August 1, 2008

Extending Flight Hours into Qtown Under Study

By FEA, Sue

`It will be extraordinary to do jet operations at night into Queenstown Airport.' Captain Dave Morgan QUEENSTOWN would be one of very few mountainous terrain airports in the world to have night flights if they proved feasible, Air New Zealand's general manager of airline operations and safety Captain Dave Morgan said last night.

He told a public business meeting it could take anything from six months up to two years to work through the necessary planning and consent processes for night flights but he was not yet totally convinced it was "technically feasible" .

Air New Zealand held a "risk assessment" workshop with the Queenstown Airport Corporation and Civil Aviation Authority last week and the airline began feasibility work last month.

CAA had some "real concerns" about the risks involved and these needed to be overcome for approval to be secured.

Night jet operations into mountainous areas were rare -- Juneau in Alaska was one of the few Air New Zealand had identified, Mr Morgan said.

New RNP (Required Navigational Performance) technology would be needed, possibly to a lower altitude than at present.

A $1.7 million investment would be needed in runway night lights and the runway would needed to be widened from 30m to the standard 45m.

Any obstacles around the airport would need an obstacle light (one red light) for safety reasons, similar to the Sky Tower in Auckland and Invercargill's Water Tower.

Night flights into Queenstown would be leading edge, Mr Morgan said.

They would initially target weekend ski visitors arriving Friday nights and leaving Sundays from throughout New Zealand and Australia.

"There are not many places like Queenstown in the world -- it will be extraordinary to do jet operations at night into Queenstown Airport," Mr Morgan said.

But there was a lot of work to be done on safety and commercial viability.

Jacks Point director John Darby said night flights were essential to tap into the critical, growing Australian east coast tourist market.

The Queenstown Airport Corporation was working through public consultation to extend noise boundaries and change the district plan rules allowing flight landings into the resort only up until midnight, its chief executive Steve Sanderson said. Runway extension, Page 3

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