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Safety Of Pilots And Small Aircraft At Risk With Rolling Closures At Kāpiti Airport

Kāpiti, 15 December 2020 - Rolling closures at Kāpiti Coast Airport will impact the safety of pilots and small aircraft travelling New Zealand who rely on the airport for safe harbour in poor weather and other events when travelling between the North and South Islands.

Steve Brown, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of NZ (AOPANZ) says the rolling closures raise unintended safety concerns and will impact pilots transiting through Cook Strait who use Omaka in Blenheim and Kāpiti Airport in Paraparaumu as the staging points for their travel around NZ.

“Although the rolling closures have been made with safety assumptions, it means pilots of light aircraft lose the flexibility to respond to changing conditions such as weather or fuel changes. The next nearest airport for fuel is Wanganui or Wellington - and landing at Wellington can be problematic as it’s a major airport,” says Steve Brown.

From Saturday 12 December until 1 February the hours of operation at the Kāpiti Coast Airport are restricted daily by airport owners NZPropCo, responding to staff shortages with AFIS (Aerodrome Flight information Service). Steve Brown says it's the busiest time of year for the airport, as more people travel between the North and South Islands.

“At this time of year there is an increase in light aircraft travelling between the South and North Islands who rely on the Kāpiti Coast Airport as a safety stop. We are concerned about their safety in what can be fast-changing weather conditions.

“We would like to see the airport restrictions reviewed. Every other medium sized airfield with a tower or AFIS reverts to ‘G’ airspace when the tower is not operational and can operate safely. We believe the same conditions can be applied at Kāpiti Airport.

‘AOPA sees the issue as a long term one which needs a long-term solution and is part of the ongoing issue regarding the airports future,” says Steve Brown.

The future of the airport is uncertain as the owners consider its future. Kāpiti Coast Mayor, K Gurunathan wrote to the Prime Minister on 8 December asking the Government to make a clear and comprehensive decision on the current and future role of the Kāpiti Airport, marking it as a strategic operations asset for the Wellington Region during a major civil emergency.

About AOPA NZ

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has over 430,000 members worldwide, spread over 66 countries, each dedicated to furthering general aviation in their own country.

AOPA provides a unified voice for pilots in New Zealand by building relationships with Government and regulatory bodies to ensure members’ views are represented, with the aim of preventing any increasing costs and restrictions being placed on private and recreational flying.

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