05 April 2018

Sunair - Comments on the Grounding and Future Plans

Sunair Aviation has won the right to fly again after being grounded for six months. Owner Dan Power said the lengthy time out of the air had cost the airline "millions" and it could be several months more before it could resume full passenger services because of an acute pilot shortage. The company will recommence daily flights between Whangarei and Kaitaia, Hamilton and Tauranga on April 21 but difficulty recruiting at least four pilots would delay resumption of flights between Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua and Gisborne. Power is  upset about the time it took the Civil Aviation Authority to work through maintenance and other issues which he said should never had resulted in suspension of the airline's air operators certificate, and the certificate of airworthiness for its fleet of 13 aircraft. Sunair says the pilot shortage will make it difficult to resume full services following a lengthy grounding by the Civil Aviation Authority. "It's been a long winded affair to return to the skies and the down time has been expensive for the company." "I complained to the authority that they were not working with us in a timely fashion but they are of the view that they were, and did all they could." Irene King, part of a group of aviation consultants who worked unpaid with Sunair to help them get back flying, is also critical of CAA's handling of the case. "We didn't get a response to letters, we got told that staff are not available, they're on leave, they're too busy. "We've got a pretty good idea of what unsafe looks like, but we've not been able to see anything of any significance or substance anywhere and we have been over it [Sunair​] for months." CAA deputy director of air transport Mark Hughes is adamant that Sunair's suspension was warranted due to safety concerns which arose during a comprehensive audit and subsequent investigation of the company's operations. He said those concerns had been addressed by a change of senior management, improved maintenance control procedures, rectification of aircraft airworthiness deficiencies and improved management systems. 

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