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.

Upfront with NZALPA President

President Andrew Ridling.


In our 75 year existence, NZALPA has consistently focused on excellence in professional and technical standards, and on the advancement and improvement of aviation safety.

In that time we’ve also developed a reputation for being the clear and well respected voice of aviation, making sure our members’ views are heard by government, regulatory authorities, airlines and others. 

We constantly provide technical, authoritative opinions on important aviation safety and security issues for the benefit of members and the travelling public.

We also speak out publicly when we feel issues of importance are not receiving the attention they require. We’ve done this with drones and lasers, and with issues like the Wellington Airport runway extension. 

Last month NZALPA spoke publicly about the urgent need for action on runway safety at Auckland Airport.

There has been increasing concern about the frequency and duration of unplanned closures of the only runway at Auckland Airport. This led IFALPA to issue a safety bulletin suggesting that pilots should always carry a technical alternate for Auckland or consider carrying a minimum of 20 minutes extra holding fuel for arrival at Auckland.

For me, the call to action came when I heard that pieces of broken concrete up to 30cm x 30cm, and 12cm thick had been reported on the runway.  Runway debris can cause a range of issues for aircraft, such as a punctured fuel tank or engine failure. The consequences of this are not something we can dismiss. We are dealing with a very serious situation and one that the airport company has been aware of for a very long time.  

NZALPA appreciates that a permanent solution is not going to be quick, but our focus is on safety and we make no apology for raising public awareness of the dangers and putting the Auckland Airport company under the spotlight. 

We could no longer stand aside and wait for the right thing to happen. We have moved past that point. 

Targeted landings 

Our most modern aircraft have very sophisticated navigation systems, which result in heavy, high speed aircraft striking the same landing point on a runway. If the runway has not been built to withstand this activity, or hasn’t received the necessary maintenance, then we end up with the issues we are seeing now – that one landing point comes under unacceptable pressure and starts breaking up. This is not something we are just learning about, Auckland Airport has been aware of this for many years. The airport company has done maintenance on the runway and has plans for more extensive work. It also has plans for a new runway, which is many years away from completion.

I don’t want to get drawn into arguments about whether the airport company has correctly prioritised developments at the airport or whether there is enough money to do what is required. Neither do I want to wait for the outcome of a review that will identify that a new runway is needed. I want to see solutions that mean that pilots, airlines and the travelling public can have confidence that they will be safe when landing or taking off from Auckland Airport. This includes ensuring when it is not possible to land there, that suitable, safe alternatives are identified and are available.

It simply isn’t good enough for large commercial aircraft to head for Auckland, not knowing whether they will end up being able to land there. We need greater safety assurances.

If the airport company has fallen asleep at the wheel then we need the Government to step in and take action to ensure safety gets put back at the top of the agenda. We need urgent action on this very serious issue and NZALPA is prepared to be the canary in the mine. 

We can’t allow the safety of our members and of the travelling public to be put at risk in this way.


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