20 June 2013

Queenstown, ATRs and RNP Approaches

Dozens of services on Air New Zealand turboprop aircraft have been cancelled or diverted in and out of Queenstown because ATRs are not technologically equipped to fly in low visibility. The ATR fleet is not equipped with required navigation performance (RNP) technology, satellite-based systems that allow precision flying in poor visibility. However, the airline is investigating the possibility of introducing the technology to turboprop aircraft. The Southland Times asked the airline for the number of ATR cancellations or diverts at Queenstown since May 1 but a spokesman said the information was not available. He said the number of ATR flights hit by weather in Queenstown so far this winter was in line with previous years. Anecdotally, more than two dozen services have been cancelled in recent weeks. The spokesman said the ATR fleet operated daily services between Queenstown and Christchurch and some Queenstown to Wellington services. The perception that the Christchurch route was most susceptible to cancellations related to it being the service with the most ATRs in Queenstown, he said. "We're currently investigating the possibility of adding additional RNP navigation capability to [ATR 72-600] aircraft, which would assist with low visibility operations into and out of Queenstown." Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson said ATR aircraft were economical but they did not have a great record through winter. Three Christchurch flights were cancelled yesterday, one ATR on the Christchurch run landed and departed and an Air New Zealand jet was used to clear the backlog of passengers. At least two were cancelled on Tuesday. "It's been manic and we're very upset for passengers and ourselves. It's an issue for winter. "Air New Zealand are aware of the problem. They are trying to manage it as best they can." At a Destination Queenstown state-of-the-industry meeting last week, Mr Paterson said the airport was putting pressure on Air New Zealand to review ATR use in winter at Queenstown Airport. RNP uses satellite-based technology that means aircraft can precision fly in mountainous terrain and land or take off in bad weather. Last year, Virgin Australia diverts from Queenstown meant passengers often disembarked in Dunedin but the company's aircraft are RNP-enabled this year.  Air New Zealand jet aircraft, Qantas and Jetstar fleets are equipped with the technology.


  1. I thought the 600's were supposed to already have this capability?

  2. I don't think a -600 has even visited Queenstown yet!