Read recent examples of airspace occurrences below.

Occurrence number: 24/34

Date: 1 January 2024

Time: 15:25 NZDT

Location: Napier

Airspace: NR CTA/D

The pilot was departing Hastings to the north when he infringed the lower levels (LL) of several different CTA/D sectors associated with Napier aerodrome. Airways reported that they tried to contact the aircraft on the FISCOM (and CTA) frequencies. The pilot was only made aware that Airways were trying to contact him via another pilot who heard FISCOM trying to contact the aircraft. That pilot assisted by successfully trying 119.1 and advised the pilot to contact FISCOM. The aircraft then descended clear of the CTA sector it was in at that time.

It is noted the CTA sector airspace in that area is more complex than most other CTAs with up to six different LL sectors depending on the route and altitudes flown.

After engagement with CAA the pilot is now fully conversant with the need to plan better especially near CTA airspace in complex areas such as around Napier, and as another example, the Palmerston North and Ohakea CTAs.

He was also spoken to about the use of 119.1 as a cross country radio frequency. 119.1 is only intended for use at unattended aerodromes when there is no dedicated radio frequency.

The multiple advantages of using FISCOM as the primary cross-country frequency (when not in a MBZ, CFZ, CTR, CTA, or near an unattended aerodrome) were also explained. The pilot has given an undertaking to use FISCOM ‘when practicable’ on future cross-country flights.

The FISCOM charts published in the AIP also state a countrywide ‘aircraft to aircraft’ radio frequency 128.95.

Occurrence number: 23/6154

Date: 26 August 2023

Time: 14:14 NZST

Location: Masterton

Airspace: Class G

Nature of flight: Private operations – sport

An aircraft was conducting ‘glide approach’ circuits on the grass runway, when it appeared ahead and to the right of another aircraft that had joined overhead, and was on short final for the adjoining sealed runway. Both aircraft landed safely on their respective runways.

Investigation revealed that both aircraft were making appropriate radio calls, and both pilots were aware of each other from radio calls approximately five minutes before the incident.

However, no radio calls were heard from the aircraft conducting glide approaches after that time, although it was seen to be on short final by the crew of the joining aircraft when it was downwind.

It was later found that an intermittent wiring fault in the aircraft’s comms system during the flight likely caused the loss of comms. The fault has since been repaired.

The operator has also reminded all its pilots of the importance of thorough lookout for all traffic, especially as this aerodrome has NORDO operations at times.

Occurrence number: 23/2666

Date: 16 April 2023

Time: 10:15 NZST

Location: Near Darfield

Airspace: CH CTA/C

Nature of flight: Private X-country

The aircraft briefly flew into a 1500' sector of the CH CTA/C without a clearance, near Darfield while flying a direct track from NZAS to NZOM.

The direct track near NZCH has the following CTA sector restrictions, not above; 5500', 3500', 2500' and 1500'.

The aircraft inadvertently entered the 1500’ sector of airspace without a clearance, however the pilot soon realised and immediately vacated the CTA.

The pilot (and his instructor) have since analysed the error and advised CAA of several preventative safety actions intended to reduce the chances of repetition. They are:

  • continuous monitoring of the flight, especially when near controlled airspace;
  • writing down altitude restrictions on the flight log; or highlighting them on the VNC maps;
  • avoid using the 'direct to' function without additional planning consideration, such as proximity to, or airspace restrictions; and
  • planning routes to avoid controlled airspace (for example NZAS-Oxford-NZOM only has 3500’ and 5500’ sector restrictions).

Subsequently the CAA accepted the pilot’s safety actions and did not investigate this occurrence further, beyond thanking him for his report and his proactive engagement with the CAA.

Occurrence number: 23/1339

Date: 10 February 2023

Time: 12:59 NZDT

Location: Whanganui

Airspace: ASP – airspace

Nature of flight: Training solo

The student had just joined overhead and was mid-downwind for runway 11 when an IFR aircraft advised it was on a visual approach from the south, and would join right base for 11.

The student decided to extend downwind to give that aircraft space to land ahead, and advised his intentions. He continued downwind and vacated the circuit towards Castlecliff while looking for the traffic.

Unfortunately, the IFR traffic was tracking to join a 5NM final (as per NZWU procedure for aircraft above 5000kg MCTOW) and the student inadvertently flew to a position of conflict. The two pilots saw each other and altered their respective courses. Both pilots then communicated directly and agreed to their respective landing sequences.

The primary cause of this occurrence was that the student became confused about the IFR aircraft’s position and did not visually see it, before deciding to extend downwind.

He has since received remedial training, while the IFR operator has elected to conduct full IFR approaches into Whanganui in the future.

Whanganui aerodrome and the associated CFZ and MBZ can be very busy airspace due to a mix of VFR and IFR training flights, transit flights, helicopter operations, medivac flights, and other IFR flights including scheduled airline movements. The AIP aerodrome charts provide guidance and information regarding all operations in and around Whanganui.

NOTE: IFR aircraft flying the full WU RNP RWY 11 approach essentially fly a descending track down the coastline from KAI IWI BEACH VRP to the aerodrome.

They will first cross a point named DUDED (not below 2200 feet AMSL). DUDED is 2NM up the coast and just inland from KAI IWI BEACH VRP (and 10NM from NZWU).

The next point they cross is the Final Fix [FF] point. The FF is approximately 1NM up the coast from Castlecliff and 700m offshore (5NM from NZWU). They will not descend below 1490 feet AMSL until after crossing FF.

5NM is also the distance where all aircraft above 5000kg MCTOW on a visual approach should position and report, as they join for the runway in use.

VFR aircraft tracking up or down the coastline from NZWU must therefore be mindful of:

  1. any IFR traffic inbound on the above approach
  2. where they will commence final from if on a visual approach, and
  3. knowing, and complying with, the VFR MET minima for that airspace.

Occurrence number: 22/6687

Date: 31 October 2022

Time: 12:30 NZDT

Location: Oamaru (NZOU)

Airspace: Unattended aerodrome occurrence - Class G airspace

Nature of flight: Private

A dual training flight landed on grass runway 02 at Oamaru and was backtracking on the runway, because there is no associated taxiway. A Cessna 185 that had joined long final was then on short final for grass 02.

The taxiing aircraft expedited its taxiing to avoid a possible conflict. However, the C185 flew over them and landed late on the remaining runway. After the incident the C185 pilot allegedly told the instructor he didn't want to carry out a go-around because he thought there was enough runway left to land safely.

The CAA investigation pointed out to the C185 pilot that he had breached several rules by continuing to land on an occupied runway, and that a go-around was his last 'legal' option. The alternatives such as orbiting or slowing down earlier (if safe) were also discussed, as they may have prevented him from having the occurrence in the first place, or that he could have joined long final for sealed runway 36 instead, as the other aircraft was landing ahead of him on grass 02.

The investigation suggested to the QA manager of the other operator that having their pilots add the words 'will need to backtrack on runway 02', or words to that effect, to a downwind or a long final radio call, may help following pilots realise that a separation conflict may develop and that they need to safely plan for such an possibility.

It is noted that this is not the only aerodrome or airfield in New Zealand where this scenario may occur.

The investigation was closed because the pilot is now fully aware of the relevant rules and what the appropriate and safer options are in the future.

Occurrence number: 22/1311

Date: 04 March 2022

Time: 02:45 UTC

Location: Hokitika

A Hokitika aerodrome runway inspection officer heard a King Air making radio calls within the MBZ and that it was on final for runway 03. The officer then happened to look at final approach for runway 30 and saw a light aircraft on final for that runway too. He had not heard any radio calls from that aircraft, so he used his radio to alert the King Air crew of the conflict and they immediately executed a go-around.

The officer approached the light aircraft pilot after the aircraft shut-down and inquired about the absence of radio calls. It was at this time that the pilot realised he had used his 'out-of-date' AIP and therefore the wrong frequency. He had used the old frequency (119.1) rather than 119.8 which is the correct frequency (in Feb 2022). This was despite having current maps and using a 'popular' navigation app on his phone.

The CAA investigation found that the pilot has since updated his hardcopy AIP and is having ADS-B fitted in the aircraft later this year. He will also pay more attention to his flight planning in future.

A similar incident has happened since this one and it appears that some pilots, when using navigation apps on mobile phones, may be zooming in to see more map detail but by doing so, inadvertently moving other information off the screen.

The CAA is currently focussing on incidents where a lack of flight planning or insufficient flight planning has led to occurrences.

Occurrence number: 22/343

Date: 23 January 2022

Time: 14:17 NZDT

Location: Ardmore (NZAR)

Airspace: NZAR circuit

Nature of flight: Private and training

During a go-around on approach to runway 03 at NZAR due to following jet traffic (a Challenger 604), the pilot of an RV-7 transmitted his going around radio call. At the same time, the pilot of a Piper PA28 who had joined downwind for runway 03 from Clevedon, also transmitted his downwind call. The two transmissions crossed but neither pilot was aware of this.

As the pilot of the RV-7 turned into the downwind position, a near collision occurred with the PA28. A passenger in the PA28 saw the RV-7 and warned the pilot who took immediate avoiding action.

The pilot of the RV-7 had been aware of the PA28 joining from Clevedon. However, the PA28 entered the circuit earlier than the pilot had anticipated. The downwind leg flown by the PA28 pilot was also closer to the runway than the preferred joining procedures for runway 03 when approaching from the east.

The CAA investigation noted the following contributing factors:

  1. The PA28 pilot did not accurately follow the AIP NZAR ‘preferred’ arrival procedure (from the east). They flew from Clevedon almost directly to NZAR and were therefore well inside the position intended for joining downwind. The NZAR AIP wording is as follows, ‘Track via east of Clevedon then track towards Waterworks to join wide of crosswind leg to join downwind at 1100 ft’.
  2. Simultaneous radio calls were made by both pilots. Neither call was repeated, which deprived them of an opportunity to enhance situational awareness.
  3. Neither pilot initially saw the other in time to prevent the near collision. Attention was possibly drawn and focussed on the jet traffic which had landed but was still occupying the runway.

The operator of the PA28 conducted an internal investigation and introduced new measures to address their role in this occurrence, while the CAA communicated directly with the pilot of the RV-7. A meeting of all parties involved was also held by the aerodrome operator. The outcomes of the meeting would be discussed at the next Ardmore Flight Operations User Group meeting.

Occurrence number: 21/5136

Date: 12 September 2021

Time: 03:45 UTC

Location: Matamata

A light aircraft lined up and took off while a glider was landing. Neither crew member of the light aircraft saw the glider or heard any radio calls from it, while the glider crew did not hear the light aircraft advise it was lining up. The front seat glider pilot reported he saw the light aircraft when it climbed up ahead of him as he was about to land.

The investigation found that an inadequate lookout by the light aircraft crew before entering the runway was a primary factor in this occurrence. The absence of any radio calls also reinforced their belief there was no circuit traffic. The investigation also noted that the light aircraft’s 'line up call' was of a much lower transmission strength than its previous radio call, which may have contributed to it not being heard by the glider crew.

Another identified factor was that the glider’s 'front seat' radio transmit button had an intermittent fault, and therefore its radio calls were not heard.

The light aircraft operator now further encourages the need for pilots to thoroughly scan final approach for any traffic, especially those that may be flying a different approach path or NORDO aircraft, before taxiing on to a runway.

The gliders front seat radio transmit button has since been replaced.