ATC Director, Kelvin Vercoe
Think back to last year, when Airways Board and executive leadership team made the questionable decision to propose to close seven towers with almost immediate effect. In my opinion, from a safety, infrastructure and common-sense point of view, this was an ignorant decision. With a genuine concern for the integrity and safety of New Zealand’s airspace, our team (including subject matter expertise and operational knowledge from Air Traffic Controllers, Flight Service Staff and Pilots) spent countless hours examining and then challenging the soundness of the proposal.
This year, that effort has ultimately been validated: at the time of writing, following aeronautical studies and review by the CAA, three aerodromes have been determined to continue to require an Air Traffic Control or Flight Information service. Additionally, the remaining aeronautical studies have recommended services continue in the other affected aerodromes. Those studies are still under review with the relevant airport companies or the CAA, but we anticipate a similar result.
With that in mind, we are surprised that there has been no acknowledgement of what now appears to have been ill-conceived safety critical decision-making by Airways, or any other internal auditing of operational decision-making processes within Airways.
Call me a cynic, but it appears there has been a clear change in PR spin from Airways in relation to this. From initially proposing to close the Air Traffic Control and Flight Service units, it is now stating the proposal was meant to generate aeronautical studies, followed by dialogue with the airport companies, with a view to renegotiating the service contracts between Airways and airport operators. I’d be surprised if you didn’t agree that there were better and more suitable business actions that could have been taken to start those conversations. Rest assured we will be following up to question what accountability there will, or should, be for those decisions.
Ministry of Transport – Ministerial review of Air Navigation System (ANS)
The Ministry of Transport recently announced a Ministerial Review of New Zealand’s ANS. We can’t help thinking that this has been, in no small part, brought about from the recent exposure of poor decision- making and oversight of ANS by our incumbent ANS provider, Airways New Zealand. NZALPA has so far had input into the Terms of Reference for this review and will be a key stakeholder in the review itself, which is scheduled to begin next year.
Civil Aviation Bill
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Additionally, with the recently introduced CA Bill currently making its way through the legislative process, NZALPA has presented a comprehensive written submission. Additionally, we will be making oral submissions to the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee when the time arises.
The timing of these two significant events appears to highlight the potential that there may end up an unfortunate, but unavoidable, ‘cart before the horse’ situation, as any outcomes from the ANS Review may come after the CAA Bill becomes law, which may require future legislative amendments.
Collaboration and Solidarity
Finally, with NZALPA being a Pilot, Air Traffic Control and Flight Information union and professional representative association, uncertain times like this – as we all play a critical role in navigating the aviation industry out of the global pandemic – highlight the benefits of collaboration, information sharing, and united support.
I’d like to see our Association continue to add to being ‘helpers to those in need’, to enablers of progress and opportunity, and key influencers in the aviation sector.
There is no other combined union like ours globally, and we should celebrate that and encourage our international colleagues to collaborate and foster closer ties and united voices.
The International Federation of Air Traffic Control Associations (IFATCA) and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) have begun down this track with a proposed crossover day at our annual conferences in Singapore next year.
Support for ATC causes from the NZALPA Principal Officers and Board of Management has, once again, been very much appreciated.
There is strength in unity, and a combined and professional voice is more likely to be heard and listened to. So, it is no surprise that unions and professional bodies are now being considered an important part of the equation by manufacturers, regulators and legislators in shaping and developing a (hopefully) better global aviation system following COVID.
I’m also happy to say that we are continuing to create a sector wide network of similarly focused external organisations with which we can collaborate. The Aviation Marine Engineers Association (AMEA), New Zealand Airports’ Association, Aviation New Zealand, CAA, the Ministry of Transport and the Met Service have all shown that they see the value in working with the NZALPA to share expertise and create a more comprehensive and cohesive network and strategy, to ensure the safety and integrity of the environment we work in is maintained or improved. It’s fair to say there are employers who could learn something from that approach.
Thank you to everyone that has volunteered to be enablers this year, and I wish all of you and your families a safe and happy festive season and a better 2022.