What is the national airspace policy?

The National Airspace Policy is a statement of the government’s views and expectations in relation to airspace, air navigation and air traffic management. The statement is intended to provide guidance to the aviation sector in New Zealand as to the direction that the development and modernisation of the overall system will take in the future to ensure the safe and efficient movement of air traffic.

Why do we need a national airspace policy?

The policy will guide development of air navigation and air traffic management in a nationally integrated manner, and allow operational decisions related to airspace design to be applied consistently

Without an overarching national policy (and plan) for future airspace management to provide certainty, there is potential for operational inefficiency, less than optimum safety, and wasted or deferred investment in the aviation sector including incompatible or inefficient industry investment in technology. Some of the new technologies are already in use in New Zealand, but their adoption has often occurred in an ad-hoc and demand-based nature.

Worldwide, there are ‘step changes’ in how aircraft will navigate between airports, both domestically and internationally, and how air traffic will be managed in the future, using performance-based systems. These changes are the driver of major projects to adopt the new technologies in other regions of the world, including Australia, the United States and the European Union. They will impact the full spectrum of airspace and air navigation related services in New Zealand.

What will change as a result of the policy?

The policy will ensure that future developments have regard to fundamental principles that will guide the Civil Aviation Authority and the Director of Civil Aviation in decisions relating to airspace design. The policy also provides aircraft operators with certainty on the direction that the development of the air navigation and air traffic management system will take in the future, and sets out the desirable attributes of the overall system.

What does the policy mean for commercial air transport operations?

The policy confirms the government’s desire for aircraft operations to be as efficient as possible, while ensuring that safety is not adversely impacted. Commercial air transport operations make an important contribution to economic growth, and the policy recognises that there may be situations where it is appropriate to prioritise certain types of operations in particular airspace, following consultation with other affected users.

What does the policy mean for private/recreational airspace users?

The policy acknowledges that private air transport and recreational aviation also make an important contribution to the economy. The policy establishes accessibility as one of the principles to be applied to airspace classification and design, and provides that, except where restrictions on airspace access are necessary for safety, operational, or other reasons, all aircraft will be able to access such classes of airspace that the aircraft and crew are able to operate safely within.

When will the policy be reviewed?

There is no timetable for reviewing the policy. As the policy is based on high level principles, it is expected to be long-lasting and remain relevant even as new technologies are introduced.

How will the policy impact the general public?

The policy will not directly impact the general public. However, it does pave the way for the sector to work collaboratively to achieve the benefits of new technologies, which may lead to improvements in the efficiency of aircraft operations, including through more precise approach paths to airports, and improved schedule reliability in inclement weather. This is likely to reduce some of the adverse impacts of aviation, including noise and aircraft emissions.

What are some examples of new technologies?

  1. Performance-based navigation (PBN) – Broadly, PBN encompasses a shift from current ground-based navigation aids emitting signals to aircraft receivers, to ‘in-aircraft’ systems that receive satellite signals that meet specific accuracy and integrity requirements combined with Global Navigation Satellite Systems (eg United States Global Positioning System(GPS)) to advise the aircraft’s position. PBN therefore:
    • reduces the need to retain and maintain ground-based routes and procedures
    • allows for more efficient use of New Zealand’s airspace, reducing fuel usage and emissions
  2. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) – Satellite systems that provide navigation information to aircraft systems to allow navigation without ground based systems, for example, GPS is one, the European Union, Russia, and China also have such systems.
  3. Area Navigation (RNAV) – is a method of navigation that allows an aircraft to choose any course within a network of ground-based navigation beacons, or GNSS aids, or a combination, rather than navigating directly to and from the beacons. This can reduce flight distances, reduce congestion, and allow flights into airports without ground-based navigation beacons.
  4. Required Navigation Performance’ (RNP) - is a type of PBN that allows an aircraft to fly a specific path between two 3-dimensionally defined points in space. RNAV and RNP systems are fundamentally similar. The key difference between them is that RNP requires on-board performance monitoring and alerting. For example, typical RNP approaches to an airport are accurate to 0.3 nautical miles either side of the desired track, and allow aircraft to follow precise 3-dimensional curved flight paths through congested airspace, and through difficult terrain (such as around Queenstown).
  5. Automatic-dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) – periodically broadcasts information about each aircraft, such as identification, current position, altitude, and velocity, through an onboard transmitter. ADS–B provides air traffic controllers with real-time position information that is, in most cases, more accurate than the information available with current radar-based systems. With more accurate information, Air Traffic Control will be able to position and separate aircraft with improved precision and timing.
  6. Multilateration (MLAT) – a modern alternative to radar using sensors (like cellphone towers) which receive aircraft transponder signals and presents a display of the traffic on monitors in an Air Traffic Control Tower.

What technology has been adopted in New Zealand?

Many new airline and general aviation aircraft added to the New Zealand fleet have been factory equipped for GNSS and PBN procedures, and a number of older aircraft have been upgraded to take advantage of PBN and GNSS.

GNSS based instrument procedures have been developed to date for use at 29 New Zealand aerodromes.

RNP approaches to Queenstown airport have been designed and approved for jet aircraft operations by Air New Zealand, Jetstar, and Qantas (Virgin Australia intends to adopt RNP also), and at Rotorua by Air New Zealand.

Airways have introduced ‘multilateration’ in the airspace around Queenstown airport to assist air traffic controllers with their situational awareness of air traffic, as radar is impracticable in the terrain.