Air New Zealand is introducing new flight procedures that will dramatically improve the reliability of flights for customers travelling in to and out of Queenstown airport one of the most challenging in New Zealand. The airline estimates that bad weather in Queenstown prevents it from operating services on more than 36 days a year, inconveniencing thousands of holidaymakers and tourists.
In an effort to improve the reliability of its service into the airport, Air New Zealand has introduced a sophisticated new procedure which allows specially trained pilots to fly to lower altitudes with a more precise and efficient route into the airport.
The new procedure, taking advantage of the very latest advances in onboard navigation technology fitted onto six Boeing 737s, has been monitored and approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. Known as Required Navigation Performance Operations or RNP, it is used by a number of overseas airlines.
Air New Zealands Manager Fleet Support Technical, Phil Hickman says that with the new procedure in place the airline expects to significantly reduce the number of Queenstown flights it has to cancel due to bad weather.
The vast majority of customers travelling into Queenstown are tourists or holidaying Kiwis, and we recognise that their time is precious, Mr Hickman said.
We clearly cant control the weather, but we now have a highly advanced capability in place that will help minimise weather disruptions on our flight schedules, enabling us to get our customers into and out of Queenstown with much greater reliability.
Queenstowns mountainous terrain makes its airport one of the most challenging in New Zealand, with only specially-trained pilots operating on the route.
Mr Hickman says that Air New Zealand has spent over two years working on the introduction of the new procedure, with a core group of B737 pilots completing more than 100 arrivals and departures in and from Queenstown as part of a validation programme required by the Civil Aviation Authority.
B737 Captain Grant Fausett and First Officer Hugh Pearce have played key roles in training pilots for the new operations.
Captain Fausett says the new procedure provides pilots with a reliable, repeatable and predictable flight path into and out of Queenstown.
The new technology delivers greater safety and reliability of access, he says. The B737 pilot group is embracing this new technology with enthusiasm and is quickly becoming aware of its benefits.