effect the new evening flight schedule would be like extending the current summer flight window.

“For leisure travellers it would make weekend holidays from Auckland and Australia possible year-round. It would also give business people more flexibility with their travel plans and potentially allow people to base themselves in Queenstown and commute to other main centres for work.”

ENDS

Note to editors:
Please find attached a backgrounder with further detailed information and airline quotes..

BACKGROUNDER - QUEENSTOWN EVENING FLIGHTS
Queenstown Airport – responding to passenger growth
Queenstown Airport (ZQN) has seen strong growth in scheduled airline activity in recent years and its infrastructure has been continously evolving in response to the needs of increased domestic and international travellers.
The airport has seen a 30 per cent rise in passenger numbers over the past three years alone. During the 2012 financial year, the annual volume of passengers passing through Queenstown Airport broke the one million mark only to be eclipsed by an additional 20 per cent in the 2013 financial year.
QAC has already implemented a range of initiatives to get ‘more out of the terminal’ without compromising the visitor experience in order to cater for passenger growth and address operational and infrastructure pressure points. These measures include:
Flexible infrastructure – where possible this has been installed to allow for a swing between different modes of operation. This gives the airport the ability to adapt and cater to the shifting demands of domestic and international passengers throughout the day. Examples of the flexible infrastructure are:
Common check-in hall and baggage make up, retail area and arrivals hall – all can be used at all times for turbo-prop, domestic jet and international jet operations.
Passenger security screening, baggage reclaim, departure lounges and a selection of aircraft stands – these can all be swung from domestic to international mode (and vice versa) as demand requires.
Terminal redesign and expansion – While still considered a small terminal, Queenstown Airport (opened 1964) has undergone a series of terminal and airside upgrades and expansions. QAC also endeavours to facilitate third party-funded projects where possible, such as the interim mini corporate jet terminal and onsite Hertz car rental building, to help improve the passenger experience.
Land acquisition – Securing land for future airport development is also a key consideration. QAC is currently in Environment Court with a case to acquire land referred to as ‘Lot 6’ (a parcel of land adjacent to the runway area) from Remarkables Park Ltd. It would allow QAC to relocate the airport’s general aviation sector, add hangers and a private jet terminal, and repurpose the former General Aviation area for airside and terminal expansion.
At the same time, aviation technology advances and airspace changes have also enabled growth and resulted in improved safety and more reliable service at Queenstown Airport:
Queenstown airspace redesigned to increase flight capacity – In November 2012, Airways New Zealand completed a redesign of Queenstown airspace in conjunction with GE Naverus, which more than doubled hourly airport capacity and ensured maximum operational efficiency. These changes were based on new Required Navigation Performance Authorisation Required (RNP AR) approach flight paths and rationalised departure procedures. They have enabled concurrent arrivals and departures at the airport whilst ensuring tactical separation. The efficiency of these improved RNP AR paths now allows air traffic control to monitor up to 12 aircraft per hour, compared to 5 with previous procedures.
Timeline of aviation technology advances:
1961: Regular passenger service (DC3) – direct service to Queenstown started in 1964
1969: Turboprop aircraft introduced (HS748)
Late 1980s: Jet operations commenced (Ansett NZ – BAe146)
1991: Boeing 737 operations commenced (Air NZ, 737-200 with Hush Kits)
1996: RNP technology first developed (developed by Alaskan Airlines for approach to Juneau Airport, Alaska)
2004: RNP Authorisation Required Operations RNP AR (Qantas, Sept 04) significantly improved service reliability
Late 2000s: Queenstown area Multi-Lateration (MLAT) airspace monitoring system implemented - this delivers the same information as radar to give Air Traffic Control give radar-like visibility of aircraft in the area
2011: Runway lights (for day operations)
2012: New RNP AR approach and departure procedures implemented
2012: Modifications to Controlled Airspace / General Aviation Transit Routes

Next steps
With all of these initiatives in place, the next step for QAC was to investigate options to enable more aircraft movements and up-gauge aircraft. This was the context for investigating the possibility of extending the airport’s operating window to take advantage of its consented operating hours.
To achieve the airport’s goal of enabling jet operations throughout the consented hours of operation QAC commenced working with Airways NZ (the air navigation services provider) and the airlines to seek regulator approvals for operations beyond the current daylight hour restrictions. There are two regulators:
• CAA for QAC, Airways, Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, Jet Connect and any non-Australian airline
• CASA (Australian equivalent of CAA) for Qantas, Jetstar and any other Australian airline.
QAC promoted a coordinated, structured industry approach to understand the challenges and feasibility. In June 2012 it formed a working group of technical and operational experts with experience in RNP AR (Authorisation Required) and Queenstown-specific operations to prepare a Foundation Safety Case (FSC).
The working group included representatives from QAC, Airways NZ, Air New Zealand, Jetstar, and Qantas and was facilitated by risk management experts Navigatus Consulting. Each organisation set aside its commercial interests to work towards achieving a common goal – to examine whether flying in and out of Queenstown Airport at night could be undertaken safely and, if so, under what conditions. The group went through a thorough and collaborative process to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing the safety of operations and options for addressing these.
In May 2013, all participants reached unanimous agreement on the operational viability of aircraft operations at Queenstown in darkness and on the preferred infrastructure package and operational enhancements to safely extend operations into the hours of darkness.
The main elements of the package include:
• Widening the runway to 45m (from the current 30m)
• A comprehensive aeronautical lighting package (runway, taxiway, approach and off-airport lights)
• A customised crew selection and training package
• Employing the full capability of the existing RNP AR technology
• Development of current on-board flight procedures to reduce pilot workload on final approach
• Requirement for individual airline approvals.

The Foundation Safety Case
The final stage of the project plan was drafting a Foundation Safety Case (FSC) to submit to the regulators CAA and CASA. The FSC defines the infrastructure and operational model required to enable ‘in-darkness’ operations at Queenstown Airport and provides all stakeholders with a clear understanding of the investments required. Airlines can then choose to research the business case for evening flights.
A large body of supporting evidence was presented in the application to CAA, and these targeted research projects included:
• Analysis of historical Metservice data to determine differences (if any) between daytime weather patterns and the patterns during both the early hours of darkness, and throughout the night
• Analysis of international aircraft accident rates to serve as a risk benchmark
• An examination of US aviation incident reports to determine all daytime and nighttime accident rates in the US to serve as a benchmark indicator of contemporary best-practice safety performance
• A lighting compliance report to determine the default off-airport lighting requirement for Queenstown Airport operations in darkness
• High resolution visual simulations of various runway and off-airport lighting packages to inform decisions on the best options
• Computer generated fly-throughs of in-darkness approaches into Queenstown augmented by the preferred lighting package. These fly-throughs demonstrated the RNP containment approach paths and illustrated the proposal to reduce pilot workload during final approach as developed in the workshop programme
Submission of the Safety Case
In June 2013, the working group submitted its Foundation Safety Case to CAA for consideration. The level of evidence presented in the case made it the most extensive application ever submitted to CAA. A number of briefing sessions were also held with CAA and CASA to refine the detail of the Safety Case.

A first step only…
While CAA’s approval-in-principle has given QAC and the airlines a very clear roadmap of the technology, infrastructure and operational steps required to enable after-dark flights to happen, realistically they won’t be introduced before winter 2016.
The next step would be for airlines to assess demand for evening services and apply to the regulator for individual operator approval should they wish to operate after-dark flights to Queenstown.
QAC would then need to work through the investment involved and put the required infrastructure in place.

Queenstown Airport – daylight hours, current rules
Scheduled airlines using QAC can only operate during daylight hours. CAA determines this as:
• 30 minutes after morning civil twilight
• 30 minutes before evening civil twilight

Operating hours vary during the year.

Civil TwilightAirport Operating Hours
Longest Day5.22am – 9.58pm6:00am* – 9.28pm
Shortest Day7:50am – 5:35pm8:20am – 5:05pm

* as per consented hours.


Comments on Queenstown Airport evening flights

QANTAS AIRWAYS

Comments can be attributed to Igor Kwiatkowski, Regional General Manager New Zealand & Pacific Islands:
• Qantas provided technical expertise and experience to the discussions and we welcome the approval of evening flights in Queenstown. Opening up the schedule to fly after dark has the potential to provide greater flexibility to our Queenstown flying.
• Qantas will assess the need for evening flights from a commercial and operational perspective before introducing evening flights to our Queenstown schedule.
Background
• Qantas was the first airline in the world, outside of the US, to introduce RNP technology in 2004. Since then, Qantas 737-800s and more recently our 767s have been conducting RNP operations at a large number of destinations accumulating extensive experience in these types of operations.
• Queenstown is an important market for Qantas. Qantas will increase its services from three times per week to daily between Sydney and Queenstown to cater for demand during the Queenstown ski season from 4 July.

JETSTAR

Comments can be attributed to Grant Kerr, Jetstar Head of New Zealand:
• Flight time flexibility is important to Jetstar and we welcome the approval from the Civil Aviation Authority as an important first step to introducing evening flights in Queenstown.
• Jetstar would need to undertake further reviews, both operationally and commercially, before making any decisions on adding evening flights to our Queenstown schedule.
Background

• Jetstar is the second-biggest airline operator to Queenstown with up to 16 domestic flights a week from Auckland and seven weekly trans-Tasman services from Sydney and Melbourne.
• Since June 2012 Jetstar has been part of the working group helping to prepare a Foundation Safety Case (FSC) regarding evening flights in Queenstown.
• Jetstar recently announced it would substantially increase its Queenstown 2014 Tasman winter services, adding more than 15,000 extra seats to and from the resort in July and August this year.

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