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Wellington Airport criticism 'not fair' - retired pilot

By Ranjani Ponnuchetty

Published: 3:22PM Monday April 15, 2013 Source: ONE News

A retired commercial pilot says remarks made by an aviation commentator over the weekend regarding the safety of Wellington Airport are "not fair".

Aviation commentator Peter Clark labelled Wellington Airport as "not a good example of a safe airport" given the limited buffer area provided if an aircraft is unable to take off by the time it has reached the end of the runway or if an aircraft lands before the runway.

Clark's comments came after a Lion Air Boeing 737 missed the runway on the Indonesian resort island of Bali and landed in the sea.

John Teuruoteao Rika, who has 20,000 hours of flying experience, told onenews.co.nz that it is the pilots who make an airport safe.

"It depends on the type of landing aids available and how they are used," Rika, a former chief pilot of Pacific Aerospace Corporation (previously owned by Air New Zealand), said.

"There are clearly defined parameters regarding the suitability of the airport for different types of aircraft and their approach and landings in inclement weather."

Rika who also worked for New Zealand Foreign Affairs in Bangladesh, trained at Wellington Airport for two years and co-incidentally has used Bali Airport on three occasions.

He said Wellington and Bali airports are similar with water at either end.

"Bali Airport is definitely safe," Rika said.

"The recent accident is probably an aircraft systems failure, pilot failure, or both," reiterated Rika.

Although Rika said there is some truth to Clark's comments, in context, Wellington Airport is "fairly well up there" safety wise compared to other international airports.

"If we were to argue out of context, then we can say that Auckland Airport has had an Air New Zealand Douglas DC8 and Convair destroyed in take-off accidents.

"A Fokker Friendship was crashed there during a landing accident. Each of these resulted in loss of life. It could be argued therefore that Auckland Airport with its greater runway length is not as safe as Wellington".

In regards to Clark's comments about Wellington's limited runway, Rika says there is no runway too short unless an unsuitable aircraft attempts a landing there.

Clark also said overruns although uncommon at Wellington Airport are a problem. However Rika argues that it is not a problem.

"Runway markers indicate to the pilot where the touchdown should be made and from which deceleration can be safely undertaken. Wet runways are a little different requiring small adjustments.

"We don't have ice and snow at Wellington as most of Europe have, " said Riko who also spent time as a chief pilot for Arab Argo Aviation.

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