Queenstown night flights get green light

Photo / Mark MItchell.
Photo / Mark MItchell.

Air safety authorities have given the green light for after-dark flights at Queenstown Airport.

The airport has been consented for flights until 10pm but this meant evening flights could only occur in summer, as they have been restricted to daylight hours.

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Airlines will now have assess demand for year-round evening flights and apply for approval from regulators themselves and Queenstown Airport would have to spend up to $10 million on extra lighting and runway widening.

Jetstar said it welcomed the approval from the Civil Aviation Authority as an important first step.

"Jetstar would need to undertake further reviews, both operationally and commercially, before making any decisions on adding evening flights to our Queenstown schedule," said Grant Kerr, the airline's head of New Zealand.

Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Scott Paterson said the decision was a "potential game changer" for Queenstown's tourism industry.

He said advanced navigation technology now in place in Queenstown was the key enabling

The Required Navigation Performance Authorisation Required (RNPAR) flight procedures introduced in 2012 allowed jet aircraft to fly precise paths in a range of weather conditions.

"Realistically, evening flights wouldn't be introduced before winter 2016, but we now have a very clear roadmap of the technology, infrastructure and

operational steps required to enable it to happen," Paterson said.

The runway would have to be widened from 30m to 45m and new runway, taxiway, approach and off-airport lights installed.

Airlines would need toput in place a special crew selection and training package also.

Paterson said more flights during winter - peak time in Queenstown - were important to further develop the ski industry.

The ability to offer evening flights was expected to more evenly distribute the peak load on the airport, which has experienced passenger growth of 30 per cent over the past three years.

"For leisure travellers it would make weekend holidays from Auckland and Australia possible year-round. It would also give business people more flexibility with their travel plans and potentially allow people to base themselves in Queenstown and commute to other main centres for work."

In 2010 a Pacific Blue pilot took off outside the departure time limit leading to a $5100 fine for flying a Sydney-bound Boeing 737 carelessly.

- NZ Herald

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