Our recently published Travel Guide 2020 contains a short piece on flying near Mt Cook in New Zealand. Unfortunately over-zealous editing meant we missed out some crucial information for pilots thinking of flying there.
Kat West from Wanaka, writes: “The piece states that ‘radios are compulsory for every paraglider pilot’. It is significantly more than just a radio.
“Mt Cook-Aoraki is within the Southern Alps Mandatory Broadcast Zone. This stretches from near Lake Ohau to the southwest up to Lake Tekapo in the northeast, right over the Southern Alps to the west coast an area of around 5,600 square km.
“Mt Cook is near the centre of the zone. To fly within an MBZ you must have an airband radio, with the appropriate radio user license, and make position reports every five minutes.
“If you don’t have a license it is possible to get one within NZ, with a bit of forward planning. It involves an online theory test and a short practical exam. Note you do have to have reasonably fluent spoken English as all radio communications are in English.
“We are getting more and more pilots coming to New Zealand with the aim of vol-biv flights along the Southern Alps, without any awareness of the MBZ issues and hence no airband radio, let alone the appropriate license.
“If you avoid the MBZ you miss a particularly stunning part of the route, so there are some who just ignore the rules and carry on regardless. Grrr.
“However as was noted, it is a busy traffic area so you are almost certainly going to be spotted, which as well as the obvious safety issue reduces the credibility of all paraglider pilots. Articles like this one with poor information compound the problem.
“In addition, Mt Cook-Aoraki is within Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and the National Park Management plan is currently being reviewed. Whether we can fly in a National Park in NZ depends on the particular management plan for that area, so a review is a particularly sensitive time.”