We’re coming up to the end of the first quarter of 2019 already and it’s shaping up to be one of our most active years yet.
Most importantly, our Air Traffic Control (ATC) colleagues have ratified their Collective Employment Agreement with Airways and I heartily congratulate the ATC team on a successful outcome to what was a prolonged and at times difficult bargaining round. Thanks to all the hard work put in by Kelvin Vercoe, ATC Director, ATC negotiators and the ATC Council over this time.
I ask all members to consider and appreciate the personal time and commitment these folk put in to get the best possible negotiated outcome for those they represent. During this time they faced added external pressure from the news media, which continued to cover public and industry concern regarding staffing levels at the Napier Tower, alongside the Raglan and Auckland Oceanic sectors.
Airways’ maintained that contingency plans were in place but NZALPA, led also by pilots’ concerns, believes that staffing should never have dropped to these levels and the future focus must be on an efficient, well-staffed and safe air traffic service network throughout New Zealand.
With just over three months to go until the NZALPA Annual Conference, there are some areas we’re keen to progress further with the Government and with industry colleagues and employers. I’m particularly passionate about the career pathways initiative - a cadetship-type programme within the Air New Zealand Group to better shore up pilot supply and career pathways for pilots entering the Air New Zealand preferred flight training organisations and then moving on to the Air New Zealand Regional Airlines – Mount Cook and Air Nelson.
Along with our Aviation New Zealand colleagues, we’re continuing to drive the Tertiary Education Commission and the Ministry of Transport to update their knowledge and increase student loan funding for aviation pilot training – both the amount of the student loan and the number of loans available to the industry. Continued media coverage and interest in the Pilot Career Progression in New Zealand report, authored by David Griffin for NZALPA and John Murrie of Massey University School of Aviation, helped provide a clear focus on the career pathways available in the airlines and in general aviation. The report also provided valuable data for a compelling case to review current low levels of government student loan funding.
Unfortunately drone or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) incidents continued through the summer. We are seeing more incursions into restricted airspace and close to passenger aircraft. Every year the numbers go up, creating a clear and present danger to aircraft including emergency services aircraft and fire-fighting helicopters. Frustrated with a lack of real action on behalf of the regulatory agencies and relative silence from the Minister, NZALPA understands a private member’s bill is being prepared by the Opposition, based on our continued call for compulsory registration of RPAS weighing more than 250 grams.
Even at quarter of a kilogram they can cause serious damage if they come in contact with an engine or rotor and we need the public and the regulators to respond to the threat with standards as serious as those introduced by the Federal Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
So why is New Zealand dragging the chain? NZALPA supports the new technology but wants to see its use more safely integrated into our airspace, along with better user education, increased penalties for misuse and an expeditious timeframe for the amendment of Civil Aviation Authority Rule Parts 101 and 102 to better reflect current RPAS use in New Zealand. We encourage you to use these messages constantly with your colleagues and friends, and around late season BBQs, to help spread awareness of this important safety issue.
Through another area of NZALPA’s concern, Hamish Walker MP’s private member’s bill to strengthen penalties for the misuse of high powered lasers will enter Parliament this term, just in time to reflect the recent upsurge in laser aviation incidents that made 2018 the worst year ever for such attacks. The MP for Clutha-Southland explains his Bill in this issue’s guest editorial.
Meanwhile, NZALPA continues to lobby the Minister of Transport for total prohibition on the supply, acquisition and use of high-power, battery operated hand-held lasers. The Minister continues to argue he wants to see the effect of 2017 Health Regulations amendment before committing to any discussion about prohibition. The New Zealand Police Association is aligned with our position – the police Eagle helicopter has also been targeted by these attacks, but we continue to wait for the Minister’s review – of which no information on timeline or remedy has yet been forthcoming. We’re hoping 2019 will be a year the Minister of Transport shows some leadership.
Finally, in response to NZALPA’s efforts led by Jeremy Thompson and Kelvin Vercoe, we recently received a letter from sister union the National Air Traffic Control Association (NATCA) thanking NZALPA for the support and donations to United States colleagues as they went through the long, drawn-out difficulties surrounding the recent Government shutdown. The letter emphasises the strong international solidarity between our member associations around the globe, especially in times of real challenge and hardship and can be read on page x of this issue of Uplink.
Have a safe month.
<< March 2019 General Manager's note >>