How do flight paths in Auckland work?
Aircraft fly to and from their destinations on designated flight paths – these are effectively motorways in the sky. These designated routes allow aircraft to safely plan and fly between destinations.
Aircraft must take off and land into the wind. Therefore, the speed and direction of the wind is a critical factor in determining the runway direction used by planes during take off and landing.
The runway at Auckland Airport is oriented north-east to south-west. The predominant wind in Auckland is a westerly, meaning that most flights arrive from the north-east in order to land into the wind (as illustrated in runway 23 below). When there is a tailwind of less than five knots and minimal air traffic, it is possible for Airways to operate Auckland Airport’s runway in a reciprocal mode, meaning aircraft can both take off and land over the Manukau Harbour (illustrated in runway 05 below).
While flight paths are often depicted as a single line, it is not possible for all aircraft on a particular path to fly precisely along the same line. In practice, individual flights occur within a fight corridor that can be a number of kilometres wide. The exception to this is when satellite or performance-based navigation (“PBN”) paths are used, (referred to here as SMART Approaches). PBN utilises GPS technology on the aircraft and can follow flight paths to a far greater degree of accuracy.
What are the rules for aircraft using these flight paths?
Each country has a set of operating procedures for aircraft operating within their designated airspace. General operating and flight rules for New Zealand are articulated in the following documents:
How are flight paths determined?
The planning and operation of flight paths in Auckland is regulated through a number of national and regional Acts, Rules and Plans. Aviation legislation and policy focuses on the safe and efficient operation of airports. Land use planning legislation and policy protects both the airport’s function and the surrounding communities from the impacts of the airport, especially in relation to noise. These Acts, Rules and Plans include: