New Zealand's Taupo Airport worst in the world

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Friday, June 2, 2006

The International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations has rated Taupo airport the worst in the world due to its “critically deficient” safety measures.

The main concern is over the complete absence of air traffic controllers at Taupo.

In 2004, the Civil Aviation Authority rejected a recommendation made by its own staff to install a flight information service. CAA director John Jones said that the proposal was rejected because it was not cost effective. A spokesman yesterday reaffirmed that position.

"Failure to endorse the major safety recommendation of the study team would expose the director to a level of risk that would be difficult to defend in the event of an incident at Taupo that might have been mitigated by an [information service]. We believe your recommendation would place the travelling public and aviation participants at risk and would be indefensible in a Coroners Court," study team leader Len Wicks wrote in an internal memo.

The New Zealand Airline Pilots Association has issued 11 "special operating procedures" for pilots at the Taupo airport. The airport that had the next lowest number of air traffic controllers is that of Umtata, South Africa, which has five.

Taupo is the tenth busiest airport in New Zealand. It receives and sends out more flights than Napier, Dunedin or Invercargill, but this distinction is largely negated by its air traffic control woes.

Air New Zealand Eagle Air general manager Doug Roberts, however, said that his airline had been flying to Taupo for decades without difficulty. Likewise, Taupo Air Charter, which has operated in Taupo for 25 years, has suffered no problems in its flights.