Life Flight air ambulance planes frequently land at Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome. PHOTO/FILE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

The Kapiti Coast Airport is threatened with closure, but this was unlikely to impact Life Flight services in Wairarapa. It also would also not guarantee that an air passenger service would come to Wairarapa [Air Chathams runs out of Kapiti].

The Stuff website first reported Kapiti Coast Airport faced closure in August, raising questions about the risk to urgent patients being transported to hospital over the Remutakas.

Sebastian Grodd of Life Flight said that Kapiti Coast Airport was primarily used for Westpac Rescue Helicopter operations in Kapiti, and as a backup for air ambulance planes when Wellington Airport was closed.

In the event of the airport closing, Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome would be one of the remaining Wellington Airport backup options.

Grodd said air ambulance planes also landed frequently at Hood Aerodrome and the site could serve as a backup under certain circumstances.

“On the relatively infrequent occasions that our air ambulance plane is unable to land at Wellington Airport we have standard operating procedures in place to ensure patient safety.”

Masterton District Council community facilities and activities manager Andrea Jackson said that, while the two airports’ runways were of a relatively comparable size, Kapiti’s was wider and had a higher number of landings each year.

Hood Aerodrome was also visited by flight training schools including Massey University and Wellington Aeroclub.

Jackson said it was difficult to predict what the closure might mean for Hood Aerodrome but was confident it would not impact Life Flight services, which she described as a critical service for the region.

“Masterton is likely to see growth over the long term focused on its unique character.

“Hood is attractive to pilots as it is in uncontrolled airspace and has great facilities for general aviation flying.

“But it would be disappointing to see Kapiti close as this would reduce aviation opportunities in the Wellington Region.”

Air Chathams, which submitted a business case to MDC last year, also runs out of Kapiti airport, but Jackson said that whether Wairarapa got an air passenger service of its own would be determined by regional population and demand.

“It is unlikely changes at Kapiti would make much difference to the opportunities for Wairarapa, which are a matter for private air service operators.

“Widening and extending the [Hood Aerodrome] runway will, however, remove one hurdle in that process.”

The government announced a $10 million funding package to widen and extend the runway, improve security, lighting, and infrastructure.



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