Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

News in Review

A round up of local and international stories since the last issue.


Concerns about New Zealand’s current and future pilot numbers continue

Continuing to cite the Boeing estimate of 250,000 new pilots required in the Asia-Pacific region over the next 20 years, the issue of New Zealand’s own current and future pilot supply continues to hit national headlines.

And it’s NZALPA who is leading the commentary as expert advisors in this area.

Radio New Zealand’s high-rating ‘Nine to Noon’ show spent over twenty minutes interviewing NZALPA President, Tim Robinson, along with Ashok Poduval from Massey University’s School of Aviation and Air New Zealand's chief air operations and people safety officer John Whittaker.

Such was the interest in the issue, show producers later told NZALPA that the ‘Nine to Noon’ interview received one of the highest amounts of listener feedback for some time.

There was also a major feature on the pilot supply issue in the Sunday Star-Times and featured also on One News on TVNZ.

In the Radio New Zealand in-studio interview, NZALPA President Tim Robinson said that New Zealand was getting to a situation whereby the training numbers and those entering the industry, in addition to those retiring pilots and others leaving for offshore, was not enough to meet current and future demand.

He also explained that a major barrier was not only the $100,000 price tag to get trained, but that access to financial help. Unlike other professions, the Government also only allocated 450 full-time equivalent (FTE) student loans for pilot training.

NZALPA had been lobbying Ministers to return the funding to 2012 levels, when 600 potential pilots were allocated FTE student loans.

"Each student requires, depending on which school they go to, around about 2 to 2.5 of those student loans for each pilot to complete their training. That only relates to about 160 commercial pilots through the system a year, 160 to 180. By the time you look at the failure rates, which aren't high but there is some failures and people who don't complete their courses, we're only looking about a net 80 to 100 commercial pilots per year ... That's just not enough to sustain the growth rates that we're seeing in the industry and the airlines right now,” Robinson explained.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand’s John Whittaker was less concerned about current numbers.

"At Air New Zealand we have about 1500 pilots. We'll take on about 150 new pilots this year and we've successfully recruited those and are well set up for the year, but we do recognise that things are changing and if we don't do things differently in the future we will have that problem."

It was Air New Zealand’s preference not to do the training itself, but said that instead they were “... working closely with our unions to try work out a career pathway that we can go into the schools and market as a secure pathway which makes it worthwhile making the investment,” Whittaker said.

Meanwhile 50 people enter Massey University's School of Aviation each year said its Chief Executive Ashok Poduval. It cost students around $130,000 over the three-year course.

"Young people are wondering if it's worth the investment," Poduval said.

"The government funding has been limited both in terms of the equivalent full time students’ allocation as well as limiting the amount of student loan that an aviation student could borrow for doing flight training."

There needed to be better pathways to employment after completing training, he said. "They have to go out into the aviation wilderness so to speak to accumulate about 500 hours of flying before they can become first officers or co-pilots on one of the regional turboprops.”

"More and more students are reluctant to do that because having invested so much money they've still got to find a way to accumulate the experience."

Poduval said that Qantas was now offering some graduates a career pathway directly from training into its Jetstar services.

You can hear the entire interview by clicking on https://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018658849


CAA information for Drone/RPAS users now online

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched its latest initiative to educate New Zealanders on the safe use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), commonly known as drones.

Something of a low key affair last month, the printable pamphlet and dedicated micro-website, https://www.flyyourdrone.nz/, appeared on the CAA website following the notification of its existence through the CAA’s current mailing list.

Unfortunately, as a result the launch of this welcome educational resource has initially at least, likely missed something of its target audience. Key stakeholders in the issue, including both NZALPA and Aviation New Zealand, were likewise taken by surprise. A number of high profile near misses with passenger flights and rescue aircraft over recent years, have led to their holding a number of meetings and having an ongoing dialogue with Government and the agency on drone use.

“While this is a welcome and useful resource with some good tips, NZALPA remains resolute that training and licensing of RPAS users is key and would be much more effective,” said David Reynolds, NZALPA’s Senior Technical Officer.

“Importantly, everyone who owns an RPAS, along with education material on its safe use, should also receive training”. “They should be licensed and the devices registered, facilitating a database of RPAS owners with which safety and other regulatory information can be regularly be sent”.

“NZALPA will continue to work along with Aviation New Zealand’s RPAS members and the CAA to help with both information content and distribution, “Reynolds said.

Air NZ99 Dreamliner Cockpit Transcript Re-enacted on Radio New Zealand

Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report recently reported on the details of Air NZ99 Dreamliner flight exchanges between the pilot and air traffic control after the flight from Auckland to Tokyo on 5 December 2017 was forced to return to Auckland for an urgent landing. The story highlights the difficulties airlines around the world have had with Dreamliners and Rolls Royce engines failures.

Such transcripts are rarely released to the media. In this case, the Radio New Zealand journalist applied for its release, via an Official Information Act (OIA) request to Airways. On refusal under the provisions to withhold the information stipulated in the OIA, mainly in regard to the TAIC investigation that was currently underway, the journalist then complained to the Ombudsman. Subsequently the Ombudsman upheld the complaint and ruled that Airways did not have sufficient reason to withhold the communication between air traffic control and Air New Zealand flight NZ99. Since then, NZALPA has sought a meeting with TAIC and Airways to discuss the disclosure issue.

Call for cell phone law on flights to go

Citing his background as an electrical engineer, ACT leader David Seymour has told Newshub that the civil aviation law prohibiting mobile phones on aircraft “needs to go.”

The rule stipulates that "no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot-in-command allow the operation of, any cellphone or other portable electronic device that is designed to transmit electromagnetic energy, on any aircraft while that aircraft is operating under instrument flight rules".

"I'm a trained electrical engineer - there is no danger from cellphone frequencies affecting the avionics or operation of an aircraft. The rule is antiquated, it goes back to a time when we were afraid about cellphones - today we have airplanes with Wi-Fi. What's the point in banning people from using cellphones?" Seymour said.

The Civil Aviation Authority told Newshub that the rule was to prevent interference with aircraft instruments when the aircraft may be operating without visual references.

The issue was highlighted recently when Minister of Transport, Hon Phil Twyford, was fined $500 and lost his Transport portfolio for three months. This followed an incident in May this year when he used his cellphone on an aircraft to make a call after the doors had closed.

Meanwhile, in response to an Official Information Act request, Newshub reported that the Minister was just one of 22 people who breached the rule. However, only six of these, including the Minister, was fined.

The documents also showed that 22 people breached civil aviation rules - but only six of them were fined $500.

Despite Seymour’s call for the mobile phone law to go, the Minister said there were no plans to do so. https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/travel/2018/08/revealed-the-number-of-people-caught-illegally-using-a-phone-on-flights.html

Passenger deaths still high but aviation worker safety improves

Another speaker at the 2018 Aviation New Zealand Conference was WorkSafe New Zealand CEO Nicole Rosie.

Reporting on Ms Rosies’s presentation, Radio New Zealand reported that if passenger deaths among operators of smaller commercial aircraft and helicopters were added to the national workplace statistics, “it would be higher than agriculture and close to forestry right now.”

The encouraging news, however, was that the number of industry deaths in this aviation sector were dropping, from about 30 deaths per 100,000 workers to about eight to 10 per 100,000, Ms Rosie said.

Queenstown and Wanaka Airports plans for burgeoning aircraft numbers concern locals

While the Wellington International Airport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) work on the redesign of an adequately-long Runway End Safety Area (RESA) for the proposed extension of the Wellington runway, debate continues in Central Otago regarding runway plans for both Queenstown and Wanaka airports.

The public consultation period ended late last month.

The New Zealand Herald’s Aviation Reporter Grant Bradley was recently in touch with NZALPA in regard to the comments of “experienced pilot and long term Wanaka resident” Terry Hetherington, who was urging Queenstown Airport Corporation Ltd to keep looking at alternative sites for its longer term expansion.

This is despite the airport saying that it had “assessed all the alternatives.”

As explained by Bradley, the airport has announced plans to significantly expand its noise boundaries into large residential areas and almost double the aircraft movements allowed by the present boundaries in the next 30 years.

This means planning for 41,600 scheduled aircraft movements a year by 2045, an average of 114 a day. It would double the annual passenger movements (counting both arrivals and departures) from about 2.05 million to about 5.1 million.

The airport has said the results of its growth would include a predicted $596 million for Otago's GDP by 2045, thousands of job opportunities and less pressure on regional roads.

As reported, Hetherington believed the model for the Queenstown and Wanaka airports was ''fundamentally flawed'' and the company should be working towards one very good single airport servicing all of Central Otago.

Meanwhile NZALPA President, Tim Robinson, said the members were looking forward to hearing more about the development plans for both Queenstown and Wanaka airports.

He said NZALPA supported the modernisation of the New Zealand aviation sector but safety must be paramount, particularly for both Queenstown and Wanaka.

''They must achieve compliance with international aviation standards, and runway safety should be seen as a first step towards achieving this."

The recent Supreme Court ruling regarding safety areas required at major New Zealand airports demonstrated the importance of having a RESA of an adequate length and, as covered in previous Uplink articles, NZALPA was working with Civil Aviation to support this.

To read the full article https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12108135


Gatwick goes ‘old school’ – using Whiteboards to give passengers flight updates

In an unusual move recently in the age of social media, passengers passing through London’s Gatwick airport praised the company on how they handled the difficult situation when all the display flight information screens suddenly stopped working due to serious cable damage.

This forced Gatwick employees to grab whiteboards and markers and undertaken their “manual contingency plan,” – manually recording and updating flight information for people to see then projecting it on small screens from a document.

As Fox News reported, the whiteboard and projection technique, coupled with bringing in extra staff to help direct passengers worked well. “…tens of thousands of passengers departed on time and no flights were cancelled,” a Gatwick spokesperson said.


Gaps exposed in aviation security after Seattle hijacking

Questions continue to be raised on just how Richard Russell, a local baggage handler and ground crew member, managed to steal an empty Horizon AirBombardier Q400 aircraft from Seattle’s main airport last month.

The Washington Post reported that Russell stole the plane on Monday 10 August and took it for an hour long joy ride, including loops and turns, before diving the empty plane into the ground.

After the release of the recording of the conversation between Russell and Seattle Air Traffic Controllers it became evident that this was a suicide, and that Russell was battling mental health issues.

Federal officials are still investigating how the hijacking occurred and what protocols are needed to prevent this from happening again.

While pilots must complete regular medical exams, in America airline mechanics and ground crew members have much fewer restrictions and no mental health exam requirements.

Richard Bloom, an aviation security expert at Arizon’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said he wasn’t aware of another incident like this in the United States. However, “there are such significant challenges to preventing inappropriate security behaviour, it’s kind of surprising that these types of things don’t happen more often.”

Prior to the accident, the United States Congress was seeking increased screening for airport employees and now will review this with greater urgency.

For the whole story please see : https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/seattle-hijackers-plane-heist-midair-stunts-and-fatal-crash-expose-gaps-in-aviation-security/2018/08/11/1309e6f0-9d7a-11e8-b60b-1c897f17e185_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.11acbdd58e46

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