Australian airline Qantas is standing by its successful bid to introduce controls of the airspace above Aoraki/Mt Cook - despite the fact it has not indicated how often it will use it.
The Herald reported yesterday that glider pilots were concerned about the Civil Aviation Authority's decision to remove the uncontrolled airspace at 24,500ft above sea level - meaning they will now have to get clearance from air traffic control before undertaking a flight at that level.
The rule comes into effect in November.
When the Herald approached Qantas yesterday, a spokeswoman said: "Qantas is regularly in discussions with aviation authorities to optimise its flight plans.
"It has not made any changes to its flights plans despite the access having been granted some time ago. Access to this small pocket of airspace was sought to optimise the flight path to Santiago," she said.
Glider pilot Terry Delore, who has broken several world records, called the decision "frankly unbelievable". "This is bloody stupid. That airspace above Aoraki-Mt Cook is like no other in the world, and there is no need for it to be taken by a commercial Australian operator for their own ends," he said.
"Our country's air traffic controllers are among the best in the world. But their industry is being spoiled by pen-pushers chipping away at the uncontrolled airspace."
Mr Delore said the climate around Aoraki-Mt Cook created a "leeway" that was unique.
"That particular airspace is only used by gliders. Why spoil it for the public and commercialise it?"
CAA spokesman Mike Richards acknowledged that when submissions were called for only the national air traffic control authority Airways Corporation and Qantas supported it, while 70 submissions from the gliding fraternity opposed it.
"The CAA assessed gliding pilots operated in the area from FL140 (14,000ft) to FL200 (20,000ft), and ‘very seldom' above this," he said.
"The airspace is still available to the gliders, it is just a matter of them broadcasting to air traffic control.
"We just want to achieve the safest result for everyone."
- © Fairfax NZ News