Kids can’t fly

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A Queenstown dad is fuming after an airport official grounded his kids for flying their kite near Frankton Beach.

Phil Hide was “astonished” when daughters Amelia, 9, and Hannah, 11, were ordered to haul down their kite last Saturday afternoon.

The official deemed the kite “a danger to passenger safety”.

Hide says the Queenstown Airport Corporation fire officer also warned they had already delayed an Air New Zealand flight from taking off and that other planes were sitting on the runway waiting to depart.

“A guy rolled up in an airport ute and told us to remove the kite because it was dangerous,” Hide says. “It was a bummer because we’ve been using the same spot for years and never had a problem.

“I’ve never heard the likes of it – we had to pull the string down and bugger off.”

Airport boss Steve Sanderson confirms control tower staff sent a fire officer to a grassy bank just above Frankton Beach at 3.45pm after becoming concerned about planes leaving and arriving from the Lake Wakatipu end of the runway. Sanderson also points out that by law, anyone flying the likes of kites, balloons or model aircraft without permission within a 4km radius of an airport potentially faces a fine of up to $5000.

“As a rule, we don’t usually enforce the aviation rules but unfortunately, in this isolated case, the control tower believed it was unsafe as the kite was in the flight path,” Sanderson says.

“The people involved were asked to stop flying it.”

Hide, who runs a car rental company in Queenstown, insists his kite was operating at a height of “50 metres, max”.

He’s gutted he’ll now have to take his kids elsewhere.

“When the guy from the airport pulled us up, I asked him what had changed because we’d been flying kites there for years.

“He told me it was a safety issue and said if a plane had to abort a takeoff or landing and ditch into the lake, then we would be right in the way and causing a hazard.

“He said we’d already held up one plane and there were others on the tarmac waiting to go.”

Hide adds: “I can see the guy did have a point, because if someone let go of the string then maybe the kite could then become a problem for aircraft – but why has this never been an issue before?

“It’s a shame for the kids because the bit around Frankton Beach is one of the few really good places left in the area for kites and now we’ll have to find somewhere else.”

Airport boss Sanderson says the public is generally unaware of the 4km exclusion zone.

“This would probably take in surrounding areas like Lake Hayes Estate and Quail Rise,” he says.

“But we are not draconian and usually only act if there is a perceived danger, so there will be no signs being put up anywhere banning kites.”

Sanderson adds: “We did have an occasion a few years back when the string snapped on a kite near the airport and it then became a safety hazard.

“It’s not something that’s unheard of.”