Happy New Year!
It’s been another busy holiday period for our members, with many working over what is a festive break for most New Zealanders. During this time, I often reflect on the part our pilots and air traffic controllers play in bringing family and loved ones together throughout the country and from all around globe. Many of our fixed wing and helicopter pilot members play a crucial role over this period in saving lives and property with their tireless work in the accident and emergency services. Other members contribute significantly to our nation’s economy and aviation infrastructure, delivering world leading tourism services and experiences.
Our role was prominent in the national media over this period, beginning with a most welcome Christmas present when the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the Wellington International Airport Ltd (WIAL) to authorise the proposed extension of the Wellington airport runway with just a 90m Runway End Safety Area (RESA). As many of you know, the Court of Appeal had already determined that international civil aviation law, as applied in New Zealand law, requires 240 metre long safety areas, or such shorter distance as is practicable, and not less than 90 metres. New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) had also challenged the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) decision to allow the runway extension with a 90m RESA, arguing that the airport should also extend the runway end safety areas by several hundred metres.
In an unanimous decision the Supreme Court found, first, that the Director of the CAA had erred in assessing what was ‘practicable’ solely by looking at WIAL’s costs as balanced against safety benefits, and secondly the Director had erred also in his approach by taking WIAL’s 90m proposal as the starting point of his analysis rather than the requirements of the Civil Aviation Rules as well as not considering EMAS. NZALPA was also awarded $30,000 in costs. As a consequence, the starting point for any future assessment of the length of a RESA must be 240 m.
The Court’s decision was a huge win for the NZALPA, aviation and passenger safety, and again I thank the members for enabling us to pursue court action. As an organisation we need to share pride in this result.
NZALPA’s timely and continued warnings over the use of lasers and the danger they pose to pilots and the travelling public led national news bulletins on the back of CAA statistics showing the misuse of the technology still poses a frequent and highly hazardous menace. We were also in the national media over the period discussing New Zealand’s pilot supply issue and our intention to discuss training and funding needs with the new Labour-led Government. Unlike the Australian Government, NZALPA is against any visa programme to attract pilots trained offshore to fly in our geographically unique and highly safety-conscious skies.
It was with profound sadness that, amongst the New Year celebrations, we learned of the death of NZALPA member and Northland Emergency Services Trust helicopter pilot Dean Voelkerling. The Vans RV7 fixed wing aircraft built by Dean crashed on New Year’s Day at Te Kopuru in the Kaipara District, killing both Dean and his passenger. Our heartfelt condolences go to the Voelkerling family and his many friends and aviation colleagues. We also await the outcome of the Civil Aviation investigation to see if anything can be learned from this tragic accident.
Meanwhile, planning has already begun on the 2018 NZALPA Conference to be held in June in Auckland. We also look forward to the IFALPA international event to be held prior, this year in Luxembourg. The issues and discussion at both events profoundly capture the current and future reality of our industry, including atypical employment practices and Open Skies agreements. 2018 is shaping up to be another challenging year.
The demand on our local sector continues to increase every year and while, as aviation professionals, we consider it an honour to serve, the influence and strength of NZALPA as the leading representative and industry voice grows too - to keep our members safe and working under healthy, safe and fair conditions. We welcome the challenges and opportunities the next 12 months will present.
Best wishes to you all.