Getting up to speed


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. 

  • Air NZ last month claimed a world record when RNP guided an Airbus into Rotorua Airport only 92 metres above the runway in low cloud conditions.


    Resort lands a top-flight annual airline pow-wow 

    Queenstown will host the country’s biggest gathering of airline bosses. 

    Chief executives and top-level managers from the 29-airline Star Alliance will attend board meetings at Arrowtown’s Millbrook Resort, from December 12-14. Member airline Air New Zealand successfully bid to host the annual conference. 

    Other members include Continental Airlines, Lufthansa, United, Air China and Singapore Airlines – together they carry 623 million passengers a year, fly to 181 countries and have a combined annual turnover of $229 billion, which is almost eight times NZ’s Gross Domestic Product. 

    The conference should attract 80 delegates and more than 30 international media, an Air NZ spokesman says.