Air National remains grounded

Last updated 15:23 07/02/2011

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Charter airline Air National is unlikely to fight a Court of Appeal decision upholding an ''enormously damaging'' suspension of its operations over safety concerns, an industry spokeswoman says.

Last month the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suspended Air National's operator certificate for 10 working days after a routine audit found evidence of alleged falsification of training records. The suspension will be reviewed this Friday.

The company referred all calls to Aviation Industry Association chief executive Irene King, who told NZPA the company absolutely denied training records were falsified.

Pilots had been training on a simulator in the United States but a problem with the computer programme when Southern Hemisphere coordinates were entered meant the wrong details ended up on one piece of paper in the training documents, she said.

CAA was alerted as soon as they returned to New Zealand.

The suspension was unreasonable and the damage the episode was doing to Air National was ''just enormous'', Ms King said.

''It's the damage to the company, it's the damage to destination New Zealand. For all parties it's an enormously damaging situation.

''It doesn't mean to say we don't think the director should put shonky operators on the ground. We support that but there has got to be some reasonableness in the whole process,'' Ms King said.

The company had appealed the CAA's suspension in the High Court, which ruled it should be lifted.

The CAA then appealed the High Court ruling in the Court of Appeal, which today quashed the lower court decision.

CAA spokesman Bill Sommer said the authority was now conducting a full investigation of Air National.

Ms King said it was difficult for the airline to comment on an ongoing CAA investigation but it was ''highly unlikely'' it would appeal.

''The decision has been made to work very constructively and openly and transparently with the process that's before them at the present time,'' she said.

Air National was founded in 1989 and provides daily return services between Christchurch and Oamaru, and Christchurch and Hokitika for Air New Zealand Link.

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