Poised for take off

Alexandra airport planning

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN IN ALEXANDRA
Last updated 14:50 12/03/2014
Southland Times photo
JO McKENZIE-McLEAN/Fairfax NZ

Central Otago District Council property and facilities manager Mike Kerr, left, with chief flying instructor Nick Taylor, of Fly Alexandra, at Alexandra Airport.

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Skyrocketing interest from private and commercial aviation operators has put the Alexandra airport on the council radar.

Central Otago District Council property and facilities manager Mike Kerr said the council needed to plan for development at the airport following a ''strong upsurge'' in interest from aviation circles looking to establish a presence in Alexandra.

While light planes and ''the odd smaller jet executive aircraft'' used the airport, the existing sealed runway was 1200 metes long by 30m wide and capable of accepting most, if not all, the scheduled turbo-prop passenger aircraft operating in New Zealand, except the ATR 72, he said.

There were also two grass strips.

''This recent interest has come from mainly private operators but also some commercial interest. In addition to the flying club's hangars, there are five other private hangars.''

''With a sealed runway, the great flying conditions, open skies and the great environment we live in, perhaps this is the sort of activity the airport lends itself to.''

In August 2009 the council approved in principle a concept plan as a working template for an airpark private development, he said.

''Last year Z Energy decommissioned an old fuel stop and installed a new fuel stop with storage capacity of 50,000 litres of Avgas 100 and Jet A1. This was in a different location, as per the development plan to the prior site to allow for improved access by planes.''

With the demand for new hangars the council needed to plan for potential developments, Mr Kerr said.

The total area associated with the airport is 80 hectares and annual income is about $18,000, predominantly private hangar ground leases and land leases for a vineyard and other non-air activities.

Increased hangar development could potentially help fund maintenance and development of services, he said.

Because of increasing interest associated with the airport, in the lead up to preparation of the council's Long Term Plan for 2015 to 2025, the airport concept development plan, water and electricity services and runaway maintenance would be some of the subjects council will be considering.

Chief flying instructor Nick Taylor, of Fly Alexandra, said the airport was a blank canvas for potential development and gateway for the region.

''It would just be neat if we have more activity here.''

FAST FACTS:

● From 1960 to 1966 South Pacific Airlines of New Zealand (SPANZ) flew DC-3 services into Alexandra.

● 1969-1991 Mount Cook Airlines services connected to Dunedin and Queenstown.

● 1985 to 1986 Goldfields Air flew to Christchurch.

● 1988 to 1989 Pacifica Air flew to Alexandra, and Airlink during 1989.

● Before Queenstown could accept night landings, use included bringing Australian skiers through Alexandra with the use of portable runway lights, then onto Queenstown by road. With the increase in size and range of planes, and navigational technology advancements, Alexandra's use for domestic flights declined.

● 2007-2008 Mainland Air trialled scheduled services from Dunedin to Alexandra and Queenstown, but due to lack of use these did not continue.

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