A VIDEO showing Queenstown Airport’s spectacular approach – voted one of the world’s best – has gone viral.
As potential local night flights take a step forward, the clip – recorded from the cockpit of a commercial jetliner descending through clouds – has been viewed 1.4 million times on YouTube alone (WATCH IT HERE).
It demonstrates the satellite-guided approach path planes use in fog and bad weather to ensure safe passage through Queen-stown’s mountainous approach – the same satellite navigation that could enable landings in hours of darkness.
New Zealand’s aviation safety authorities gave the green light to the foundation safety case for night flights earlier this month, conditional upon $10 million of lighting and runway upgrades.
In the viral video, the unidentified pilot films from the jet as it soars above the cloud layer surrounded by snow-capped Wakatipu peaks.
It then descends through the clouds – resulting in zero visibility through the cockpit window as it’s blanketed white – before dipping below the cloud layer and landing.
Queenstown Airport airside operations manager Mark Harrington says: “We find Queenstown Airport has a cult following among pilots.
“You often see them uploading different approaches and I’m not surprised it’s had all the hits it has.
“I remember when I was training; you always looked forward to flying in and out of Queenstown.”
Queenstown Airport’s approach was last week voted the tenth most scenic approach in the world in leading private jet booking service PrivateFly’s 2014 poll.
Harrington can’t say for sure what model of jet is in the clip, which was uploaded in October under the tagline “This is why we fly”.
“It’s hard for me to tell but my guess is it’s an A320,” he says. “It’s definitely flying an RNP (Required Navigation Performance) approach.
“And it’s a great description of what that RNP track is like, so it gives people a good feel for how advanced it is.”
RNP allows pilots to effectively fly blind through the mountainous approach to Queenstown – the flight path guided by satellites.
It is the technology that has made night flights a realistic possibility by 2016.
“The computer can bring the aircraft down very low now,” Harrington says.
“With aviation there’s always so many cross-checks and balances, there’s never one system, so even though it’s automated there’s other checks too.”
PrivateFly ran the poll on its website with a shortlist judged by an expert panel.
One voter says: “All approaches to this runway are, in a word, spectacular. The mountains and lake are stunning from the air and there’s a bit of a thrill if you are on the left hand side of the plane, you feel you could just reach out and touch the Remarkables.
“You fly in over the beautiful alpine landscapes and over huge lakes that reflect a mirror image of the surrounding mountains. Simply magnificent.”
To find the link, type ‘This is why we fly’ into YouTube.