The decision of the Supreme Court of New Zealand to dismiss Wellington International Airport (WIAL) and the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) Runway End Safety Area (RESA) appeal was greeted with unprecedented enthusiasm by NZALPA members and followers of the NZALPA Facebook page.
In addition to the national news coverage, including an interview with NZALPA’s President leading the 6pm TV3 News bulletin on the day of announcement, the Supreme Court decision Facebook post reached 18,659 people with 5,806 people also viewing the press release on the NZALPA website.
Comments by the public on a number of New Zealand news online sites were also overwhelmingly favourable towards the NZALPA stance, many considering it a victory for aviation safety.
In a unanimous decision delivered on December 21, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and found that the CAA Director erred in law in finding that a 90m RESA would be acceptable if WIAL’s extension plans go ahead. NZALPA successfully argued that the Court of Appeal’s decision was correctly decided, and that the Director of the CAA should reconsider his March 2015 decision using 240m as the starting point, should WIAL continue with its application.
Most aircraft accidents occur during landing or take-off. Incidents include where the aircraft ‘undershoots’ or ‘overruns’ the end of the runway, the Supreme Court heard.
Although the likelihood of an undershoot or overrun is low when compared to the total volume of air traffic, the consequences can be catastrophic.
With a RESA, an overrunning or undershooting aircraft can come to a stop in safe off-runway space, thus reducing damage to the aircraft and maximising the safety for those on board.
In response to the decision, NZALPA President Tim Robinson said “Even though our members have the most to gain from extended runways and the extra international flights they encourage, safety will always be our first priority and this should also be so for both New Zealand’s airport companies and especially for the CAA.”