Court fast-tracks pilots’ appeal over safety of Wellington Airport's runway extension
The Court of Appeal has fast-tracked an appeal by the pilots' union against a High Court ruling on the safety of Wellington Airport's proposed runway extension.
The Court of Appeal has set aside October 20 to hear the case in Wellington, New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association president Tim Robinson said.
"There is only one factor driving our decision, and that's public safety and the safety of our members."
Wellington Airport has applied for resource consent to extend its runway south by 355 metres, in a bid to attract long-haul air services into the capital.
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But the pilots' union has argued the extension plans should include 240-metre safety zones at both ends, rather than the 90m ones that have been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The pilots' concerns were the subject of a High Court case in 2015, where it was argued that requiring larger safety zones could double the estimated $300 million cost of the runway extension.
But in July, Justice Karen Clark dismissed the case, ruling the CAA did not breach its duty to consult on the runway's safety zones, and did not err in law.
Robinson said the union's appeal had been fast-tracked because the Environment Court was expected to consider a resource consent application for the runway extension in early 2017.
The pilots' union has also filed a submission against that consent application, arguing there will be an increased risk of planes over-shooting the runway unless larger, or more sophisticated, safety zones are factored into the extended design.
"The proposed 90 metres [of safety zone] falls well short of international standards. Add to this Wellington Airport's challenging environment, and it becomes clear why pilots are so concerned," Robinson said.
"This has never been simply about consultation."
The past six weeks had seen a "considerable" growth in support for the pilots' stance from aircrew and the wider public, Robinson said.
"As commercial pilots and air traffic controllers, our members have much to gain from an increase in flights arriving and departing from Wellington Airport, but not at any cost," he said.
"Especially if that cost is to the safety of passengers, local people, airport staff, and our land and flight crews."