There have been several media articles lately (TVNZ, Xtra, and local newspapers) over safety concerns at Taupo Airport.
TVNZ reports that the lack of Air Traffic Control at Taupo is an accident waiting to happen. CAA staff are unhappy at the situation also, but the authority itself has declined to do anything about it.
IFALPA has labelled Taupo a "black star" or critically deficient airport at a recent meeting in Istanbul, and apparently Taupo is the only black star airport with eleven special operating procedures in the world. The NZFALPA is not happy either.
However, Eagle Air - operating as Air New Zealand Link - which flies Beechcraft 1900D aircraft in as a scheduled service 4 - 6 times daily, states their pilots have nil concerns.
If Air Traffic Control cannot be implemented, then an AFIS has been reccommended as the next best thing. At present, all Taupo has is an AWIB service, and information from the Christchurch Control Tower, which provides a very general oversight for much of New Zealand's airspace, and does not provide take-off and landing clearances etc.
Taupo Airport's website said an AFIS was provided until 1997 when a reduction in government subsidies made it uneconomic.
Several close shaves have been reported - such as parachutists landing within metres of a helicopter, and in 2005, a charter flight crashed into a hill while on a non-precision instrument approach into Taupo. Three people were killed. It is possible that if ATC existed in Taupo this may have been avoided.
However, a group representing operators at Taupo reject this, saying everything is fine. This - I gather - is most of the scenic flight people at Taupo, whose livelihoods are naturally threatened by these sorts of reports.
Things however were bad enough for the CAA to commission a safety report into Taupo Airport in 2004. It concluded that re-establishing an AFIS would be un-economic.
Being the media, no-one has mentioned the following points:
Taupo is in a Mandatory Broadcast Zone.
Pilots are required to listen to Taupo AWIB 125.2, broadcast position/intentions, on 118.4, and remain clear of the parachute drop zone.
Departing aircraft are required to broadcast intentions before starting to taxi, and again on entering the runway for take-off.
Taupo also has a UNICOM system which provides a listening watch in the immediate area. It responds to requests for information, determines runway in use, and monitors airport activity among its other operations.
So it is not exactly completely uncontrolled, which is what the media would have us believe!!!
Taupo is however a busy airport with 45000 aircraft movements per year, 6000 or so of these being IFR; and is the busiest parachute drop zone in the country.
It does sound like a control tower, or at least an AFIS, is a much needed safety measure, but nobody is willing to pay for it.
Taupo Airport serves a multi-million dollar tourist industry, based around the town of Taupo (in full: Taupo-Nui-A-Tia - the great cloak of Tia, an early Maori explorer). Main runway - parallel to Lake Taupo or Taupomoana 17/35 1386x 30m. Equipped with CGL, LIL
RWY, and VASIS 3.0/TCH 50 (which is very slightly off balance - TCH may vary + or - 2ft). Also a turning beacon FLG
W LIH 1.2nm s of Runway 36's extended centre line. Aerodrome height 1335ft/407m. Helicopters arrive and depart from areas either side of runway 17/35. There is also grass runway 11/29 at 731x60m, rwy 11 is not available for take-off. Aircraft using either runway taxi on the runway to take off position. Turning bays are provided at each end of runway 17/35. TUO has NDB and DME equipment installed. Current aerodrome opened in 1981.
Parasailing occurs in Tapuaeharuru Bay near the airport providing yet another hazard.
AIP New Zealand
[Edited 2006-06-02 15:26:39]