Glacier Country Heliport First to Achieve CAA Accreditation
Glacier Country Heliport First to Achieve Civil Aviation Authority Accreditation
Glacier Country Heliport (GCH) at Franz Josef on the South Island’s West Coast has become the first heliport in New Zealand to achieve Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ‘Part 139’ qualifying aerodrome certification, a new form of accreditation for smaller airports and heliports that recognises operational quality and safety.
A reflection of the huge role the West Coast plays in New Zealand’s tourism industry, GCH is the busiest heliport in the country with more than 60,000 passengers transported annually. It is operated by Destination Westland Ltd, a council controlled organisation owned by Westland District Council.
Destination Westland chief executive Melanie Anderson said the accreditation is the culmination of a considerable amount of work that GCH has put into making sure the heliport operation and facilities are of the highest standards.
“The team has been working on this since July 2017. In that time we have had to provide evidence of quality assurance, emergency procedures, health-and-safety, operational systems, and undergo site inspections. It is worth it, however, especially in terms of assuring tourists and helicopter operators that the facility is one they can use with confidence.”
CAA aeronautical services manager Sean Rogers said the Destination Westland team had worked hard to get Part 139 certification for the GCH.
“Glacier Country Heliport is a vital part of the West Coast’s aviation and tourism infrastructure,” Rogers said. “This new form of certification for airports and heliports takes into account the unique circumstances which are relevant to that particular aerodrome. These include the local environment and weather patterns, the types of operators using the facility, and the pattern of aircraft movements.”
Glacier Country Tourism Group chair Ashley Cassin also welcomed the accreditation.
“The Glacier Country Heliport is central in so many tourists getting to experience a true New Zealand must-do activity every year, and our recent road closure in December shows the importance of this asset for moving large quantities of tourists in short periods of time when the roads are closed.”
Anderson said Destination Westland’s Hokitika Airport used the process in parallel with the Heliport to gain Safety Management System accreditation in October 2019, more than a year ahead of the required date.
Rogers said he expects more heliports and airfields to go through the ‘Part 139’ qualifying process this year.