Pilots urge 'scary' runway extension

21:52, Jun 18 2013

Wellington Airport needs to double its planned 300-metre runway extension to include vital safety zones, pilots say.

The airport announced in May that it would be seeking resource consent to extend the airport by 300m at a cost of $300 million to attract long-haul flights to the Wellington region.

But the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association says Wellington's overshoot safety zone is already much shorter than the recommended international standard, and needs to be extended, whatever the cost.

Wellington's runway was extended in 2006, at a cost of $23m, to meet the minimum requirement for a runway end safety area of 90m at either end. 

However, Civil Aviation Authority rules recommend an area of 240m, which was what Auckland and Christchurch airports had, pilots' association spokesman Stu Julian said yesterday.

''Ninety-three per cent of all overrun accidents would be captured in 240m. People, as a right, expect minimum standards of safety.''

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He said Wellington had a good safety history, but was known as a ''scary'' airport.

Improved safety zones would increase the number of travellers coming through the airport, and support the economic benefits sought from the extension.

''Wellington, because of the water at both ends, the hills and the terrain on both sides and of course the wind, does make it a challenging airport.

"Because it is a challenging airport, having the highest levels of safety is critically important.''

A Wellington Airport spokeswoman said it had an excellent safety record.

''Our current runway end safety areas are compliant with current Civil Aviation rules and we will ensure that any extension of the runway and its safety areas will also be compliant.'' 

Civil Aviation spokesman Mike Richards confirmed a 90m safety zone was the minimum requirement, and that 240m was recommended where practicable.

''Effectively, any plan for development that saw anything under 240m would need to be justified to CAA'' by the airport on the basis that it was not practicable.

The Dominion Post