Move to bigger aircraft

By Mike Dinsdale

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Larger aircraft starting to operate from Whangarei Airport next month should reduce the risk of passengers being dumped off flights into the airport in wet weather.

Air New Zealand announced yesterday it will start using larger, 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft for some flights to and from Whangarei Airport from August 12, a move it hopes will overcome issues caused by new operating requirements at the airport.

The new Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) flight restriction that came into effect on June 1 sees passengers kicked off flights in wet weather so that planes can land on the runway. CAA says Eagle Air's Beech 1900 aircraft have to approach the airport runway at a height of 50 feet, up from the 35 feet restriction that had been used at the airport for many years. Beech aircraft now have to land further down the runway, so when it's wet, or there's no headwind, the planes need a lighter landing weight to make sure they can stop in time. CAA says the action has been taken as an interim measure while an updated risk assessment is undertaken at Whangarei Airport and says it's not a safety issue.

But the restriction has raised the ire of passengers dumped from flights, Whangarei District Council and Whangarei MP Phil Heatley among others.

Yesterday Air NZ, which runs Eagle Air, said some flights between Auckland and Whangarei will be on the larger Bombardier Q300 aircraft from August 12 to help overcome issues created by changes to the operating requirements at Whangarei Airport.

"New CAA requirements impacting Whangarei Airport mean that in some weather conditions Air NZ's subsidiary Eagle Air is unable to operate its current 19- seater Beech aircraft into Whangarei with a full complement of passengers ..." Eagle Air general manager Sarah Williamson said.

"Next month Air New Zealand will replace four of the current six daily return services between Auckland and Whangarei with two daily Q300 return services.

"The result will be the addition of 48 extra seats to this sector every day and a more reliable customer experience."

The two remaining daily services will continue to be operated by Beech aircraft.

- Northern Advocate

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