A specialised calibration aircraft was expected to be back on the job testing Rarotonga International Airport’s new $2 million instrument landing system this week.
Completion of the exercise, which began in late June, was hampered by bad weather and a lack of accommodation on Rarotonga for the three crew, due to the influx of visitors for Te Maeva Nui. The twin engine Piper Cheyenne was left at the airport when the crew departed last month They returned on Thursday of last week and the speedy aircraft was seen making wide circuits of the airport area on Sunday and Monday.
During the tests the aircraft, operated by Airways NZ, flies in and out over the runway, while an engineer on board checks that the landing system is transmitting accurate data to the plane. “It didn’t have enough time to complete the test and the crew couldn’t find accommodation here due to the school holidays so had to return to New Zealand, leaving the plane here,” Airport Authority chief executive Joe Ngamata said. “They couldn’t do much flying on Friday and Saturday due to the weather but were able to do some on Sunday and Monday. (They’re) just waiting on probably one more good day to complete their checks.”
When returning to New Zealand after a calibration exercise, the aircraft would normally fly to Tonga first to refuel and then on to Auckland, sometimes via Norfolk Island, Ngamata said.
The aircraft is making routine annual inspections of airports throughout the Pacific.
Earlier, Ngamata said the new system was expected to last 15 years and would be recalibrated each year. At the end of its lifetime it would almost certainly be replaced by satellite-based technology, he added. “We actually thought that the new satellite systems would have already overtaken it, but they’re still using these all around the place.
“These are old technology, but the latest models of the older technology. The new ones that are just starting to come out, are called GBAS (Ground-Based Augmentation System). It’s all satellite-based. The next project at the airport involves the replacement of the runway edge lighting from bulbs to LEDs, at a cost of around $250,000.