Nelson’s new ATC tower opens for business

Situated in the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, Nelson Airport (one of New Zealand’s busiest regional airports) has opened its new air traffic control tower.

Costing an estimated NZ$6 million Nelson Airport’s tower is likely to be the last bricks and mortar tower to open in New Zealand as the industry moves from radar to digital technology.
The new tower is part of the airport’s NZ$32 million redevelopment project, which when complete will include a new terminal and infrastructure upgrades. It has been funded by Airways, New Zealand’s air navigation service provider, and built by local construction firm, Gibbons Construction. Measuring 22-metres high, the six-level tower is almost double the height of its predecessor and will be manned by four staff in two shifts.

Commenting on the opening of the new control tower, Airways CEO, Graeme Sumner said: “we’re very much becoming a data-rich, software dependent business with the right level of expertise still in the tower and you’ll see operations like this in the tower for some time to come because we are risk-averse, so you don’t change things too quickly.”

Air traffic controllers will manage around 125 take-offs and landings each day and 46,000 flight movements each year. The radar systems currently in use at the tower will eventually give way to a satellite-based system as part of a NZ$120 million investment in air traffic management upgrades across New Zealand.

Explaining how the Nelson tower needed to be replaced before the technology had advanced sufficiently, Sumner concluded: “What we’ll be seeing in Nelson is what is going to be available everywhere else in New Zealand and that’s going to give us a whole new range of functions that we didn’t have before – certainly it’s going to get people to land more efficiently and you will get far more even flow between aircraft.”

Congratulating Airways on the new tower, Nelson Airport’s CEO, Rob Evans, said: “This new tower will provide much greater resilience as the airport continues to grow into the future to support a vibrant and extraordinary region.

“The design compliments our stunning new terminal in delivering what will be an unrivalled regional airport experience for all our customers.”

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