Glider pilots in dogfight for access above Alps
The Civil Aviation Authority is reconsidering plans to increase control of the Aoraki/Mt Cook air-space.
Several glider pilots were concerned about the Civil Aviation Authority's decision to remove the uncontrolled airspace at 7467 metres (24,500 feet) above sea level - meaning they will now have to get clearance from air traffic control before undertaking flights at that level.
The rule was due to come into effect next month, but CAA spokesman Mike Richards confirmed the authority was reviewing it.
"The CAA aims to be a responsive organisation and we are always open to the consideration of new information and additional input," he said.
"Our findings will be released in the next few days."
Aoraki/Mt Cook is 3754m (12,316ft) above sea level.
Earlier this year, the CAA received about 70 submissions on the proposal but only two - from Australian airline Qantas and national air-traffic-control body Airways Corporation - supported it. Air New Zealand did not submit on it. Qantas wanted to use the airspace as an alternative route for its flights between South America and Australia.
Most of the objections were from glider pilots, who are the most regular users of the airspace. According to the CAA, glider pilots fly mainly at 4267m (14,000ft) to 6705m (22,000ft) above sea level, but seldom above that.
Glide Omarama director Gavin Wills questioned this claim. He said the airspace above Aoraki/Mt Cook was unique.
"It has a leeway unlike any other ... it's a small area of uncontrolled airspace that gliders from all over the world come to visit," he said.
Mr Wills said the glider pilot community would "keep pushing" regardless of the review's findings.
"We're pleased the CAA is at least rethinking the situation," Mr Wills said.
"Even if they don't back down, at least we'll be able to see the evidence."
However, he was also worried about Qantas' request to further lower the uncontrolled airspace to 5334m (17,500ft) to give some trans-Tasman and domestic flights another option in bad weather.
"The Tekapo and Mackenzie community have done great work promoting the idea of the Aoraki-Mt Cook night sky as a heritage site. Glider pilots feel the same about the area's airspace."
- © Fairfax NZ News