Airways boss Graeme Sumner has resigned after two tumultuous years for aviation and a big U-turn on sweeping plans to close control towers in regional centres.
Sumner will finish on June 3 after five years at the top of the state agency.
"In announcing the resignation, the board noted that over the past five years Graeme had led Airways through some of the most challenging times we have ever experienced and thanked him for his contribution to Airways," a spokesman said.
Chief financial officer James Young will be acting chief executive while the board searches for a replacement for Sumner.
Sumner started with Airways in 2017, then the highly profitable monopoly provider of air traffic control services.
Before the pandemic, he was driving changes to increase digitisation and automation at the state agency.
Soon after Covid-19 hit, Airways in May 2020 proposed removing air traffic control services at Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill airports and withdrawing flight information services at Kapiti Airport and Milford Sound's Piopiotahi Aerodrome. Airways said control of flights could be done from bigger centres.
Aeronautical studies - which include safety -were undertaken and so far have resulted in a reversal on the decision to close towers at Hawke's Bay, Rotorua, New Plymouth and Invercargill. The Aerodrome flight information service is staying at Milford Sound Piopiotahi.
The plans have been fought by the NZ Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which has cited safety worries.
During the early peak of the Covid-19 crisis, Airways announced the review into its services around the country, saying it was "simply not viable to continue the same level of service at locations where there are no passenger flights".
Last year it reported an $18 million after-tax loss.
Sumner joined Airways in October 2017, bringing 27 years' experience from the energy, transport, telecommunications, mining services and medical technology industries.
Airways said he was recognised for his commercial experience and "extensive expertise in leadership, technology, and change management".
Before the Airways job, Sumner led ASX-listed organisations in services and manufacturing environments focused on technology innovation and development.
His roles included: chairman of NCI Packaging - a major transtasman provider of packaging solutions; managing director of Service Stream - based in Melbourne; and CEO of Transfield Services NZ and Siemens NZ.
Airways has just launched consultation with its stakeholders, customers and the wider industry on its pricing for the next three-yearly cycle running from August 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025.
Airways said it acknowledges the aviation industry is experiencing unprecedented times and is committed to playing its part in its recovery. As such, and to the extent reasonably possible, as well as in discussion with its customers, Airways has assumed a recovering industry over the three-year period.
Sumner said last month there was significant uncertainty around the volume outlook because of Covid-19.
"The past two years have been very challenging for our customers, the wider domestic and international aviation industry, and ourselves. However, through continued collaboration and partnership, we are confident we will emerge united and stronger as an industry.''
Based on the assumed volume forecast, Airways is proposing prices charged to airlines will need to increase by an average 8 per cent for the 2023 financial year and 16.9 per cent over the three-year period to achieve target revenue.