'Reckless' drone operator put passengers at risk - Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand says it will fully support any moves made by authorities against drone operators to ensure the safety of their aircraft and passengers.

Captain David Morgan called Tuesday's drone incident "reckless behaviour" that put the safety of the traveling public at risk.

He said the use of drones in New Zealand has become concerning, adding that passenger safety remains non-negotiable.

It was an Air New Zealand pilot flying a Bombardier Q300 that spotted the drone and immediately contacted Air Traffic Control.

At this stage, police say there are no active lines of enquiry.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) has also weighed in on the incident, saying it shows all drone operators need to be registered and licensed.

"It's likely that the operator involved in today's incident will get off scot-free, even though he put in jeopardy the welfare and potential lives of many air transport crew and the travelling public," said NZALPA president Tim Robinson.

"We are going to see much more of these types of incidents, including today's which disrupted many people's plans and could have been so much worse, unless the Civil Aviation Authority heed our call for better education of drone operators.

"This is best done through registration and licensing which will mean both opportunity to educate as well as more likely [identification of] who the operators are."

It's not the first time a drone operator has got in the way of aircraft in New Zealand.

In early February Jorge Eduardo Riquelme Cruz was convicted of careless use of a drone after he flew it among helicopters fighting a large blaze in Wanaka.

There were seven helicopters involved in the operation and all of those were forced to land due to the drone's presence.

The incident on Tuesday afternoon forced 20 aircraft to delay their arrival into Auckland, and one flight from Tokyo diverted to Ohakea Air Force Base near Palmerston North.