08 December 2012

A big loss to the aviation community..

Of late I have been working on posts regarding the history of two early airlines that operated to Gisborne, Dominion Airlines and Gisborne Air Transport. As part of that I have been looking again at the Leo White’s book Wingspread. This early New Zealand aviation history is really the story of not only planes but also people. It strikes me this has always been the way in the New Zealand aviation community.

As I wander around the airports and airfields of New Zealand I have met so many interesting people who have only been too happy to share their own interest in their aircraft or the companies they own or work for. My own interest is particularly in the New Zealand’s small airlines. Since starting my blog I have had a number of emails from people and numerous comments from people who I have met who have enjoyed what I have tried to put together of the past and appreciated that I am trying to get the news of what has been happening today as today’s news is tomorrow’s history.

With the New Zealand airline scene there is not a lot of sources of information. One of the major sources of these was the New Zealand civil aircraft register. This made available the aircraft details and ownership details. In recent months the historical ownership details were removed. In recent days the current ownership details were removed after a complaint/complaints were made to the Privacy Commissioner. This is a huge loss to the aviation community and especially to those who record aviation news and history.

Of course I can understand the concerns of the person(s) who made the complaint(s). Their full names and addresses were readily available and from what I understand this led to unsolicited mail and email. But then again, none of us are immune from this… we all to varying degrees get plagued by telemarketers, spam emails, and many, like myself, because of the position I hold, end up getting mail, emails and telephone calls from others who use the public information for an end to which it was not intended. To an extent this is a fact of life of the communication age.

On the other hand the question that should be asked is, “Is it in the public interest for this information to be released?” For the good of the public, the answer is no. For the curiosity of the public, or those members of the aviation community who are interested the answer is yes. The Privacy Act is well intentioned and rightly seeks to protect people’s privacy. However, it does, I believe, inadvertently have the effect of destroying the bonds of community. The decision by the CAA’s interpretation of the Privacy Act will have a sad impact on the aviation community and the recording of aviation history because it will separate planes from people. Such privacy issues are joining the ranks of OSH and security issues in making it harder and harder to an armchair aviation enthusiast.

Ideally I would have liked to have seen CAA continue to put the register out with a simplified ownership details, for example an initial, a surname, a town/district/city. Hopefully that would have mitigated a lot of the concerns. Where once I would have labelled a photo “Whitianga based Cherokee ZK-ABC…” or “J Blogg’s Piper Cherokee ZK-ABS…” now it will be just “Cherokee ZK-ABC.” One wonders if I should purge all names and company names from my blog? 

For over the last three years I have tried to put together on this blog news of the airlines of New Zealand and a weekly profile on a current or historical airline operation in New Zealand. This has been failrly demanding time wise and I am getting busier in my other day to day concerns. Now, with the loss of the CAA aircraft register I have lost a key source of information for historical reseaching and finding out what is happening with airline operators today. I get very little information come to me via email as to what is happening around the country. With my existing time constraints I suspect this will force me to go from scheduled Sunday blog posts to becoming a non-scheduled or on-demand blogsite and aviation historian.         


  1. Very well said Steve.
    Dave Paull

  2. I hear you Steve. It is a nuisance for me also [although more-so yourself].

    Please don't give up. I hear that moves are afoot to resolve this issue. Hopefully it won't take too long.

  3. As a non-Kiwi yet,i enjoy your history of NZ Aviation.I totally agree with your argument over privacy.All aircraft fans only require from the register detail are name/owner and possible place of residence of the aircraft.That is all we ask for,and not the personal address of the owners.I also give my support as Rodney says keep going as when i arrive for good in NZ i want to become active in news from Tauranga.