Taupo Airport unsafe and critically deficient
01 June 2006
Taupo Airport declared unsafe and critically deficient
Anyone flying in or out of Taupo airport is putting their lives at risk, says the New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association (NZALPA).
The Association believes Taupo airport is unsafe and is calling for an air traffic control service to be established there immediately.
At its most recent meeting in Istanbul, the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) ranked Taupo as a ‘black star’ or ‘critically deficient’ airport.
The ranking gives pilots a detailed risk assessment of the airport and an advisory plan of procedures to take each time they fly in or out of that airport.
In Taupo’s case, IFALPA cited 11 special operating procedures pilots should take before flying into the airport.
Other airports around the world have a black star rating, but no other airport has as many as 11 special operating procedures marked against it. Umtata Airport in South Africa has five.
In its report, IFALPA cautioned all of its members’ pilots against flying to Taupo.
Civil Aviation Authority safety experts conducted a detailed safety study of Taupo airport in 2004. Their report highlighted a number of serious safety risks at the airport and recommended it be upgraded immediately. The Director of Civil Aviation rejected that report.
Since then air traffic at Taupo has continued to grow and NZALPA President Mark Rammell says the case for air traffic control has become even more urgent.
In the past few years there have been a number of incidents, near misses and accidents. Last year three people were killed when a twin engine aeroplane on a charter flight flew into a hill while conducting a non-precision instrument approach into Taupo.
“That tragedy might well have been prevented if Taupo had fully functional air traffic control in place,” said NZALPA President Mark Rammell.
“Unless air traffic controls are established there is a real risk of further deaths and, if and when that happens, Taupo’s multi-million dollar tourism industry could be seriously damaged,” he said.
Taupo is a rapidly growing airport. Traffic movement in and out of Taupo has grown 52% in the last eight years. Taupo is now a busier airport than Napier, Dunedin and Invercargill, all of which have air traffic control.
“The flight paths into Taupo are complex, with a wide variety and large numbers of commercial and recreational aircraft flying in mountainous terrain. Added to that Taupo is home to the world’s largest commercial tandem skydive drop zone, yet there is no control of aircraft flying through or around that zone
“Having air traffic control at Taupo would ensure local operators comply with the law and fly safely. Right now that’s not always the case. ATC would monitor the airport and guide pilots and would greatly reduce the chances of further lives being lost,” Mark Rammell said.
The Pilots’ Association has raised its concerns about safety at Taupo with the airport’s owners, local operators, the CAA and with Government ministers.
“The pilots have no commercial interest here. We are speaking up because of a very real risk,” said Rammell.
“So many people have been warned about the risks there for so long and yet no progress has been made. It would be so simple to make that airport much safer. It’s time action was taken there now.”
New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association (NZALPA)
The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association is the internationally recognised professional association for New Zealand pilots and air traffic controllers.
Its wide membership represents and reflects the diverse nature of the New Zealand aviation industry, and currently comprises 1081 airline pilots, 56 general aviation/commercial pilots, 48 flight instructors, and 328 air traffic controllers. Including Life and Associate members, NZALPA has more than 1660 members.
See www.nzalpa.org.nz for further information.
International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA)
The Mission of IFALPA is to be the global voice of airline pilots, promoting the highest level of aviation safety world-wide and providing services, support and representation to all of its Member Associations.
It is comprised of over 90 Member Associations and represents in excess of 100,000 pilots globally.
See www.ifalpa.org for further information.
New Zealand Aerodrome Movements - 2003
Note: Taupo is the only one of the below aerodromes not to have air traffic services, despite having more air craft movements than a number of other aerodromes, including Invercargill, Dunedin, Rotorua and Napier.
Palmerston North 48,452
New Plymouth 31,063
Milford Sound 17,828