Nelson general aviation operator Alan Cauldwell in his hanger that he built, but which sits on land he leases from Nelson Airport. Photo: Brittany Spencer.

Pilots: Fees now sky high

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Private operator Alan Caudwell is set to take to the seas not the skies, after having his wings clipped by high landing fees and hangar land-lease prices at Nelson Airport.

The retired aircraft operator and engineer is one of the private operators based at the Nelson Airport and has been flying for 59 years.

His two RVs, Mustang, and his L39 jet are all housed in a 450m2 hangar which he built himself, he is leasing the land it sits on from the airport.

Leasing the land that his hangar sits on cost $9128.76 per year before the 77 per cent increase in March that now sees him paying $16,100.

Nelson private operator and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Ian Andrews says Nelson is a pretty good airport but they need to look after general aviation.

“Profit is fine but it’s got to be realistic and I think they’ve pushed it a bit far,” says Ian.

“Nobody expects anything for nothing but we’ve got a bit of land sitting on a swamp and we are paying huge rates per square metre for it.”

But Nelson Airport CEO Rob Evans says the increases are due to a three year review and is in line with land price increases in the region.

“We have independent reviews our land valuations every three years or so and adjust rentals in line with movements in the market.”

Ian says on top of hangar rates the landing charges have also increased, the Nelson Airport landing charge for Ian’s 3000 pound Piper Dakota is $17.68.

In 2015, Ian flew a larger, 4000 pound Piper Malibu and was only charged $11.50 each time he touched down.

From land lease rates to landing charges, Alan says that private operators are being hammered.

“I’ve done my numbers and I can’t afford to continue at this rate. I’m going to have to sell up the whole lot and go boating instead or something.”

Alan says he’ll be sad to sell his planes and his aircraft but “aviation is just getting too expensive to be a weekend thing”.

But like the lease fees, Rob says the airport’s landing fee increase is simply a function of a five year cycle and the airport has offered general aviation operators a discount to these charges which has been welcomed by most operators.

“I think they should pay the equivalent of any operator using the airport services. Would you think it is fair that the tax payers of Nelson and Tasman support aviation ‘hobbyists’?”

Rob says the airport is still receiving plenty of interest from general aviation operators.

“We are receiving enquires on a regular basis from existing and new businesses for hangar space. In particular in the tourist flights, executive jets and engineering training.”