Sunday, September 15, 2013

Airport 'meets regulations'

New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority says Marlborough Airport meets regulations by having Renwick volunteer firefighters as their first emergency response.

An authority spokesman told the Marlborough Express on Friday only certain airports needed to have an on-site rescue and firefighting service.

Marlborough Airport was not required to have one under Civil Aviation Rule part 139, which outlined requirements for the certification, operation and safety audit of airports. It also detailed the required security measures.

The need for on-site crash fire response units depended on the size and type of aircraft regularly using the airport, the spokesman said.

All certified airports needed an emergency plan, he said. For those without rescue and firefighting capability, local emergency services needed to be available.

The fact that Marlborough Airport had an air force fire rescue crew from 8am to 5pm on weekdays was coincidental and not a requirement, he said.

Marlborough Airport manager Dean Heiford said in the airport's busiest three months, there were less than 700 flights of the Bombardier Q300 aircraft, a bigger aircraft which seats more than 30 passengers.

When there were more than 700 flights in that period, the airport would have to meet the minimum requirements under the authority's rules.

"After the hours of operation by RNZAF, we become like many other regional airports and rely on the response of local NZ Fire Service brigades," Mr Heiford said.

At the airport company's last board meeting three weeks ago, Mr Heiford was asked to review and report on the options regarding rescue fire services at the airport.

It is understood this was because Marlborough Airport was working with Destination Marlborough to encourage Air New Zealand to increase capacity for travelers by using larger planes at the airport.

There was also a lot of community concern about the air force cutting its service to the airport, with mayoral and council candidates being questioned about it at a public meeting last week.

During that meeting, mayor Alistair Sowman and Wairau-Awatere ward councilor Peter Jerram, both seeking re-election, expressed disbelief that the cuts had happened and airlines seemed to be supportive of those changes.

Mr Heiford said the airport company would also talk with the New Zealand Fire Service to see what they could offer and what could be done to support them.

Upper South Island region fire service manager Brendan Nally said local fire brigades had always co-responded to emergency calls at airports.

Airports were responsible for providing an on-site emergency crash fire response that met civil aviation regulations, he said.

The fire service supported the crash response crew with any aircraft takeoff or landing emergency.

"In small towns and rural areas, local brigades have always co-responded to these emergency calls," he said.

They would continue to respond as they have always done in Marlborough, he said. 

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