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Air safety at risk after radar removal

Simon Power MP National Party Defence Spokesman

18 September 2003

Air safety at risk after radar removal

National Party Defence spokesman Simon Power fears the safety of air travellers is being put at risk by the removal of Ohakea's primary surveillance radar by Airways Corporation.

Mr Power is commenting after SOE and Defence Minister Mark Burton was unable to offer safety assurances following questions in Parliament today.

"The only conclusion I can reach from Mr Burton's non-answers in the House today is that safety will indeed be put at risk.

"The Wilsons Road primary radar provided the ability for air traffic control to track all aircraft, whether they had transponders or not, in the approaches to Ohakea airbase and Palmerston North airport," Mr Power says.

"Air traffic controllers will now be totally reliant on secondary radar systems that simply pick up transponder emissions - so any aircraft that has its transponder switched off, or malfunctioning, will not be seen by air traffic control.

"The chances of somebody in a small private plane straying into an area where they should not be is now very real around the Manawatu.

"Ohakea and Palmerston North together account for 100,000 air movements a year - the fourth largest number in NZ after Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

"These numbers will probably increase by about 15,000 to 20,000 movements once the Air Force's heavy fleet of 757s, Hercules and Orions relocate from Whenuapai in 2007," Mr Power says.

"The removal of the radar also limits the ability of a future government reconstituting the strike wing.

"This is being seen as a major impediment to any future increase in the capability of our air force," Mr Power says.


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