Night flights 'for next season'
SUE FEA IN QUEENSTOWN
Night flights could be operating from Queenstown by the start of next ski season if the Queenstown Airport Corporation has its way.
Chief executive Scott Paterson said yesterday that ideally the corporation would like night flights to be operating for the 2013 ski season.
But spokesman for the airport's light plane and helicopter operators Robert Rutherford said night flights could be five or six years away.
"There's a huge lot of work to get through if they're going to do it ... not just lights on the runway."
Airlines would have to do a full risk analysis, including how they would rescue people at night "if things go horribly wrong".
The Civil Aviation Authority was likely to want obstacle lighting around various mountain points to guide aircraft at night, which would result in a lot of light pollution around the mountains, Mr Rutherford said.
There were various other technical details to work through such as cloud base minimums at night versus daytime.
Appointing an experienced airline pilot to the airport corporation board would solve a lot of problems, Mr Rutherford said.
Mr Paterson conceded obstacle lighting was an issue the airport and airlines would have to address, as would the airport's rescue response, but that should be the same, day or night. However, safety would include looking at emergency preparedness.
"I think it will be shorter than five years [before night flights are operating]," Mr Paterson said.
"The airport wants night flights, because we have a vested interest in securing them ...
"We believe the business case is compelling. People will want to come later and leave earlier in the day. We think it'll be a great boost for the region," Mr Paterson said.
It was about "making Queenstown attractive to the airlines".
The airport already has existing consent to operate until 10pm.
Mr Paterson did not see a compelling case for having a pilot on the board. Newly appointed director Grant Lilly had extensive aeronautical experience, having held senior roles at Air New Zealand and Qantas.
Meanwhile, Mr Rutherford said light plane and helicopter operators were grateful for the resealing of the crosswind runway last summer and proposals to move them from the western end of the airport closer to Remarkables Park. This would decrease noise pollution in the Frankton Flats area.
The corporation was awaiting Environment Court decisions relating to that, the future of Frankton Flats and proposed noise boundaries, which Mr Paterson said were due out by late October.
- © Fairfax NZ News