Welcome to the General Aviation Advocacy Group of New Zealand

Archives for January 2013

Exclusive: Z explains why it’s canning the tanks at Taumarunui

Z Energy CEO Mike Bennetts writes to GAA:

Our decision to exit the Taumarunui Aero Club by closing our Jet and Avgas facilities was not one that we made lightly, nor without appropriate consultation with those most affected.

For some years now, the site has been running at a financial loss to both Z and our previous owners Shell. In order to preserve the contingency role the site plays in the general aviation market, we (as Z) have continued to supply Avgas fuel to the site, maintain a healthy level of stocks, and ensure all of the equipment is continually operational and environmentally sound.

In the middle of last year, it was apparent that the existing tanks were nearing the end of their useful lives and there was an increasing risk that continued use could compromise our safety and environmental standards. When we looked at the lowest cost replacement option, we were faced with a $180,000 capital investment into a site that is already operating at a loss and with nothing on the horizon that would indicate increased sales volumes or improved economics.

Rather than just exit promptly, in the middle of 2012 we engaged with the Aero Club and other frequent users to share our dilemma with them. In doing so, we eventually agreed that we would leave the Avgas facility in place until March 2013 so that the club could host the NZ Air Safari. To leave the tanks in situ beyond this date would be a compromise to our safety and environmental standards.

I realise this “economic rationale” does little to alleviate your concerns. This decision was debated vigorously amongst my aviation team and sits alongside other decisions we have made to invest $1.7m in airfield tank replacements elsewhere (in both the North and South islands) and a further $1.3m in upgrading the card readers across all of the country.

Unfortunately Taumarunui is an exception to that overall programme as the economics are so very poor, sales at that location are less than 600 litres per week (0.005% of our national Avgas volume) and there is no upside in sight. We actually intend closing three other sites like Taumarunui out of our national network while investing in all of the remaining 40 sites.

We have discussed our intentions with all of the major stakeholders and nothing has arisen that would cause us to change what is clearly a difficult decision, given the impact it has for the general aviation community. These stakeholders include the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as we wanted their perspective, especially on the safety considerations for pilots like yourself. They confirmed it is not CAA’s place to comment on our business decisions and only commented that the pilot is accountable for their own safety.

As such we will be closing the site at the end of March 2013 with the rest of our nationwide network of 40 sites remaining fully operational and environmentally sound.

In the event that another supplier (like BP) wishes to take over the site then there are existing protocols to manage that type of option. They are welcome to contact Tom Hewitt who manages our Aviation business.

How the CAA took 13 years to make a mockery of Consultation

Some of us wondered about the history of the Part 61 Notice of Proposed Rule Making, why it has taken 13 years to reach the NPRM stage, and who has been involved in the process during that time.

Perhaps the symbolism of the number 13 foretold that this NPRM was likely to have many controversial aspects. The hangman’s noose, for example, consists of 13 turns of rope.

From information supplied to GAA by Michael Shouse, a CAA Aviation Standards Specialist, it would appear that the saga started way back in February 2000 with the formation of a TSG, which in turn was formed by CIRAG.

For those of us who have difficulty understanding acronyms, this translates to: the Civil Aviation Authority Industry Rules Advisory Group formed a Technical Study Group.

Now, who were the people appointed to the TSG?

♦ Michael Young (chairperson), representing airline operators

♦ Richard Rayward, representing general aviation aeroplane operators

♦ Barry Gordon, representing general aviation helicopter operators

♦ John Clements, representing helicopter training organisations

♦ Warren Sattler, representing aeroplane training organisations

♦ Jay Peters, representing aero clubs

♦ Neil Hyland, representing Aviation Services Limited

♦ Michael Tucker, representing Personnel Licensing Unit, CAA and

♦ Roger Crosthwaite, CAA Coordinator

The terms of reference for the TSG were:

♦ New Zealand’s obligations as a signatory to the ICAO convention

♦ The outcomes of the ICAO Safety Oversight Audit (1999)

♦ New Zealand’s obligations under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997

♦ Any appropriate international standards

♦ The recommendations contained in CAA policy on aviation examinations

♦ The implications and constraints of any implementation requirements

♦ The safety benefits and compliance costs

♦ The differentiation between administrative rules that are used for entry control, and rules that need to be enforced, along with the type of regulatory tool to be applied

Mark Mullins was subsequently brought onto the TSG to represent Air New Zealand interests and Barry Gordon departed after attending two meetings. Andrew MacKay became Barry Gordon’s replacement to advise on helicopter issues. James McPhee, representing the New Zealand Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), joined the TSG in July 2002 to assist with the requirements for recreational pilots.

So, in the beginning, we had some very good GA representation by experienced people, and the TSG review resulted in a draft NPRM in 2002 proposing a complete rewrite of Part 61, along with a significant number of consequential amendments to other rule parts.

So far, so good. We have a consultation process with a representative GA input.

Then, for reasons unknown, and upon which we can only speculate – because Michael Shouse, our CAA “Aviation Specialist” did not disclose them – the draft NPRM produced by the TSG was shelved.

By 2004, the TSG was inactive and remained so.

Perhaps some of the recommendations of the TSG were not acceptable to the way the CAA administrators (these proclaimed aviation specialists) had desired to draft Rule Part 61 in its final form.

This conjecture is borne out in part by the subsequent opposition, by some of the original members of the original TSG, to changes that appeared in the recently published NPRM.

In the intervening years between 2004 and 2012, it appears the draft NPRM lay dead in the water, with no further input from the TSG.

Several external influences on Rule Part 61 appeared on the scene, and it would appear they were not given the opportunity of being assessed from a GA input perspective by the now-defunct TSG. These were:

♦ The 2000-2005 Safety Forums

♦ The work being undertaken by CASA to rewrite the Australian pilot licensing regulations

♦ The ICAO programme to review Annex 1

♦ The ICAO programme to establish English language proficiency standards published in November 2003 and fully implemented by March 2008

The subsequent implementation of the English Language Proficiency test has already created much controversy among those of us who have English as our first language. It has also added yet another fee to be paid by our student pilots to ASL for their English language speaking assessment. An applicant can have a PhD in English, or be an English elocution teacher, but in the same manner as you can’t avoid death or taxes, the new pilot cannot escape having to pay a fee to ASL to prove that he or she can speak and understand our native tongue.

Had this ICAO requirement been given the opportunity to be assessed by the original TSG, there may have been an alternative means of compliance formulated by the group, which would have satisfied the ICAO standards but would also have saved some of our young student pilots having to part with some of their hard-earned money in yet another fee.

Now, we fast forward to 2012 and the promulgation of NPRM 09-02 Part 61 Stage 2.

Immediately, there were objections raised by many in our GA industry (including some on the original TSG) to many of the proposed changes.

When GAA asked for the identities of the people who had formulated these changes, and their GA experience, we were expecting to be given a list of industry representatives that would have comprised a new and recently formed TSG.

We were somewhat bemused by the subsequent reply from Michael Shouse, that

“Refinement of the proposed rule has more recently been managed by Aviation Standards Specialists within the CAA with technical guidance from the very knowledgeable and experienced staff members of the Personnel and Flight Training Unit within the Aviation Infrastructure and Personnel Group.”

When this vacuous statement was questioned in a subsequent letter from GAA, it elicited the information that the following CAA administrators were entirely responsible for this redraft – and, it would appear, without the input of GA or industry representatives:

♦ Mark Boyle – Team Leader Licensing and Flight Training

♦ Michael Tucker – Principal Aviation Examiner

♦ Carlton Campbell – Training Standards Developments Officer

♦ John Parker – Aviation Examiner – GA Flight Operations

It is crystal-clear that once again, the “consultation process” by the CAA has been carried out with scant regard to industry input.

It would also appear that the notification about the NPRM and short submission time (although subsequently slightly extended following protest) was timed to coincide with the holiday period and would therefore escape detailed scrutiny.

It makes a complete nonsense of a consultation process if there is already a predetermined agenda in place by the CAA “experts”. In this case, it appears that the initial draft NPRM back in 2004 produced by the TSG didn’t fit the CAA agenda, which then shelved it for eight years and subsequently produced another draft NPRM of its own making.

The question is: whether this is a fair and democratic regulatory process that we in GA would be happy to see continue?

As CAA Aviation Standards Specialist Michael Shouse has said in his letter, the original TSG members back in 2002 acknowledged that Part 61 is a cornerstone part of the Civil Aviation Rules because

♦ It applies to the largest group of individuals within the civil aviation system

♦ It affects most flight operational sectors

♦ It is an integral part of the safety system

Without doubt, this statement is 100 per cent correct. Yet how did the proposed changes to the D Cat system, which would have a profound effect on the “passing down of knowledge” from some of our most experienced GA aviators to a younger generation, come to get drafted into the NPRM?

How did this seek to achieve an enhancement of the much-touted word “safety”?

It is clear that we must remain vigilant to the actions of CAA administrators who, in their exclusive opinion, know what is “best for us” and then proceed along a path of disregarding GA and industry input.

CAA CEO Graeme Harris recently wrote to GAA and promised that either he or his colleagues will answer our questions. So here are a few for you, Graeme:

♦ Do you consider a six-week consultation period adequate, given that CAA normally takes around 10 weeks to answer general enquiries, and currently does not even send an acknowledgement of receipt?

♦ Was it reasonable, after a 13-year gestation period, to initially time the Part 61 consultation in a period that included more than two weeks of Christmas and New Year holidays?

♦ The redrafters are all CAA employees. What happened to the idea of involving outside experts from the GA sector?

♦ There are reputed to be only about 100 New Zealand D Cat instructors. The CAA knows the exact number. Was it beyond the CAA’s capabilities to try to advise each of them of what Messrs Boyle, Tucker, Campbell and Parker had in mind?

♦ Will you now knock this proposed rule on the head, put everyone out of their misery, and begin a more inclusive and measured process of change?

If it takes Graeme 10 weeks to reply, Part 61 will probably already have been written in concrete – and we’ll all have been hung, drawn and quartered, yet again.

The ‘drome with no fuel – an Ode to Taumarunui

It’s lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the camp fire at night where the hangar cats call,
But there’s nothing so lonesome so morbid or cruel
Than to stand on a ‘drome by a pump with no fuel.

Now the CFI’s anxious for the tanks to be full
There’s a faraway look on the guy wanting dual
The weather’s gone cranky and flying’s for a fool
What a dodgy ol’ place is a ‘drome with no fuel.

Then the ag pilot lands with his dry dusty throat
Strides up to the pump, pulls a card from his coat,
But the smile on his face is quickly wiped out,
When the CFI says sadly “av.fuel, there is nowt”.

There’s a dog on the v’randah, for his master he waits
But the boss is in town buying MOGAS with mates
He hurries for cover – hides under the stool
It’s no place for a dog round a ‘drome with no fuel.

Then in flies a chopper, but old Bill’s in strife
And goes home by car to his darling wife,
He walks in the kitchen, she says “You’re early, me jewel”,
Then he breaks down and he tells her “The ‘drome’s got no fuel”.

Taumarunui fuel supply under threat

Taumarunui Aero Club has launched a campaign against closure of the airfield’s avgas facility by Z Energy, scheduled for the end of March. The club believes that closure will affect the safety of all general aviation in the central North Island.

For a large number of aircraft crossing the North Island in all directions, Taumarunui Airfield is the only all weather alternate / emergency field. It is the longest publicly owned all-weather grass strip on the North Island, at 1280m, and is located at least 25 nm from any other GA airfield.

The Taumarunui Aero Club hosts many groups with aviation interests, all of which use avgas and require refuelling before returning safely to their home bases. These include:

♦ The NZ Tiger Moth Club

♦ NZ Flying National and Regional Competitions

♦ The Air Safari

♦ AOPA and Sport Flying NZ fly-ins

♦ Warbirds NZ

♦ Cross-country training flights from New Plymouth, Tauranga, Auckland, Palmerston North and Hamilton

Club president Kevin Vile is appealing for aviators to help prevent this from happening by either writing to the CEO of Z Energy, outlining your concerns and any other comments you may wish to make, or signing a support document the club has prepared. You can obtain a copy of this in Word or PDF format from p [dot] gellatly [at] xtra [dot] co [dot] nz, Kevin Vile at kcvile [at] farmside [dot] co [dot] nz or Jeannette Lei at j_elea [at] xtra [dot] co [dot] nz

The CEO of Z Energy is Mike Bennetts. His address is: Z Energy, 3 Queens Wharf, Wellington, or PO Box 2091, Wellington 6140. You can email him, “attn Mike Bennetts” at general [at] z [dot] co [dot] nz

♦ If you oppose what Z Energy plans to do, you can also leave a comment under this article. We’ll pass them all on to Z.

Question: What’s the difference between…

Titanic: What a drag

… the CAA and the Titanic?

Answer: The Titanic had a band.

Moving swiftly on, here’s another question:

How do planes fly? It’s a question that has always perplexed me. Watching a Boeing 777 take-off stands me still. A thing the size of a millionaire’s house launches itself into the air and then just seems to hang there. Of course that’s the answer: Money. Money can make anything fly. Ask NASA. There seems to be a worldwide shortage of the stuff. Even NASA has run out and now shares toys with the Russians.

The physicists will say differently. They will talk of coupling pairs and forces held in equilibrium. Principles of flight; we all learnt the theory for our pilot and engineering licences. It’s all so logical.

The first pairing is thrust and drag. You can equate thrust with dollars in the bank or the ability to charge for flying. Drag equates to the bills required to keep your aeroplane airborne. Bills like loan repayments, insurance, hangar fees, fuel, oil, spark plugs, engineering services, engine replacement fund, syndicate fees, ongoing overhauls (mags, props), landing fees (they’ve got you by the short and curlies on that one, what goes up must come down – even NASA), Airways fees, aero-club/association fees. Oh! and to add the icing on the cake, CAA fees.

As long as thrust and drag are equal, constant-level forward flight can be maintained. Helicopters, of course, completely defy any of these laws. Here, the thrust/$ must substantially increase to cover the increased drag (bills).

Drag comes in two forms, induced and parasitic. Induced drag is an unavoidable by-product of lift, much like work is an unavoidable by-product of having to earn money. Parasitic drag is produced by any part of the aeroplane that does not produce lift. A bit like government departments. The more streamlined an object, the less parasitic drag. Bolkows don’t have much lift. Therefore there is little induced drag (and no ability to earn money). On the other hand, they are one of the least streamlined aircraft I know; therefore, lots of parasitic drag. So the ratio of thrust required to counter drag produced by even a small amount of forward motion is very high.

The second coupling is weight and lift. This law is much easier to understand. Take a vacuum cleaner, put it on blow and try to float various items above it. A ping pong ball is fun (a bit like a Tiger; you have to keep that ball in the middle). The bigger the surface area, the easier it is to make the object fly. If you want more lift or have more weight, you’ll need more wing area.

The forces of weight and lift have to be equal, or you fall out of the sky or keep going up to join the angels. A bit like aviation rules. They have to be workable (sensible) yet they still need to be strong enough to keep you attracted to the earth. If the rules have no teeth, are too complex or non-sensible, they aren’t obeyed. Pilots will go to meet the angels. If the rules are too strong, gravity keeps you pinned to the earth and you never get aloft.

Rules must match the aeroplane type. Gliders with few rules fly anywhere anytime and 777s have books and books of rules. Microlights are a law unto themselves, with no weight, no wing area, no visible means of support physically or money-wise, and they require very few rules.

A quick recap:

Thrust = $ in hand
Drag = Cost
Lift = Workable rules
Weight = Nonsense rules

The primary force is thrust/$. Without that, none of the others matter. No forward motion, no drag, no lift, no worries with gravity. If CAA sucks all the thrust out of the NZ pilot pool, not only will we cease to fly. CAA will cease to have any clients. Either we need to increase the thrust or streamline the ship. In the end, it’s all about equilibrium, getting the balance just right. The bigger the ship, the harder it is to get it to slow down, turn around and pick up the passengers who’ve fallen overboard.

So keep up the waving in distress. You’ll know when they are getting close again.

You’ll hear the orchestra playing “Nearer, My God, To Thee”.

Bernice Hintz

How CAA charges hit tourism, in all the wrong pockets

The CAA’s cost increases signed off last year by Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee are beginning to damage our tourism industry.

Here’s what Ryan Southam, who is deeply involved in South Island aviation-related tourism, has to say about it:

I have been involved in aviation for the last 20 years and hold a commercial licence, B category Instructor rating, and microlight instructor / testing officer / test pilot approval.

I am chief pilot for Croydon Aircraft Company at Mandeville in the South Island and along with my commercial flight duties at CAC, I freelance instruct, do biennial flight reviews and type ratings, air show display flying and test pilot work. A lot of this work I do for very little remuneration, as I see it as a way to give back to aviation what it has given to me. It is also getting more and more difficult to find suitably qualified people who can fly a lot of specialised aircraft (such as high-performance, aerobatic, taildragger, amateur-built, warbird and vintage).

I have very, very strong objections to the direction the CAA and the Government have taken to gain revenue (or recoup losses).

Just as a starting point, I bring [to your attention] the fee associated with pilot medicals of $313.

Currently, I do a medical annually for my commercial pilot’s licence; this costs me approx $200 from the medical examiner, one day’s lost wages due to having to travel from Gore (where I live) to the nearest medical examiner (due to the lack of the aforementioned in the bottom of the South Island), and fuel for like. This works out at about $350 annually.

When I reach my 40th birthday, very soon, I have the great honour of visiting my medical examiner every six months for a medical (requirement for single pilot commercial ops) and as of this time, my medical costs are likely to escalate to in excess of $1326 annually; incidentally, this excludes any specialist fees such as ECG, hearing test or eye test, which range in cost from $70-$200 and occur fairly regularly.

Those pilots operating in two-pilot crews, such as airline, are only subjected to annual medicals, so this type of action strikes at the lowest-earning sector of aviation and particularly at an area that is struggling to survive in the current economic climate: tourist aviation.

I have recently been in contact with several associates overseas (USA and Australia) where the medical fees – more to the point, processing fees – range from $0 (USA) to $75 (Australia). The cost for the medicals range from approx $100 through to $200 in their local currency. I can easily back these figures up. I struggle to see where CAA and the Government have plucked such a random and over-the-top figure of $313 from, for an essentially administrative process.

If the answer to the fee is that every medical is reviewed by a select board of CAA medical staff in Wellington, why do we even have medical examiners if they are unable to make suitable decisions themselves?

The department’s hourly rate rise also smacks of extortion. Another example: the company I work for is a very small tourist operator. We fly a fleet of vintage aircraft for passenger joy flights around Southland on a Part 135 Air Operator Certificate; generally speaking, we do approx 150-200 hrs per year and the cost for our surveillance, auditing and renewal of the certificate by the CAA is approx $5000-$8000. In the last two years, tourist numbers have dropped to record lows and we have been lucky to average between 80-100hrs. Just by the increase in fees alone, we are looking at an annual cost to maintain our certificate of between $10,000 and $16,000.

This is a totally irrecoverable cost and very likely will spell the end of the business; we are not alone in this and it is likely that several tourist operators will fold around NZ. These extra costs are just unable to be passed on to the end user (tourist) as we will essentially be pricing ourselves out of the market in an already badly-hit and failing sector.

The fee increase is considerably out of square with other authorities worldwide. Australia, for example, has a tiered approach of $100, $130, $160, and $190 with administrative and data entry at $100 and specialty services charged at $190.

You may want to have a look at their website


Even at these figures, there was public outcry, so you can imagine how annoyed we are.

Other fees that appear to be gouging:

Annual fee for maintenance of Register – $36.80 to $99

Change of registration – $87.91 to $394

Reservation or Allocation of a particular Registration Mark – $30.67 to $197

Foreign owner deregistration fee – $0 to $440

These figures are disgusting. All for essentially administrative processes that literally would take minutes of work on an already established database.

I can understand the CAA’s need to be accountable to the Government for its losses or earnings, but the way this has been tackled is very questionable. The whole process has been aimed, whether intentionally or not, at the wrong sector of aviation and will be very damaging to the bottom sector which is where the skill base and personnel base begins for upper sectors such as the airlines.

By attacking the bottom end, you are essentially cutting off NZ aviation at the knees.

There was a comment by Mr Brownlee in the media regarding users moving closer to paying the true cost of the actual services they use. You can’t tell me that the cost to process a medical is $313. If that is the case, then your processes need serious attention. There have also been comments made of this improving safety: utter rubbish.

I see the international passenger levy has been raised by $0.41 and the domestic levy actually dropped.

There are about 10 million passenger transits in this country, either internally or internationally, so why not raise the international levy by another $0.50 and the domestic by the same? On the cost of a ticket, it is nothing and it would net the CAA somewhere near $8 million dollars, instead of gouging everyone else with fees that do not reflect either the service provided or the work involved in the process.

It has been a long-held belief that aviation is a rich person’s sport. This is most definitely not the case and I (and thousands of others) are highly offended that it is seen as such.

My income is approx $35,000 per annum, net, which is more than most instructors earn, more than most tourism pilots earn and not far below what most third-level airline pilots earn (Mount Cook or Air Nelson first officers). We just cannot afford to be attacked like this.

The general opinion held of the CAA within NZ general aviation is perhaps not the best and unfortunately by actions such as this, it certainly won’t be seen in any better light.

Why CAA medical experts should take their doctors’ orders

Gavin Trethewey is Ops Manager for the New Zealand Warbirds Association, and he knows how fit he is – and he has firm ideas about how well CAA’s medical section can judge whether a pilot is fit to fly. This is what he recently told the CAA and the Minister of Transport:

I have been flying professionally for 50 years – as a military pilot, as an airline pilot on aircraft up to B747, as a check captain and instructor, both military and civil. I have a helicopter licence and fly gliders, microlights, and I display WW1 and WW2 aircraft and post-war jets. After all this time, having not killed myself, I have a fair idea of what contributes to aviation safety – and it is not the ever-burgeoning paperwork requirements of the CAA.

Most of the aviation experience in this country resides outside of the headquarters of CAA.

CAA is a bureaucracy whose expertise lies in creating paperwork and at this it excels, growing all the time, requiring more money, just to deal with the paper mountain.

It is a fact that aviation has become safer over the years, but the reasons are not those put forward by CAA. Rather, it is the result of technology.

Aeroplanes are equipped with GPS, terrain-avoidance equipment, transponders, weather radar, better instrument displays, more reliable engines and so on.

Operators have no desire to kill the aircraft’s occupants or destroy expensive aeroplanes, so they train to a high standard – whether or not CAA presents them with a mass of paper box-ticking. The idea that increasing charges for just about everything that CAA feels it needs to be involved in will increase safety, is a nonsense. The reality is that many of its functions should be devolved to the organisations who are the real experts at what they do.

A case in point is the CAA medical section. CAA has authorised doctors around the country to ensure the medical fitness of pilots by carrying out licence renewal examinations. These doctors are in current practice and will send the examinee to a specialist if any doubt is held as to the applicant’s fitness.

The reports then go to CAA, where former doctors who haven’t seen a patient in years rule on their validity. For this dubious service to aviation, the medical fees have increased to $313.00 per medical. This may be as regularly as every six months, depending on the licence category. This $313.00 is, of course, on top of the fee charged by the authorised medical examiner and any specialists involved. On many occasions, pilots are forced to spend substantial amounts in specialist’s fees just to prove that the decision of their examiner was, in fact, correct.

The CAA medical section could be removed and replaced by a filing clerk – without any effect on safety.

During the last two years, I have had some involvement with a court case involving CAA and one of its pilot “clients”. The cost to CAA was substantial and entirely unnecessary. Myself and others put forward workable solutions to the Director that would have prevented court action, but these were ignored. There seemed to be no constraints on spending or in time involved by CAA executives, nor was there any flexibility of thinking.

When I started flying, CAA rules 1957 were still in place and consisted of one small book.

What it achieved then now takes a whole library. The paper trail required by the legal department seems to be there just to ensure that when something goes wrong, no blame will come the way of the Civil Aviation Authority. I believe a thorough examination of CAA and its functions needs to be carried out, before any more money is thrown its way.

As Minister, you will become aware of the backlash developing now throughout the aviation community towards CAA’s voracious new charges. I hope that you will listen to the many voices.

Support is building for GAA – and here’s a big Thank you

GAA has achieved great support since the website was launched only two weeks ago. Hundreds of people linked in minutes after we went live, and more than 100 people have subscribed to contribute their thoughts. The site received more than 3000 hits in 14 days, which is encouraging – given the small base of interested people in our country.

More importantly and more imminent, though, the site has alerted many to the implications of CAA’s plans for our rapidly diminishing cache of valuable D Cat instructors – and the absurd deadline that CAA declared for submissions. Des Lines’ submission on this has received more than 80 co-signatories, and we have received several submissions from individuals.

Some of these innocent people have told GAA that – but for the alert given on this website – they might have missed the problem completely. All of them say that if CAA has its way, their expertise will be withdrawn.

CAA has unwittingly provided GAA with a long agenda, ranging from its painful fee increases to new proposals that might have unlicensed aerodrome operators required to report traffic movements, and proposed CPL Microlight fees.

But let’s think positively. GAA has received guarded support from the CAA’s Director.

CEO Graeme Harris told GAA in an email that he favours dialogue. He said:

“I’m very supportive of the [general] aviation sector organising itself in order to more effectively express its views on issues affecting it. If it is able to do that in an open, honest and impartial way, then I’m very keen to hear what it has to say. I’m also keen to use whatever channels are available to improve the CAA’s communication with the sector. Taking up my current role just before the implementation of a funding review that started in 2010 may be a classic example of bad timing, but it has certainly reinforced to me the importance of communication. It has also highlighted the fact that there is not a universally good knowledge in the sector of some quite important issues that impact on it. Communication may not lead to agreement on issues, but it is definitely a two-way process and if we can gain a better perspective on sector priorities while at the same time improving the sector’s knowledge of matters such as the CAA’s role, Government’s priorities for transport and the legal framework within which we work, then that has to be a good thing.

“In summary, I’m open to informed, reasonable criticism and if you need comment on, or explanation of, any issue don’t hesitate to let me know. If I can’t respond personally, I’ll ask someone else to do so.”

We welcome the active involvement of CAA in what is proving to be a fast-moving agenda, and will try to keep Graeme to his promise.

The CAA, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and not a few MPs now know that GAA and its supporters are in this for the long haul, and we are not going away.

Some people have told GAA they fear that if they stick their head above the fence, CAA might make them a target. If enough of us are prepared to stand up, this fear will prove groundless. So please support your friends and do not be afraid to express your opinion, even if you need to remain anonymous. We will protect your privacy.

How the CAA will damage DoC: A pilot speaks out

The CAA’s fee increases will have unintended consequences, if helicopter pilot Kevin Campbell’s story is an indicator. Kevin is from Napier, but currently flies in Papua New Guinea. When he’s back home, Kevin is active in conservation work. But much of that is about to end, thanks to the CAA, he says.

Kevin wrote this to his local MP, National’s Chris Tremain:

Dear Mr Tremain

I am a 60-year-old pilot. I have over 40 years’ experience in agricultural aviation and the wider helicopter industry. You are our elected Member of Parliament and have had the support of my wife and I in the last two elections. I write to you in an endeavour to learn your stance on the pilot medical renewal fees imposed by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. These fees have been approved under your Government.

After the 1st of November [2012] a pilot wishing to renew a medical certificate must apply to the NZ CAA for the privilege, at a cost of $313.00. There is no charge of this nature presently. NZ CAA does not do the medical examination, nor issue the medical certificate. This is done by approved aviation doctors and assessors. It is still to be this way. Issuing medical certificates costs the NZ CAA nothing and yet we are now to be levied $313 for a service that has not previously existed and there is no evidence that there is any new service provided. Is this just a new “tax” brought upon us by bureaucrats and apparently with your approval? How was this fee arrived at?

You may think that a new charge of $313 is not much to pay for a medical certificate. It is not for a medical certificate. It is for nothing. I pay the medical examiner $350-$400, depending on requirements, for the work he does in this regard. It gets worse. I am over 40 years of age, therefore I am required to carry this out every six months. New Zealand is one of few countries with such stringent requirements. It is not widely accepted by the international aviation medical fraternity that there is sufficient risk presented by pilots over 40 years old. We are already one of the most highly “taxed” nations in this regard. I presently pay approximately $700 – $800 per year to maintain my New Zealand medical certificate. Now I will be paying $1400 -$1600 per year. I get nothing more in return. How can you justify this, please?

You may think that pilots are big earners, so a “tax” of this nature will mean little. Many younger pilots earn the minimum wage. I am a far greater earner than most, but there is a catch. Because I have considerable experience, I am one of the increasing numbers of expatriate Kiwis who have turned their backs on New Zealand to make a successful living; one of those that Mr John Key says he would prefer to have working in New Zealand. Why should Mr Key be surprised that those of us who have the skills required by other nations choose to do so when confronted with such gross usury by bureaucrats supported by his government?

And so it is quite likely that New Zealand will be getting even less funding from me in future. I will probably not bother to pay the new fees. I will forgo my right to exercise the privileges of my New Zealand pilot licences. I will not have the qualifications I have attained since 1971 held to ransom by inept government bureaucrats in New Zealand. I can continue to earn my money overseas and will pay my taxes there as well.

You may think, so what? Where is the loss to New Zealand? Well, I have considerable leave time that I choose to spend in New Zealand with my wife and family. One of the things I do in that time is support conservation; primarily these notable Hawke’s Bay efforts: The Cape Sanctuary, under the leadership of Mr Andy Lowe, the Forest Life Force Restoration Trust at Maungataniwha under Mr Simon Hall, the Waikaremoana Iwi kiwi protection fence project at Lake Waikaremoana under Dr John McLennan and the kiwi protection project under the Maori trustees at Ruahine Corner. All have had the benefit of my services, for free, and I have been pleased to have helped. I spend considerable time in an active role as a volunteer on the ground. I also donate my services as a helicopter pilot to these worthy causes. Indeed, I have just completed a week on Kapiti Island helping capture Red Crowned Kakariki and just this morning flying in a helicopter to release them at Cape Kidnappers. I have also directly donated my professional services, for free, to the Department of Conservation, along with Mr Lowe’s kind provision of his helicopter. On board were many senior DOC personnel, including the Area Conservator and The Director General. On my coffee table sits a photographic book entitled, “Majestic New Zealand.” It was presented to me after providing services, as a volunteer, flying for the Napier Department of Conservation.

Inside, an inscription reads:

Kevin – Thank you for what you are doing for conservation. It’s people like you who add value and make a difference. We appreciate it.

Al Morrison, Director-General,
Dept of Conservation.

Do you see the irony? Sadly, I am not prepared to pay a new and unjustified tax to one government department for the privilege to be able to provide my services, for free, to another and wider conservation efforts in general.

I have not seen such unjustified, and blatant, revenue-gathering activities since the 1973 Labour Government placed road tax on aviation fuel, which has never been withdrawn by successive National Governments either, I believe. I am finding it increasingly difficult to continue my support for the present Government when I see the sorts of policies that I would have historically thought were reserved to a Labour government.

For your further education, you could investigate:


Here is a direct quote: “The authority’s move from Petone to the Asteron Centre in Wellington’s Featherston St, which was criticised in 2009 by then Transport Minister Steven Joyce for costing $8.5m, was ‘undoubtedly’ a driver behind the new charges, King said. In a statement, the authority conceded the fee increases would not have been as much if it had stayed in Petone.”

This latest move will be the fourth time the NZ CAA has moved headquarters during my aviation career. Each time, they have been criticised for costing the aviation sector with their poor decisions in their move to more salubrious offices. Can you please find out for us who the individuals are making decisions and then forcing us to pay for them?

In closing, Mr Tremain, I ask you to take my points into consideration and I would like a reply from you as to whether you are prepared to take any stance against the fees outlined above and so continue to receive my electoral support in the future. There is a rising swell of resentment in the aviation industry over this affair and I am one of many choosing to write to our respective MPs to make them aware of this.

Somehow, Kevin’s first letter did not receive a reply, so he sent it again, with this [edited] addition:

Since I wrote to you, NZ CAA has come out with yet another travesty: an ill-considered attempt to tamper with the process of flight instruction within New Zealand. It is nothing short of a new attempt to ransom the qualifications of experienced pilots, which we have held at no charge for years, and in my case about 30 years.

NZ CAA offers no data to back up its decision. I have more experience than most of the bureaucrats in the NZ CAA and can see that this is yet another matter that can only result in lowering of the safety of aviation within New Zealand.

When Mr Tremain replies, we’ll publish his answer.

Glide-timers’ red tape grounds joyrides after 55 years

The thrill of soaring on thermals in the safe hands of Tauranga Gliding Club pilots will soon be beyond most people, because of new Civil Aviation Authority rules. Club spokesman and tugmaster Mark Arundel says it’s the end of an era spanning 55 years during which the club has provided trial flights for thousands of people aged from five to 95.

The new rule will restrict the club to providing flights to people who have a genuine interest in gliding as a recreational pursuit. “The acid test is whether the person has a bona fide interest.”

CAA Rule 115 to improve safety is being phased in across New Zealand’s adventure aviation operators, ending gliding joyrides at Tauranga from May 1.

Mark says becoming certified was just too onerous for a club with 80 members – costing tens of thousands of dollars just for the paperwork. “As a club of volunteers, whose mission is to foster and promote the sport of gliding, it is impractical for us to bear the cost and administrative burden of these new rules, which are predominantly aimed at enhancing the safety of commercial adventure aviation activities.”

The club has been caught by the blanket provisions of the rule to improve safety, even though there had never been any fatalities or injuries in its 55 years of offering trial flights. “In our sport, the risk usually happens in competitive or cross-country flying but when we take people for flights, we are extremely safe.”

It means the club can no longer take up someone who wants to fulfil a dream or tick off a wish from their list, such as when Tauranga’s Les Munro, the world’s last surviving pilot of the 1943 Dambusters raid, went gliding for the first time at the age of 87.

The rules will also impact on club finances, because income from the trial flights had helped to offset costs. Mark worries that it will slowly but surely diminish the amount of club gliding activity, which could in turn affect safety.

The club is looking at how to structure a new trial flight regime and it’s likely that “prospective club members” will be asked to sign up for three months so they could fly at club rates. (The current set-up is that people only need to be honorary members for one day.)

Mark told the GAA: “Gliding has been a great spawning field for professional pilots and the experience we get has been valued by many (including US astronaut John Glenn and Hudson River hero Sully Sullenberger).

“It is time CAA engaged a group to really explore what is good for New Zealand and aviation safety in real terms. The current situation may tick the boxes in terms of being seen to be doing something, but is it really contributing to safety in the long term? In aviation, experience counts – as we all know.”

Ian Bull wrote to the Bay of Plenty Times from the UK: “Seeing this from England, it doesn’t seem a very NZ way of doing things. This is what we might expect of the UK CAA, but NZ was a lot more laid back when we were there last in 2008. Commonsense needs to prevail here – there’s no problem in giving any visitor a taste of gliding as long as their pilot is properly trained and qualified. I’ve done it for 25 years without a problem. Come on NZ – don’t get bogged down with petty bureaucracy!”