21 February 2011

Hokitika Services Unaffected by Air National Grounding

Flights to Hokitika Airport have remained unaffected by the grounding if carrier Air National, according to airport chairman Bruce Smith. Air National was grounded at the start of the month due to safety concerns, but Mr Smith said the new agreement with Air Nelson to fly larger, 50-seat planes in Hokitika meant the new Q300 aircraft had been landing in Hokitika regularly for the past two weeks. “One thing it has done is that it has brought the bigger aircraft into use much quicker than anticipated,” he said. The airport had expected to undergo an upgrade period before the Q300s could begin operating, but airport manager Drew Howatt said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had been impressed with the way it had managed the bigger aircraft during the height of the Pike River Mine disaster, and after the grounding of Air National had been happy to extend the exemption granted for the Pike River memorial day. “We still need to put extra runway lights in, as well as change the markings and extend the effective operating length of the runway. All that is on target to happen before April 18. “The CAA are happy for us to take the bigger planes on a one-by-one basis, happy in the knowledge that this work is being done.” Currently, four 50-seater Q300s were landing in Hokitika each week, and once the new runway upgrade was completed that number should increase further. “It has been clear so far that if you put a bigger plane on, there will be more people to fill the seats, which has been good to see.”

Source : Hokitika Guardian, 15 February 2011

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