Suspended Franz Josef helicopter operator expects to be back in business this week

By Janna Sherman -
Wreckage of a Alpine Adventures Scenic Flights helicopter at Fox Glacier. Seven people died at the scene. Photo / Supplied
Wreckage of a Alpine Adventures Scenic Flights helicopter at Fox Glacier. Seven people died at the scene. Photo / Supplied

South Westland's biggest helicopter operator is expected to be back in the air early this week after being grounded for a month on the order of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The scenic flight and tour side of the glacier-based Alpine Adventures has not flown since May, when CAA suspended the air operating certificate of managing director and long-time Karangarua pilot James Scott, amid safety concerns.

It has not specified the nature of those concerns. However, it relates only to the tourism side of the helicopter operations over all six bases, mostly on the West Coast.

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier Heliservices and Alpine Adventures manager Mike Nolan said yesterday they had been working through a number of "tasks" to satisfy the CAA and were expecting an update early this week on when the air operating certificate could be reinstated.

The suspension was initially for 10 days but "the tasks we have been given to do have taken time", Mr Nolan said.

He could not elaborate further but said they had now provided everything asked of them.

The flying ban affected the company's entire fleet of 19 helicopters and 20 staff.

Mr Nolan said last week all staff were still employed and bookings for flights were still being taken. While it had impacted on business it could have been worse if the ban was in the peak tourist season.

"Luckily it's June, but the sooner the better."

The Alpine Adventures website was down yesterday, saying it was under construction.

Meanwhile, Mr Scott and the company's quality assurance manager Barry Waterland both face separate charges to be heard in the Greymouth District Court on July 12

Civil Aviation director Graeme Harris said the suspension action was taken in the public interest while his doubts about the safety of the Alpine Adventures operation were resolved.

Mr Scott and Mr Waterland are facing charges under the 1992 health and safety in employment legislation.

Those charges are related to the Fox Glacier helicopter crash that killed seven people last November.

- Hokitika Guardian

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