Sky drama sparks probe


Civil Aviation Authority is investigating an incident where two Queenstown commercial aircraft took evasive action to avoid a collision. 

A Glenorchy Air Piper Cherokee Six en route to Milford met a Jag Air aerobatic Robin plane returning to the airport at 10.20am last Wednesday. 

The planes were north of Queenstown Hill, around Tucker Beach. 

“The two aircraft didn’t see each other until quite late in the piece and they took avoiding action of each other,” CAA spokeswoman Emma Peel says. 

Peel says Glenorchy Air notified CAA of the incident. 

“It’s been allocated to one of our safety investigators. 

“Most likely what he’ll do is request a special report from Airways, then receive that, then assess it and see what needs to be done.” 

Since both aircraft fly by visual flight rules, they can go as close as they like as long as they can see each other, Peel says. 

“But air traffic control helps them out as much as they can by giving traffic information which is telling each aircraft what else is in their vicinity – where and at what heights.” 

Glenorchy Air boss Robert Rutherford doesn’t believe the planes were any closer than 500 to 600 metres apart. 

“I don’t think there was any chance of [them] actually coming together. The two aircraft knew of each other’s presence. 

“They saw one another perhaps a bit later than they would have liked and both altered course to avoid any conflict. 

“Under the rules, if you have to alter course to avoid any possible conflict, then you have to report it – so that’s what we did,” he says. 

Rutherford says both planes were cleared by the Queenstown control tower “to do exactly what we were doing”.
“Some good news is that with the new multi-lateration separation system the control tower is bringing into being over the next few months, this type of thing should not happen again.”