By David Pine
Date posted: 1 August 2014
On every day of every year, some 1300 of the passengers who take off from Wellington Airport, transfer to a long haul flight out of either Christchurch or Auckland. This is the major reason why the Wellington Airport company is planning an extension to their runway.
Speaking at Plimmerton Rotary on 29 July, airport CEO Steve Sanderson was passionate about the need for the airport to expand and renovate. Besides the runway extension, current plans include a major revamp of the main terminal. This would see a 35 metre addition to the southern end of the building; a doubling in width of the Air New Zealand departure lounge area; rearrangement of the interior to enable visitors to see through the building from one end to the other, and a new multi-level hotel at the end of the international terminal. Work was expected to commence in October of this year.
Mr Sanderson spoke about the difficulties of the site. “We have our entire operation sitting on about 110 hectares of land, whereas Christchurch and Auckland airports each have about 1600 hectares. This gives them far more flexibility to grow and develop. We will need to increase car parking at our airport, and the only way to go is up. Each additional park will cost us about $40,000 to build.”
Calling Wellington Airport “The Engine Room of the Region”, Mr Sanderson explained that the planned 300 metre runway extension would be built at the southern end, out into Cook Strait. “We will obtain fill from Wellington port company, Centreport, who have plans to dredge the mouth of Wellington Harbour to make it deeper. The rock they will be taking out of that area just happens to be an ideal material for the foundation for our new runway.” Environmental issues caused by the change in shape of the coastline would be comprehensively researched and addressed.
The extended runway would not be long enough to handle Boeing 777’s on full load, or any other aircraft of equivalent or larger size. “We are targeting long haul flights using the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus of similar size which is called the A350. These aircraft each carry about 220-300 people depending on how they are configured. They have the ability to fly non-stop to centres such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, China, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.
“It is estimated that each long haul route that we are able to establish will generate revenue of around $55 million per year to the economy of Wellington and its catchment area, which extends from Wellington to New Plymouth and Hawkes Bay.” Research by aviation experts, Intervista, had demonstrated that Wellington could support between 4 and 6 long haul routes into Asia.
Mr Sanderson felt that the extended runway would be no more challenging for pilots landing on windy days, compared with landing on the existing runway. “But there is one very positive thing that comes out of this. Conditions at Wellington Airport will continue to demand that pilots give 100% attention when they land here!”