Welcome to the first Uplink Quarterly for 2017.
As I write from a flying duty in London I’ve just finished a number of media interviews regarding the New Zealand Court of Appeal‘s decision that the Director of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) needs to reconsider his review of the 90-metre safety area for an extended Wellington Airport runway.
The Director of the CAA and Wellington International Airport Limited were also ordered to pay NZALPA for the costs of taking this action.
This decision is a victory not just for the industry and our people, but very important for the travelling public who entrust us with the safety and, ultimately, lives of themselves and their families. As an organisation we will never allow safety to be compromised for the sake of cost savings and we will continue to commit resources to making sure this is also Wellington Airport’s highest priority for any extension of the runway.
Meanwhile, the NZALPA team is currently putting together the agenda for this year’s NZALPA Annual Conference, which we anticipate to be one of the biggest and most important conferences we’ve held so far.
The theme will be The Liberalisation of Airspace: Challenges and Opportunities – a topic we know will inspire vigorous debate.
Given the realities of our current international landscape, the 2017 NZALPA Conference, to be held in Christchurch in June, will focus on Open Skies and Multi-lateral Global Agreements. Issues such as the burgeoning ‘flags of convenience’ practice and its effect on the industry, the people who work in it and the safety of the travelling public. The event will deliver lively, informative and robust discussion, with international speakers and panellists including President and CEO of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) and local regulators and parliamentary representatives.
Given the importance of these issues, this month’s cover story – How blue is our horizon? – brings together reports on the current situation, including the fears of some that aviation might soon go the way of the greatly deregulated international shipping industry. Some worry that greater consumer choice and cheaper flights could ultimately lead to minimal employment standards and pose a significant threat to passenger and crew safety.
We were delighted that the Minister of Transport, Hon Simon Bridges, agreed to provide this month’s guest editorial on the wider benefits of Open Skies agreements, including to New Zealand’s biggest industry – tourism. It is a timely reminder that where government policy is well intentioned, the industry needs to be vigilant that it is implemented with fairness and care for those both employed by the industry and the customers it serves.
As Christchurch is my home base, with the rest of the country I watched with increasing alarm and concern for my neighbours during the recent Port Hills and Selwyn fires. Among the hundreds of selfless volunteers, I was enormously proud of the unprecedented number of aviation staff, including fixed-wing and helicopter pilots, who did not hesitate to drop everything and help. Even more pilots were involved in the Hawkes Bay fires around the same time, and many of those, along with other aviators around the country, had only just finished providing invaluable assistance in the aftermath of the Kaikoura regional earthquakes.
Ultimately, helicopter pilot Steve Askin gave the most anyone could, and we grieve with his family, workmates and friends following his tragic death. While the authorities investigate the cause of the fatal accident, the event further underpinned for NZALPA just how important the General Aviation (GA) industry is in New Zealand and why we must focus more effort on supporting this growing part of our membership.
Whether GA pilots see their role as a career stepping stone to airline employment, or as part of one of New Zealand’s flourishing small and medium businesses, those working in the wider aviation industry provide an essential service, not just to the economy but also in times of emergency. Many employees in the sector have endured financial hardship for sometime as they struggle with the realities of zero-hour contracts, for example, which are thankfully about to change.
All aviators should be afforded the highest degree of protection and support as is provided for within the law and to all New Zealand workers. NZALPA is determined to work together with business owners, management and staff to make sure all are treated fairly and with respect. Now, more than ever, we owe it to them all.
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