24 Jun 2020

Airways reconsiders plan to pull air traffic control services from seven airports

1:51 pm on 24 June 2020

Airways New Zealand is reconsidering its plan to withdraw air traffic control services from seven airports.

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Photo: 123rf

In a bid to save money, it announced in May it would cease operations from towers at Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill airports.

It also planned to stop providing flight information services at Kāpiti Coast Airport and Milford Sound Piopiotahi Aerodrome.

The move was a response to the huge decline in flight numbers caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the time, Airways chief executive Graeme Sumner said it had joined a working party that included the affected airports, the Civil Aviation Authority, a general aviation representative and Air New Zealand to plan a "safe and orderly transition".

"It's a risk analysis essentially ... can you transition to another form of service safely," Sumner said.

"Once the reports are done the options can be looked at. We would expect anything from the potential, in some cases, for those services to remain in situ."

It was "quite likely", however, that some airports would end up unattended or monitored remotely, he said.

Four regional airports already without air traffic controllers and were proven to be safe, and opposition to unmaned control towers was largely an issue of public perception, Sumner said.

Sumner said today that after consultation it will now consider all options for the airports.

Aeronautical studies would be carried out at each one over the next six months before making a final decision, he said.

Airways had lost 90 percent of its revenue due to the pandemic and despite a government bail out, needed to cut about 30 percent of its costs.