The future of electric helicopters called Electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (EVTOL) has begun. These vertical take-off and landing aircraft don’t require the runway of old and are the new approach to air connectivity between regions.

This paper highlights some of the links and the changes that is happening in the aircraft industry and presents you with the opportunity to investigate and read further regarding what the future of aviation is for smaller towns and communities.

Because vertical take off and landing aircraft don’t need large amounts of land and/or space, the question regarding what the future of an airport is has started now.

Smaller airports will change as new technology and new ways of moving people are developed. Runways will be for larger more energy intensive planes.


“Companies are close to introducing electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs), helicopter-like aircraft that will take passengers from airports to destinations as far as 100 miles away. Airports are preparing for eVTOLs by planning where the so-called “vertiports” can take off and land.”


This is an interesting article from smart cities. “Experts say short take-off and landing aircraft will disrupt aviation and bring flyers closer to city centres.

By mid-decade, it may be possible to fly in a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), avoiding the congestion of highways and major airports. That’s according to James Dorris, co-founder, and CEO at Odys Aviation.

Sanjiv Singh, a consulting professor at The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and CEO of Near Earth Autonomy. He sees VTOL aircraft as the leading disruptor of the aviation industry, expecting it to become a $1 trillion market by 2040. Others have made similar projections in recent years.”


This article by McKinsey’s is an in depth look at the future of vertical take off and landing aircraft, as well as how the economics of it works.

The major point of the article being that change is on its way and it’s likely to upend the air transportation industry.

This is an occasional paper by Kapiti Airport. For more information feel free to contact us. Download PDF

Kapiti Coast Airport "Ask Us Anything" Electra Business Breakfast – Nov 21

Good morning everyone. For those that don’t know me, you may be surprised to learn I’m an advocate for small airports and general aviation. I also run my own airport and I’m a pilot… So I am acutely aware of the value… and cost… of airports. A large part of my work involves data collection and statistical analysis of airport data.

So, I’m going to dive straight in and contradict an assertion made by The Kapiti Air Urban group at the last business breakfast, and on their website. They said “2021 airport movements have increased by 28% over pre-covid levels”. They went onto explain this shows airport usage is growing and tracking towards cost neutrality.

That’s not right... The opposite is true. If you look closer you’ll find their figure is based this what is called a “Linear extrapolation of non-linear data”. It’s an incorrect assumption based on flawed mathematics.

Using the empirical data, the accurate statistic is this: 2021 movements have decreased 32% below pre-covid levels and “chargeable movements” are down 36%.

There are lots of opinions being offered about Kapiti Airport and its potential... And then there are the numbers, and they tell a story too.

Based on the numbers, Kapiti Airport is going backwards. This decline clearly predates the current owners, so it’s wrong to lay the blame with them. The constant in this isn’t the airport owners, they keep changing, it is the declining use by locals.
For the last decade GA activity has been in gradual decline, it’s had ups and downs, but the overall trend has been down. From over 50,000 movements, to under 20,000.

That’s not an opinion.

In the same decade, we’ve seen the hope bought by Air New Zealand and encouraging growth for several years up to a peak of 75k passengers per year. Followed by the reversal of that growth, leading us all the way back down to just one return flight a day that’s usually well below capacity.

Passenger numbers have consistently declined every year since 2016. Pre-Covid passenger numbers were already under 30,000. Covid certainly hasn’t helped, but its’ not to blame.

30,000 passengers may sound like a reasonable number to you. For reference: Timaru Airport has a population catchment of 50,000 people, Kapiti has a population catchment of 80,000. Timaru Aiport moves 55,000 passenger per year. They outperform Kapiti, with just two thirds of the population catchment… and they still receive an annual subsidy from council.

Who was supposed to buy all the plane tickets? It’s hard to blame that on airport management when we have all the facilities and capability sitting right here and not being used.

The numbers show plainly that 3/4s of the travelling population are choosing to use another airport. We know they’re still travelling, just not here. They’re using Wellington or Palmerston North.

For what it’s worth, we’d need to move 400,000 passengers to have a shot at economical sustainability from airport operations – We’re currently moving less than 20,000. Again, that’s the numbers talking, not opinions.

But instead of discussing why they can’t fill a 36 seat aircraft each day, Air Chathams wants to debate the theoretical technicalities, rather than the actual viability, of bringing in an aircraft twice the size.

So, I’ll acknowledge their statements too. Sure it wouldn’t make any economic sense, and it’s below the manufacturer’s recommendations, and you’d be limited on passengers and cargo to compensate. but you could technically operate an ATR72 at Kapiti.

How about the future?

Well, if the demand suddenly returned, and our passenger numbers grew to look promising. We’d still have the other set of problems.

The airport is hamstrung by the lack of space to the North & South and the location is evolving around us.

To ensure we remain safe on an ongoing basis, the Airport’s capacity and capability are slowly diminished to accommodate our geographical and environmental constraints. Again, this has been going on for years.

What does that mean? Well, there are several major issues, but at the root, the cause is that we’re in a suburban area.

First: Our approach paths are being eroded by trees and other obstacles. Each time we survey our runway approach clearances, it’s a bit worse.

Second: Compliance requirements for airports are slowly changing. Our runway overrun areas meet only the legal minimum requirements, and we had to make a special application to get even that concession. Next time this is recertified, we’re unlikely to pass again while we have less than half the recommended run off area.

Currently the result of these two factors is, although we have a 1450m runway – which is easily long enough for most operations – we can’t use it all, and we lose 408m of useable runway when landing from the North, and 263m from the South. The next time either of these factors is recalculated, it will result in further reduction of the available runway.

Third issue: We’re in a suburban area. The neighbours are, mostly, very accommodating and Kapiti Council’s Airport Noise Management Plan is basically irrelevant at current activity levels.

But, if we were 10 or 20 times more busy – It is unlikely to result in satisfactory noise levels for our neighbours and remaining compliant with the district plan would be difficult, resulting in further compromises to airport capability.

Now if the airport was pulling its own weight – Not just economically, but in usage and tangible benefits to the region. It would be worth trying to buy some time and resolve any issues we can. But that would come at a substantial cost for the neighbours and ratepayers, as well as the owners. It simply is not worth doing based on the actual or potential usage.

In Summary, The runways cannot be extended to accommodate larger regional transport aircraft, and there is no demand for a larger plane on the route anyway.

The number aren’t just below economic levels, they’re so low they indicate the services are just not wanted or appreciated by enough people to justify the amount of resource tied up.

These aren’t new problems. Many locals and airport users have heard a version of this story for so long now, they’ve clearly just stopped believing it.

But, the numbers will still tell their story, whether you believe it, or not.

Thanks for listening. I’ll hand you over to Ross.

Source: Electra Business Breakfast Nov 2021

Opinion: Kāpiti Coast Airport CEO provides insights into challenging environment

Running Kāpiti Coast Airport certainly comes with challenges, especially on the financial front, writes its chief executive Chris Simpson.

No one over the past two years since we have owned the airport has asked me this simple question: Hey, Chris why did the 52 per cent government-owned airline Air New Zealand leave Kāpiti Coast Airport?

Simple question, but no one is asking it.

Well, here's the answer.

For the Kāpiti Coast Airport to be financially sustainable you need approximately 400,000 people flying yearly – not the current 25,000 – a 1500 per cent increase. The biggest passenger plane that currently lands in Kāpiti is a 36-seater Saab. The runway is too short for an Air New Zealand ATR, which is now their smallest available plane for this route.

So, to accommodate the 400,000 passengers we would need approximately 11,000 flights yearly or 30 flights a day – not the 1-2 return flights we currently get.

Currently we get approximately 60 passengers a day – for the 400,000 we would need 1100 people a day.

The reality is that passenger numbers have dropped from a peak of some 75,500 passengers in 2016, to just 25,500 pre Covid. We aren't blaming Covid here.

However, Air Chathams, well before Covid was even heard about, had reduced their six flights a day to four, and this year to two – even though they have a contract with us for six.

Also, here's an economic reality: we only earn money for landings from Air Chathams at a maximum of $102 per landing, up to a maximum of $918 a week.

It's not their fault they reduced their flights. The demand from the Kāpiti community isn't there, even though Air Chathams have a monopoly flying into Auckland. There is no other airline knocking on our door to start up in competition against Air Chathams.

The chief executive of Kāpiti Coast District Council (KCDC) wrote papers supporting a ratepayer loan of $500,000 to Air Chathams. These papers and subsequent meetings were in secret – even we as the airport operator have no oversight of this. However, Air Chathams' chief operating officer has said in the media that ratepayer money is in their bank for a "rainy day" and is offsetting their interest costs.

We have the Kāpiti Districts Aeroclub, who by the way are really good people, paying $19,000 a year in a lease (or $365 a week) and plane owners' landing fees of $6-$12 sees us receive approximately $45,000 a year - $123 a day.

As you can see, it's not a big money spinner for us. And no blame can be laid at their door regarding the tough financials of the airport.

Another factual reality is that the runway needs to be fully resurfaced at a cost of around $5 million in the next four years. And that $5m was a figure from six years ago so needs to be updated.

We have other tenants, smaller businesses on the periphery who pay rent. So, all up, it's around $500,000 a year that we earn for the airport operations, or $1300 a day. And it costs us around $2m a year to keep the airport operating.

Another commercial reality is the airport café has closed because of a lack of flights and passengers. Instead, they now sell their Choice Pies around the region – which they make at the airport – so, we are running a bakery! Awesome pies too – Donna and Chris are incredibly hard workers.

And in our short-term carpark of 55 bays, we have on average 10 cars a day use it at $9 a day. However, the parking is now free, because the meters have broken and cost more to fix than what we receive in payments.

"But, what about Kāpiti Landing I hear you say?"

The commercial and retail area that was developed to expand airport facilities and diversify sources of income?

The gross $6m it generates does not take into account finance costs, depreciation, maintenance, etc. So what's left over, while helping to offset the losses from core airport activities, is not enough to make the overall airport operations profitable, provide a return on investment and support the upcoming capital expenditure that is required.

Then we have the Save Kāpiti Airport lobby group sprouting ideas about keeping the airport and developing around it.

Despite having tried to engage with the group multiple times to help them understand the realities of developing the land and to have our experts team up with theirs to ensure their plans are practical and feasible, they've never come back to us. And that's despite listing us – albeit at the bottom of their list – on their website as a key stakeholder.

Their website also states their guiding principles are 'partnership with key stakeholders' and 'open transparent engagement'. We'd refute that. They're talking about us, not to us.

And their rhetoric is confusing. In August last year the National Party (who, remember, sold the airport in 1995 because it was uneconomic) released a statement quoting then-candidate and spokesperson for Save Kāpiti Airport Tim Costley saying, "chopping up Kāpiti Airport for residential sections is short-sighted".

In December Tim got in touch to say their bottom line is to keep a runway and a small apron – that's not an airport.

Now their current plans contradict their spokesperson's stance with homes and commercial activities dotted around the runway. But there are very stringent safety rules and regulations about the space required around a runway to operate. It's not a simple matter of 'keep a runway and put stuff around it'. Hence our desire to engage with Save Kāpiti Airport to ensure their vision is not just a collection of nice drawings.

Another factor to consider is that the airport is in the wrong location. The runway is too short and cannot be extended for larger planes. The hills to the south create conflicts between instrument and visual approach. If an airport were truly needed, it would be better to locate it north of Te Horo.

The airport is caught between Wellington and Palmerston North airports – the local catchment is just too small to make the airport viable.

Then we have the KCDC chief executive spouting off about the council-commissioned economic assessment of the airport (it is available at that it adds economic benefit of $4.3m to the region. That's $4m return for 110 hectares of land.

However, the inconvenient truth of the report is that it was done in 2017 (when passenger numbers were higher) and the $3m of that savings was in fuel/time/vehicle wear and tear for people not driving to Wellington. Furthermore, the previous owner of the land wasn't even involved in the report.

The chief executive also commissioned a $5000 poll of 500 people asking if you think the airport should be kept – basically a question, 'do you like free icecream?'. He didn't outline alternatives, nor did he inform his own councillors – the people who employ him and who he reports to – that he was undertaking the poll.

And finally, the mayor is telling us that KCDC is expecting growth of 30,000 people here in the next few decades and he needs 15,000 houses. Well, we could do 3000 if the airport was to close on the 110 hectares. That's not high density, by the way.

For now, we continue to run an airport that the vast majority of the Kāpiti community simply doesn't use and is essentially a 9km roundabout.

So, as a ratepayer you may want to ask for the $500,000 Air Chathams loan back and suggest that KCDC consider investing it into social infrastructure like healthcare, parks, amenities for the 15,000 homes it needs over the next few decades.

And instead of asking why the government-owned and backed Air New Zealand left, a better question is: "How do we better utilise 110 hectares which helps the Kāpiti Coast become the best place to live in New Zealand?".

That's a conversation we're happy to have.

Source: NZ Herald Link 13 Oct 2021 10:00 AM

Chamber of Commerce Survey shows business isn't using the airport

The Chamber’s survey said 70% of the respondents want to keep Kāpiti Airport open. What the Chamber didn’t explain was that just 61 of their more than 300 members completed the survey. To be precise, that’s 20% of their members. And they are hardly representative of the 5385 businesses on the coast. In fact the Chamber only represents 5% of the businesses on the Coast.

Also, what they didn’t share in their media release were the full results.

Those showed that of 57 respondents, almost 37% only use the airport once or twice a year, and 26% use it every three to six months. Just 7% use it weekly or even monthly.

But perhaps the most telling was that 39% of respondents had decreased their use of the airport and 51% had no change in usage.

“While a sample size as small as 61 people is, at best, unreliable, in this case it reflects what I see at the airport every day – that very few Kāpiti Coasters are using the airport. The community is simply not supporting it and they need to understand that we simply cannot keep an airport running if people use it once or twice a year.”

Another question the Chamber didn’t outline in their media release was that more than 62% of respondents said their business either did not benefit from having a local operational airport or they were unsure if it did.

Kapiti Airport: Not enough runway, passengers, planes or options

27 July 2021, Bennett Richardson

Geographically hemmed in, surrounded by housing and chronically underused, the future of Kapiti Coast Airport looks less secure each passing day.

Chief executive Chris Simpson told the Ticker that it was hard to imagine it being a viable enterprise in its current form.

“No one seems to be coming to the party with regards to either investing into the airport or to making it work from a commercial planes perspective,” he said.

Planes used by carriers such as Air New Zealand and Jetstar could not fly into the airport due to limited runway capacity, leaving just the smaller operators as options.

The runway was physically 1450 metres in length, but technical constraints caused by roads, houses and terrain meant that there was only 1042 metres for landing from the north, or 1187 metres for landing from the south.

Air Chathams currently used Kapiti Coast Airport for flights to Auckland, while Sounds Air flew to Blenheim and Nelson.

“The real issue you have is finding suitable aircraft to service the airport,” Simpson said.

But a lack of users meant the economics were poor as well. An average of around only 30 passengers used the airport each day.

Owned by NZPropCo Ltd, the airport was losing a $1.2m a year.

Simpson said that a number of groups in the Kāpiti community were talking to the airport about opportunities to convert it into housing or mixed use development, given its lack of commercial viability as an airport.

“Those conversations have been happening with us,” he said.

“With regards to what is the opportunity cost for the best use of the land, that’s an opportunity to redevelop the land.”

It may simply be a matter of time for the airport, which was designed in the 1930s to accommodate flying practices of the time.

Simpson said moving the airport to a new location further north would solve many of its problems. But this would most likely require significant assistance from Kāpiti Coast District Council and central government.

The council’s latest longterm plan discussed the idea of the council having a role in management of any airport in the region. At the same time, the plan acknowledged that the council could not do it on its own.

“Because the airport is privately-owned, any future role for council could only happen with the owners’ support,” the longterm plan said.

“The current owners have engaged with the council and have expressed a desire to work collaboratively with us, whatever the future of their asset may be.”

Simpson also recently met with transport minister Michael Wood, but the government had not taken any position on the matter.

“He listened politely,” Simpson said.

“We think the minister appreciated our situation and the ongoing challenges we’re facing.”

Technical and Geographic Constraints means Kapiti Airport is in the wrong location.

09 July 2021

Total Runway Length: there is no room for a runway extension.

The airport was designed in the 1930s with best practices of the day. It was designed to have 3 similar length runways in a triangle layout. This means the site is wide, but not long.

There is a lot of land, but not in the right places.

Available Runway Length: The runway is physically 1450m in length, but technical constraints caused by roads, houses and terrain mean that for planes there is available 1042m for landing from the North, or 1187m for landing from the South.

Practically, this limits the size of aircraft the airport can accept. The largest being the Bombardier Q300s operated by Air NZ. These have 58 seats, but were not able to use all of them when flying from Kapiti due to the available runway length. Air NZ are phasing these aircraft out (they will not be replaced) in favour of the ATR72, which cannot practically land here.

Air Chathams SAAB 340s are currently the largest aircraft using the airport at 38 seats. Other than Air Chathams and Air NZ, no other airline currently has a 30 seat plus aircraft capable of using the airport.

This seriously limits opportunities for growth. Ie: If the route demand grew, the new problem would be finding suitable aircraft to service the demand.

Terrain to the South: The steep terrain to the South of the airport affects the design of the instrument approach from the South requiring a ‘curving approach’ as a ‘straight in’ approach is not possible. This in turn means the instrument approach sometimes conflicts with the Visual approach. These are ‘showstoppers’ as there is no simple way to overcome these issues at the current location.

Even if the demand for flights from the airport grew significantly from current traffic levels, it will always hit a ceiling cause by these constraints that prevents it reaching an economically sustainable level. With due consideration, all the above could be overcome by relocating to an alternate location.

Kapiti Airport CEO met with Minister of Transport, outlined failing economics of small, underutilised airport

24 June 2021

The CEO of Kāpiti Coast Airport met Transport Minister Michael Wood recently to discuss the challenges of operating the small aerodrome in the heart of Paraparaumu.

“It was a very constructive meeting in which we outlined our financial position and dwindling number of commercial flights at the airport,” chief executive Chris Simpson said.

“We think the Minister appreciated our situation and the ongoing challenges we’re facing.”

Mr Simpson said the Kāpiti region was growing rapidly with huge demand for housing and associated infrastructure, yet residents were choosing not to fly via the airport.

The local economy grew 0.3% in the year to March 2021, and employment was up 1.8% in the past year, while the Council issued 57 new residential building consents in the March quarter.

“This is good for the region, but our passenger numbers are far too low to run a viable airport. Fewer than 200 fee paying passengers use the airport each week which is less than 0.5 per cent of the Kāpiti population. We recognise that people like the ‘idea’ of a local airport, but the fact remains that 99.5 per cent of the population aren’t using it and we are beginning to feel like the Yellow Pages – wanted and expected but not really used.”

Mr Simpson said the Airport hadn’t recovered from Air New Zealand’s withdrawal in 2018 and it was now losing about $1.2 million a year from operating the airport and would need to invest up to $5 million to upgrade the runway by 2025.

“There’s so much going on in Kāpiti and we want to contribute in a meaningful way, however, Kāpiti people aren’t using the airport.”

Media inquiries:
Chris Simpson
Chief executive, Kāpiti Coast Airport
021 922 787

Our CEO was interviewed recently regarding what is actually happening at the airport.

Stuff Link

Recently, you may have heard some mistruths about the Kapiti airport, so we just wanted to say to here are some facts regarding four key points:


The reality is that it isn’t a lifeline/emergency because under the Civil Defence Emergency Act 2002, Kapiti is not listed as a Lifeline Utility, see link below.

Included below is schedule 1 of the Civil Defence Act with an asterisk showing that Kapiti airport isn't included.

Hope that clarifies the miscommunication that is being promoted within the community that it is a lifeline/emergency utility. The Government hasn’t deemed it to be when National sold it in 1995.


Aircraft Movements have significantly declined

Any comments out in the community saying that the Airport is thriving, are wrong.

  1. Aircraft movements in 2007 were approx. 53,000 per annum
  2. 2018 they were approx. 25,000 aircraft movements - then Air New Zealand left.
  3. 2019 there were approx. 19,000 aircraft movements (before Covid).
  4. 2020 during Covid there were 16,000 aircraft movements.

The sale of the airport was reviewed by the auditor general in 2005

The government has already reviewed the sale of the airport in 2005.

From the report:

“The overall policy framework which dictated the disposal of the aerodrome was that: Civil airports and aerodromes should be run as businesses. Government departments should not be involved in running businesses. State-owned businesses that were profitable should be corporatised and either operated as State enterprises or privatised. State-owned businesses that were not commercially viable should be disposed of on the open market. Paraparaumu Aerodrome was not considered a commercially viable operation in public ownership. Accordingly, in April 1993 Ministers directed that it should be sold.

In 2002, a group of Airport users presented a petition to the House of Representatives entitled “that Parliament legislate to safeguard the long-term viability of Paraparaumu Airport as a full operational facility”. The Auditor General said there should be no obligation on any new owner of the aerodrome to keep it operational if it wasn’t financially viable. And the Ministry’s wish to not place the Government in a position where it would have to re-acquire the aerodrome should it prove commercially unviable under new ownership.”

Hence why the Labour government, nor previous John Key Government desired to purchase the airport back.


Noise complaints are increasing