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Pilots have welcomed plans to build a new airport in Central Otago. The NZ Air Line Pilots Association president Andrew Ridling says the site at Tarras appeared to have good approaches and would be a good alternative to Dunedin and Queenstown which were among the three most challenging airports in the country. Wellington is also ranked by pilots as difficult in some conditions. READ MORE:
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''This could be a good alternative, I'd be interested to know how they could fund it,'' he said. Christchurch Airport has already spent $45 million buying up land at Tarras. So far it has bought about 750ha that it says provides space for a 2200m runway and an environmentally-friendly terminal. Although aimed at domestic and transtasman flights, the airport would be capable of handling widebody aircraft on long haul routes. Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns says his company has a five to 15-year time frame for getting the project underway but will now enter into consultation with locals, some of who have already expressed opposition to the project. Ridling, an Air New Zealand Dreamliner captain, said his organisation had not yet discussed the plans with the airport company but he thought it could be a positive move. Queenstown would continue to face limits to its expansion when flying returned to pre-Covid levels and there was strong local opposition to extending the airport at Wanaka. He said pilots needed considerable experience to fly into Queenstown. tarras ''As an airline we've probably had more issues with Dunedin because it takes you by surprise, with Wellington the wind is straight up and down the runway. Queenstown can be very tricky with wind direction around the hills,'' he said. The site at Tarras coud face opposition from those worried about noise but another option in the lower South Island would be welcome.

''These airports need a bit of a tune up. Competition is a good thing,'' said Ridling. Air NZ has said the proposal ''deserves consideration'' while other airports say the area is well served by infrastructure already and Tarras locals have raised concerns about fog and winds in the area.