New Zealand’s Queenstown Airport has been granted provisional approval to extend its operating hours into night flight operations.
The approval by the NZ Civil Aviation Authority is subject to the airport meeting a number of conditions including making some infrastructure improvements, and comes after owning company QAC in conjunction with Navigatus Consulting successfully demonstrated the benefits of all participants taking a collaborative approach.
“This approval is the result of much hard work and dedication from airline operators, Queenstown Airport Corporation, CAA and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority,” Director of Civil Aviation Graeme Harris said in a statement. “The size and configuration of Queenstown Airport and mountainous surrounding terrain has meant limiting flying to daylight hours has been appropriate until now. Queenstown Airport Corporation and operators have shown a willingness to improve infrastructure and develop operational procedures to gain this approval.”
The airport is currently restricted to daylight operations only. The improvements required for night operations include a widening of the runway from 30m to 45m; the addition of a “comprehensive aeronautical lighting package” including runway, taxiway, approach and off-airport lights; a customised crew selection and training package; employing the full capability of the existing RNP technology; and changes to on-board flight procedures to reduce pilot workload on final approach.
QAC welcomed the approval, with chief executive Scott Patterson saying: “The decision by the authorities on both sides of the Tasman to approve the foundation safety case for after-dark flights is a potential game changer for Queenstown’s tourism industry and the regional economy.”
QAC says night flights probably couldn’t start until the winter 2016 season because of the time required to implement the changes. “We now have a very clear roadmap of the technology, infrastructure and operational steps required to enable it to happen,” Paterson said. “Evening flights would be a huge plus for travellers and for local businesses, particularly in the busy winter months. Extending the airport’s operating window would give travellers more flexibility, provide better connectivity across airline networks, and improve their airport experience – peak times would be more spread, with less pressure on facilities and services.”
The move was welcomed by the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association (NZALPA).
“The widening of the runway, installing of an approach lighting system, improved runway lighting and installing of additional obstacle lighting are all most welcome improvements for pilots operating into and out of the airport,” said NZALPA technical director Rob Torenvlied.
“Although these improvements are being made to facilitate night-time operations, they will, in addition, provide significant safety benefits for daylight operations as well.”
A video explaining RNP approaches into Queenstown including at night can be found here.