09 May 2019

Manapouri Flights Diverted

Popular chartered flights into the Te Anau-Manapouri Airport have been diverted for the remaining tourism season after regional airline Air Chathams unexpectedly discovered the airfield hadn't been certified to take its flights. A series of operational and compliance issues at Fiordland's airport have forced a loyal regional airline to divert its flights elsewhere, leaving a local tourism operator 'extremely disappointed' in the Southland District Council's lack of foresight when it came to fostering business at the airport High-end tour operator Tauck Tours was supposed to have its last chartered flight for the season through Air Chathams into Fiordland on Sunday (May 5). However, those passengers had to be diverted to Queenstown instead due to a 'surprise' discovery by the airline a couple of months ago. Air Chathams general manager Duane Emeny said the latest revision for the Te Anau-Manapouri Airport's landing charts showed the airfield was no longer certified for the large-category aircraft Air Chathams had been using for their regular weekly flights chartered by Tauck Tours. 'We noticed straight away that Manapouri had changed from a certified airfield to a non-certified airfield.' Mr Emeny said it really came as a big surprise to us ' Tauck Tours had been flying into Manapouri for at least 20 years. Mr Emeny explained. Regardless of the different operators Tauck Tours had chartered with. he said they all used aircraft that required the airport to have now missing certification, called Part 139. As the council, which owns and manages the airport. now works to get re-certified for the next tourism season. Mr Emeny said the whole experience had been 'very disruptive' for the airline 'It's not something that we wanted to be spending a whole lot of our senior management time doing.' Mr Emeny said. SDC commercial infrastructure manager Dylan Rabbidge and general manager for services and assets Matt Russell said the council made the decision, in conjunction with the CAA to relinquish its certification in 2015 as it was 'not technically required. Requirements for the certificate changed since then, and after a CAA inspection of the airport a month ago the aviation authority determined Part 139 certification was once again required for the airport. Mr Rabbidge and Mr Russell said, however, the aerodrome had already been working to be re-certified for the next season even prior  to being inspected But before all of this came light, Mr Emeny said neither the council nor its airport manager Evan Pearce consulted with Air Chathams, 'In a lot of ways, the airport manager should have made us aware of it It should have been a deliberate conversation with Air Chathams just to make sure we were aware of whatever understanding he had with the CAA over the certification of the airfield,' Mr Emeny said. And of course, we never asked the question because the approach plates that we were using... indicated that the airfield was certified.' Advocate South was unable to speak with Mr Pearce before press time. The airline still wanted to fly into Manapouri, and Mr Emeny said he was 'reasonably' optimistic the airport would get up to standard before the start of the next season. Airport issues had not only seriously affected the airline's work for Tauck Tours, but it's also made a big impact on their Fiordland to Chatham Islands charters for Merv's Chatham Islands Tours. In this case. Mr Emeny said the approach procedure for a ground-based navigation aid had been removed from the airport, and Air Chatham's own aircraft were too old to meet additional requirements without it. 'We've had to move Merv's' tours out of Invercargill. which is a real shame because I think the magic of what he was doing was the fact that it was flying out of Manapouri, such an isolated, remote destination to another very isolated, remote destination on the Chathams." However, Mr Rabbidge and Mr Russell said the diversions to Invercargill earlier this season were 'due to weather' at Te Anau-Manapouri Airport. As for Te Anau resident Mery Halliday. who has been running these tours since 2014, he said that was what navigational aids were for to help pilots navigate through inclement weather Mr Halliday said he was 'extremely disappointed' as the council had been alerted to these issues years before. Aviation pioneer and fellow Te Anau resident the late Russell Baker averted the council to these issues at a 2017 meeting around wastewater infrastructure at the airport, he said. 'I'm extremely disappointed in that we've got a fully serviceable airport there due to the foresight of some of the earlier councillors,' Mr Halliday said 'Okay. there's hiccups along the way, but the fact that the late Russell Baker pointed out to the full council the situation as it was unfolding and they haven t taken a scrap of notice.' it's a bit like a bar licence at a hotel... If a pub loses its liquor Russell Baker pointed out to the full council the situation as it was unfolding and they haven t taken a scrap of notice.' it's a bit like a bar licence at a hotel. If a pub loses its liquor licence, bloody hell, its a huge job to get it back because everything has got to be brought right up to standard, and this is the same thing. Ultimately, he said the community should be proud of the airport it had. 'They're taking the sewage down there, they've let the navigational aids go and they've let the licence lapse... Anybody else would be doing all they could to foster [opportunities' and think. 'How could we get more traffic into Manapouri?' The tours he's been running to the Chathams are now being booked to fly out of Invercargill Airport for the next season. 

Source : Advocate South, 9 May 2019


  1. What a cluster, maybe it’s also time Air Chathams did something with being able to comply with the correct RNP requirements and not rely on the old NDBs......

    1. Agreed, but probably not quite as simplistic as this.

      Remember that they now operate a former Cook machine into Manapouri.

      The NDB still has a place hence why they are are still at most if not all regional airports that don't have a VOR.

      I understand that link don't do NDB approaches anymore, but it's a technical redundancy when dual FMS fail.