15 June 2010

Jetstar Enhances Queenstown Operations

Budget airline Jetstar can handle dodgy Queenstown weather now it’s adopted the same ‘flying-blind’ technology as its main rival. A year after taking over Qantas’ domestic services, Aussie-based Jetstar has fitted its New Zealand Airbus planes with satellite-based Required Navigation Performance equipment. RNP is a computerised system which allows pilots to take off and land in difficult conditions such as low cloud and fog, that otherwise disrupt flights to and from the resort. As a result of the new on-board software, Queenstown diversions this winter should lower from 12 per cent to one per cent, Jetstar boss Bruce Buchanan says. It’s introduced RNP after getting aviation authority approvals in Australia and NZ and has been conducting extensive test flights. In the next two weeks, Jetstar is lowering its minimum bad-weather operating height to the same level as Air New Zealand. “But you’ll still get some diversions in really bad weather,” Buchanan warns. He says Jetstar will next roll out its $12.5 million RNP programme through Australia then lower its minimum bad-weather operating height into Queenstown even further next winter. Buchanan says the technology also allows up to five per cent shorter flight times as pilots don’t have to rely on ground navigation aids to take off and land. It would also help bring night flights into Queenstown, he adds. The prospect of late-night flights has upset many airport neighbours, but in making it easier for Aussies to weekend over here “it would be a game-change in terms of visitation to Queenstown”, Buchanan says.

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