NZ Air Line Pilots’ Association says Airways decision to cut air traffic control services 'puts money ahead of safety'

Airways NZ announced this morning it was in the process of cutting services to seven regions.
Airways NZ announced this morning it was in the process of cutting services to seven regions. Photo credit: Peter Clark/Newshub. (file)

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) has launched an attack on the organisation tasked with controlling airspace around Aotearoa.

Airways NZ announced on Thursday morning it will be reviewing the level of service provided at seven regional airports: Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Rotorua, Invercargill, Kapiti Coast Airport and Milford Sound Piopiotahi Aerodrome.

"The announcement by State Owned Enterprise Airways to remove air traffic services from seven regions is a decision to put money ahead of the safety of the travelling public," NZALPA President, Captain Andrew Ridling said in a statement.

"This decision lacks integrity, is reckless and is an ill-informed approach by an inexperienced group of aviation leaders.

"Airways have already been given $107 million of taxpayers' money either directly or via rebates, and also applied for $5 million in wage subsidy in order to prevent redundancies.

"Where is the essential safety case to close these regional air traffic towers? Let alone the thought given to the regional economic impact? 

"NZALPA pilot and air traffic control members are absolutely fearful for themselves and the travelling public that this decision with only tacit discussion can be made by the so-called Airways leadership. 

"This means the Civil Aviation Authority requirement to have air traffic control in attendance will be unable to be met for typical propeller aircraft such as ATR and Q300."

Both ATRs and Q300s are used by Air New Zealand on its regional services. 

"Airways is now proposing to move the safety level of our national airspace system back to the levels seen in developing nations," Captain Ridling said.

Airways NZ has been approached for comment.