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.

New Zealand News

Aviation regulator warns airports might face new landing restrictions due to WIAL RESA court decision

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has submitted documents to the Supreme Court saying a recent court ruling could “significantly affect the viability of current operations at a number of airports”.

“[T]he [Court of Appeal] decision potentially impacts the operations of airlines landing and taking-off from those airports,” the CAA said in an application to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

NZALPA President Tim Robinson said that this was not the case.

Speaking to the Dominion Post and reported nationally through Fairfax and Radio New Zealand, Robinson said:

“I do not believe the Court of Appeal decision will impact existing runway operations unless an airport applied to extend the runway by more than 15m.

“I cannot see how the Court of Appeal decision and any decision of the Supreme Court in relation to runway safety area (RESA) can be retrospectively applied to airports that have current certifications for their RESA.”

If NZALPA was wrong on this point, Robinson maintained the challenge it has brought would not be a mistake.

“We still firmly believe from a safety perspective that a 240-metre RESA is such a safety priority that all airports should be certified to 240 metres.”

Like Wellington, Queenstown operates with a 90m RESA, and even this safety zone required the airport to extend its runway into the delta of the Shotover River a decade ago.

Read the full story >

Safety of Robinson helicopter called into doubt

A New Plymouth pilot and flight examiner who survived a mid-air emergency in a Robinson helicopter said the chopper's design needs further investigation.

Jim Finlayson was forced to put the helicopter into a barrel roll when the rotor blade hit the body of the air craft.

As he hit 1200 feet on a training flight, his Robinson R22 suddenly pulled to the right. Mr Finlayson called the incident "incredibly scary".

An incident report showed what's known as a 'mast bump' – where the rotor blade hits the mast that holds it up.

That can turn deadly if the blade then strikes the cockpit, but Mr Finlayson stayed in control.

"I managed to do a complete fairly untidy barrel roll and fly out of that manoeuvre which is something a helicopter is never designed to do, or should or could have done," he said.

Eighteen people in New Zealand have died in mast bumping crashes in the past two decades, but unexplained in-flight break ups have occurred overseas too.

There are three main models of Robinson helicopters in New Zealand; the R22, R44 and R66. They all have the same rotor system. Robinson blames poor training of Kiwi pilots, claiming turbulence coupled with pilots reacting wrongly on the controls can cause a mast bump.

Mr Finlayson thinks there's more to it as his incident occurred on a calm day with no turbulence.

"There's something else going on. It can also happen in normal flight conditions and I would be wary of always blaming the pilot for putting incorrect control inputs in," says Mr Finlayson.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the US safety board have called for more investigation into the design of the main rotor.

Robinson said that work in 1994 showed the rotor design doesn't make it more susceptible to mast bumping.

However, subsequent studies have recommended more scientific testing be done. That's never happened.

NZALPA supports further investigation into the safety of the Robinson helicopter and is in contact with the CAA over the issue.

Read the Newshub story >

Regional cancellations caused by pilot supply issues

NZALPA President Tim Robinson featured nationally in Newsroom and through the Fairfax network in a story reporting that a pilot shortage is the reason many regional flights are being cancelled.

Robinson said currently student loan lending for pilots was capped at $70,000 (two years of $35,000 per annum) – which was less than the cost of the $100,000-plus qualification – and loans were restricted to a certain number of students annually.

“There has been significant growth in the industry over the last 24 to 36 months in New Zealand. We have of course seen Jetstar begin competing with the main carrier [on regional routes]. There are more flights, more seats and that puts pressure on the pilot numbers,” Robinson said.

“One of the biggest issues for us is we are not getting enough pilots coming through the training schools.

“The number of pilots coming through is simply not enough to supply the airlines if they continue to grow.”

According to the Civil Aviation Authority figures, the number of New Zealand pilots receiving Commercial Pilots Licenses (CPLs) halved from 241 in 2012 to 120 in 2016.

The newly-released figures show the total number of recipients – including other nationalities – dropped from 374 in 2012 to just 225 in 2016.

Jetstar is already advertising internationally for pilots to fly its New Zealand regional routes, said Aviation New Zealand Chief Executive, John Nicholson.

International employment opportunities for all pilots – especially graduates – could be enticing, with larger paychecks in exotic locations.

Robinson said pilots had to clock up 1500 hours flying experience before they could be employed at a large airline, but entry level positions were very poorly paid.

“They have then got to go out to the industry and get their hours up, sometimes they even have to pay for that as an extra.

“It’s well known through the industry and that is discouraging people from starting. They don’t want to be straddled with a big student loan and have to dip into their own pocket and then get poorly paid.

“So if they can go and get the hours overseas because they can’t get positions in New Zealand, or the positions here are so poorly paid, some of them might not come back – and that’s a problem for the industry.”

Aviation New Zealand’s John Nicholson said older, more experienced pilots were also being enticed overseas, which also left gaps. 

“There are fewer pilots to train co-pilots and so on and that filters down.”

Air New Zealand and Jetstar told Newsroom there was no issue.

There will be a wider feature on the pilot supply issues in the next Uplink Quarterly in June. 

Read the Newsroom/Stuff story >

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