Concerns about the numbers of helicopters over Waiheke and resulting safety issues have led to a top aviation authority planning a trip to the island.
Waiheke has more helipads than Los Angeles and the same number as Busan, Korea, a city of 3.4 million that ranks third in the world for helipad numbers.
Civil Aviation Authority director Keith Manch and his advisors are due to talk to community group Quiet Sky and the Waiheke Local Board about safety issues.
Quiet Sky member Kim Whitaker says the group has been in touch with the Ministry of Transport and made a submission to the Parlimentary Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee on the new Civil Aviation Bill. The group is raising concerns over potential congestion in Waiheke’s airspace as the number of helipads increase.
Kim says the authority contacted the group to set up a meeting on the island for Thursday 5 May, although it was postponed on Tuesday after a member of the CAA delegation tested positive for Covid. “They want to find out more about what is happening on Waiheke, and talk with us and other [groups] involved.”
Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust chief executive Craig Gibbons says Waiheke is in uncontrolled airspace, meaning pilots don’t have to broadcast their location or have active transponders. While it isn’t an issue yet, the growing number of helipads on the island is likely to lead to busier skies – which could make it more difficult for aircraft to avoid each other without clear communication. “It may be time to consider making Waiheke a mandatory broadcasting zone… If there’s lots of traffic over the island, and people aren’t announcing their positions it can interfere with us [safely] doing our jobs.” • Paul Mitchell
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