Aero club being squeezed out
Wakatipu Aero Club has asked the council to discuss a notice from Queenstown Airport terminating the 45-year-old flying school’s lease.
The aero club was founded in 1970 and operates two divisions, a commercial Air Wakatipu service to Milford Sound and pilot training, including a highlyregarded mountain flying course.
The airport has given the club notice that its lease will not be renewed when it expires in June and suggested the club split its activities and move training and private flying to Wanaka.
Club president Adrian Snow, speaking at a Queenstown Lakes District Council meeting, said there were already three training organisation in Wanaka. The 80-member club had graduated around 300 commercial pilots and a council-controlled organisation such as the airport was obligated to uphold social responsibility.
The club claims QAC exploited a renegotiated lease to force the club to take off, action that was ‘‘deceptive and unreasonable, particularly with respect to a community organisation.’’
The club is situated in a 1700 sq m section and operates six commercial aircraft and two training aircraft.
‘‘A fourth up there is not feasible. Ultimately we are asking the council to ask QAC board to reassess Wakatipu Aero Club (WAC) operations. The problem we have is one of commercial viability.
‘‘Should WAC attempt to operate from Wanaka, it is inevitable that one or two of those four operations will commercially fail.’’
Airport chief executive Scott Patterson said there was no obligation to offer a renewed lease and the airport needed the land. Queenstown was the fourth largest airport in New Zealand and the fastest-growing aerodrome in Australasia.
‘‘We see the future as a commercial airport set up to handle scheduled aircraft and general commercial aviation. Honestly what we don’t see the future for is flight training activities or aero club activities. We very much see flight training best suited for Wanaka rather than a commercial airport. That’s a trade-off and it’s tough but that’s the approach we have taken.’’
Patterson said the commercial Air Wakatipu business would be accommodated in Queenstown and the airport wanted to help relocate the training and private aviation to Wanaka.
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