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Kāpiti Airport closure could cause problems РAOPANZ

Rolling closures at Kāpiti Coast Airport will impact the safety of pilots and small aircraft travelling New Zealand who rely on the airport for safe harbour in poor weather and other events when travelling between the North and South Islands.

President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of NZ Steve Brown says the rolling closures raise unintended safety concerns and will impact pilots transiting through Cook Strait who use Omaka in Blenheim and Kāpiti Airport in Paraparaumu as the staging points for their travel around New Zealand.

"Although the rolling closures have been made with safety assumptions, it means pilots of light aircraft lose the flexibility to respond to changing conditions such as weather or fuel changes. The next nearest airport for fuel is Wanganui or Wellington – and landing at Wellington can be problematic as it’s a major airport," says Steve.

From Saturday, December 12, until February 1, the hours of operation at the Kāpiti Coast Airport are restricted daily by airport owners NZPropCo, responding to staff shortages with AFIS (Aerodrome Flight information Service). Steve says it's the busiest time of year for the airport, as more people travel between the North and South Islands.

"At this time of year there is an increase in light aircraft travelling between the South and North Islands who rely on the Kāpiti Coast Airport as a safety stop. We are concerned about their safety in what can be fast-changing weather conditions.

"We would like to see the airport restrictions reviewed. Every other medium sized airfield with a tower or AFIS reverts to ‘G’ airspace when the tower is not operational and can operate safely. We believe the same conditions can be applied at KƒÅpiti Airport.

"AOPA sees the issue as a long term one which needs a long-term solution and is part of the ongoing issue regarding the airports future," says Steve.

The future of the airport is uncertain as the owners consider its future.

Kāpiti Coast Mayor, K Gurunathan wrote to the Prime Minister on December 8, asking the Government to make a clear and comprehensive decision on the current and future role of the Kāpiti Airport, marking it as a strategic operations asset for the Wellington Region during a major civil emergency.

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