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Safety and workload concerns over NZ airspace closures

10 January 2019

 The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) has concerns due to the increased numbers of New Zealand airspace closures recently. 

The frequent closures of various Airspace Sectors are causing flight delays, disrupting schedules and increasing stress and workload for pilots and air traffic controllers.


“Our pilots rely on Air Traffic Control for safe and efficient conduct of flights, and we feel this is being compromised by the increasing frequency of contingency procedures and reduced capacity notices across the Airspace system of New Zealand” NZALPA President Tim Robinson said.


“When an airspace sector closes or has limitations placed on the operations within it, contingency procedures are implemented.  This affects our members, and ultimately the public, in a number of ways:


  • Causing delays that would not normally occur.
  • Reducing the capacity of the airspace meaning fewer aircraft can be operating at a time. 
  • It could potentially impact flight safety; particularly should an inflight emergency take place.
  • Costing airlines money because extra distance must be flown around the closed airspace, with more time in holding patterns, so uses more fuel.
  • It impacts the reliability of schedules and disrupts passengers’ travel plans.
  • Increasing workload for pilots and air traffic controllers.  The adjacent airspaces are busier during these times, with re-routed flights around the closed portion, so even more delays are experienced.


“Although the contingency procedures are undesirable, we do not doubt or question the professionalism and dedication of our Air Traffic Controllers; but the increased workload and distractions during these times adds yet another level of complexity to our pilots operating in, and our Air Traffic Controllers in charge of the airspace.”


“Airline training schools, also trying to remedy the current pilot shortage, are impacted as well because there is less air traffic capacity available and training flights may be suspended during closures.


“We question the business model applied to controlling New Zealand’s airspace, and see it as flawed. The government appears to place dividend maximisation ahead of a world class, safe, efficient and reliable airspace system with the SOE model they use.


“Our members are becoming increasingly frustrated by reduction in the safety margin and unnecessary delays caused by airspace closures,” said Robinson.


Media contact:  Lisa-Marie Richan +64 27 278 0441

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