Wellington Airport to Consider Alternative Flight Path Routes

Aerial view of approach to Wellington Airport
Photo Credit: Wellington Airport

Public consultation will be held this year over potential alternative flight path options for northerly jet departures from Wellington Airport (WLG).

This follows changes to flight paths recommended by Airways New Zealand in December 2022 as part of a new system called the Divergent Missed Approach Protection System (DMAPS).

Addressing Issues with Flight Departures

Following recent changes to flight paths for departing jets, Wellington Airport is reaching out to the community for their input on alternative options.

This public consultation aims to find a balance between noise reduction for residents and the safety and efficiency of air travel.

Airways New Zealand implemented the Divergent Missed Approach Protection System (DMAPS) in December 2022. This new system improves safety and efficiency by creating more separation between arriving and departing aircraft.

While DMAPS has undoubtedly achieved its objectives, it has also resulted in unintended consequences for some residents.

This public consultation aims to find a balance between noise reduction for residents and the safety and efficiency of air travel.

Air New Zealand NZ0245 Landing in Wellington
Photo Credit: Anna Calver

Uneven Noise Impact

While some residents have experienced a reduction in aircraft noise, others, particularly those in Khandallah and Broadmeadows, have reported a significant increase.

This is because DMAPS has shifted the flight paths for northerly departures slightly westward, taking them over these neighborhoods.

Wellington Airport takes noise concerns seriously and acknowledges the impact these changes have had on some residents.

In response to the feedback received, they have opted to hold a public consultation to explore alternative flight path options.

A Jetstar A320 takes off.
111 Emergency, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Three Options on the Table

The consultation will consider three main options:

  1. Early Morning Rerouting: This option would see aircraft departing before 7 am rerouted over less populated areas. This approach is feasible due to the lower air traffic volume at that time.
  2. Reverting to Pre-December 2022 Flight Paths: This would involve returning to the flight paths used before the implementation of DMAPS.
  3. Maintaining the Current Status Quo: This option simply means keeping the current flight paths in place.

It’s important to acknowledge that each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. Aircraft noise is unavoidable under any scenario.

The overall goal is to find a solution that best minimizes noise impact for residents while prioritizing safety and efficiency in air travel.

Transparency and Public Involvement

The consultation process will involve affected communities and stakeholders, including airlines. Wellington Airport is committed to transparency and will keep the community informed throughout the process.

The specific timing of any changes will depend on the chosen option and the technical considerations provided by Airways New Zealand, the air navigation service provider.

Photo: Air New Zealand NZ0245 Landing in Wellington; photo Credit: Anna Calver

Understanding DMAPS

DMAPS is a complex system, but understanding its purpose can help residents appreciate its benefits. By creating more space between departing and arriving aircraft, DMAPS allows for a higher volume of arrivals.

It also reduces the amount of time aircraft spend holding in the air. This translates to shorter flight times, lower fuel burn, and reduced CO2 emissions, all positive developments for the environment.

It’s important to note that DMAPS primarily affects the flight paths of departing jets during northerly wind conditions.

This explains the shift in flight patterns over Khandallah and Broadmeadows compared to the previously used flight paths over Newlands.

Landing and Take-Off Considerations

When taking off and landing, aircraft require strong headwinds for optimal safety and performance. In Wellington’s case, northerly winds dictate northerly operations.

While some flights utilize the airspace above the harbor, all take-offs and landings inevitably require overflying land at some point.

Limited Early Morning Rerouting Option

The proposed rerouting for early departures is feasible due to the lower air traffic volume before 7 am. However, this approach wouldn’t be practical for later departures because of increased airspace complexity as the day progresses.

Furthermore, rerouting flights over longer distances would increase flight times and consequently, fuel burn and emissions.

Previous Consultation & Resident Feedback

The December 2022 changes to flight paths did not involve public consultation beforehand. This is because they fell outside the designated noise management boundaries set by Wellington Airport.

However, in recognition of resident concerns, the airport conducted noise assessments after the implementation of DMAPS.

The feedback received, particularly regarding the increased noise from 6 am departures, is a key driver behind this current consultation process.

Plane Sense, a resident group actively engaged in advocating for noise reduction, has been instrumental in bringing these concerns to light.

In response to their feedback, Wellington Airport conducted additional noise monitoring in 2023 to gather more data.

The Path Forward

Wellington Airport will lead the consultation process with technical support from Airways New Zealand.

The goal is to find a solution that addresses resident concerns about noise impact while upholding the safety and efficiency standards that are critical for air travel.

This consultation provides an opportunity for the community to have their voices heard and contribute to shaping the future of air traffic management in Wellington.

By attending consultation meetings and providing feedback, residents can play a vital role in finding a solution that works for everyone.

Wellington Airport is committed to working collaboratively with the community to achieve a positive outcome.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 7 Min Read
7 Min Read
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