July 4, 2008

Hearing Told of Air Crash Options

By HEATHER, Ben in Queenstown

THE risk of an aircraft crashing into homes would be preferable to risking an electrical substation crash, according to one engineer.

Speaking on behalf of Remarkables Park Ltd, engineering consultant Murray Smith said in a consent hearing yesterday that flights from Queenstown Airport should avoid passing over a substation, taking an alternative route over the Five Mile development in Frankton.

"I believe the aircraft going over the Five Mile is a lesser evil than going over the substation," he said.

There would be a risk of a plane crash knocking out much of the power in the Queenstown area, he said.

When told by Lakes Environmental planner Tim Williams that Five Mile may eventually house about 10,000 people, Mr Smith stuck to his guns, maintaining a densely populated area would be easier to avoid than a single substation.

"I understand that ... it's the lesser of two evils." The discussion arose during a consent hearing for Queenstown Airport Corporation's (QAC) planned structure height restriction around flight paths.

Last year, a crane at Five Mile closed the airport's crosswind runway because of safety concerns.

AC operation manager Daniel Debono said new restrictions were needed to avoid a repeat of the incident.

The application would expand the restrictive "fan" around flight paths from the crosswind runway, which catered for smaller aircraft, on both ends and create a new right-curving flight path on the northern end.

Planning consultant Alison Nobles, speaking for QAC, said the changes were necessary.

"Obstacles which encroach on these limits can severely comprise the safe and efficient operation of aircraft using the airport by reducing safe approach routes," she said.

No building currently penetrates the proposed fan and the plans would mostly affect construction cranes, she said.

The airport is flanked on either side by the major developments of Five Mile and Remarkables Park.

Remarkables Park's submission expressed concerns about the flight path over the substation, suggesting a realignment of the entire runway.

The consent hearing continues today.

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