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November 12, 2018

Wellington Airport closes briefly after drone spotted near runway

New Zealand's Wellington Airport has temporarily closed its controlled airspace after a drone was seen flying ‘dangerously close’ to the runway. 

New Zealand’s Wellington Airport has temporarily closed its controlled airspace after a drone was seen flying ‘dangerously close’ to the runway.

As a result of the 30-minute closure, several flights were delayed by around 15 minutes.

The drone was reportedly spotted by a plane approaching the airport site at a height of 600ft, around 3km from the end of the runway in the Evans Bay area.

The country’s air traffic service provider Airways stated that the drone was operating in controlled airspace, radionz.co.nz reported.

Airways air traffic services general manager Tim Boyle said: “It is very dangerous to be flying a drone that close to an aerodrome, within 3km and at that sort of level it’s exactly where aircraft on approach are going to be and if you can imagine an aircraft on final approach hitting an object that size, the results could be quite catastrophic.”

“It is very dangerous to be flying a drone that close to an aerodrome.”

Under existing civil aviation rules, drones are not allowed to fly higher than 400ft, or closer than 4km from any aerodrome.

Boyle also highlighted the growing instances of drone sightings in controlled airspace.

Boyle added: “We see at least one incursion by a drone into controlled airspace every week. I think over the last 12 months we’ve had probably 70 recorded incursions by drones.”

In order to stop such incidents repeating in future, he stressed the need for educating drone operators on where they can fly their devices and what areas are restricted.

The drone was seen for approximately 23 minutes and Wellington Airport authorities reported the matter to the police.

In August, Airways opened a new leaning air traffic control tower to replace the previous 58-year-old structure.

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