SMART Approaches

Flight paths in Auckland

More than 450 flights land and take off at Auckland Airport every day. As a result, almost all of Auckland experiences overflight by arriving and/or departing aircraft.

Aircraft predominantly land at Auckland Airport from the north-east and depart to the south-west (when the runway operates like this it is known as Runway 23L). The diagram below shows these aircraft movements over two typical weeks at the airport in September 2011, prior to the first SMART flight path trial.

The direction of approach and departure is wind-dependent, so aircraft also sometimes land at Auckland Airport from the south-west and depart to the north-east (when the runway operates like this it is known as Runway 05R). The diagram below shows these aircraft movements over two typical weeks at the airport in September 2011, prior to the first SMART flight path trial.

SMART Approaches

Airways New Zealand, Auckland Airport and the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ) have been working together to trial and implement new flight paths, called SMART Approaches, into Auckland Airport.

The SMART Approaches use satellite-based navigation and enable aircraft to burn less fuel, emit less carbon dioxide and fly more quietly. They contribute to international aviation carbon dioxide-emission reduction proposals and are aligned with the Government’s National Airspace and Air Navigation Plan.

The SMART Approaches help Auckland to be better connected to the rest of New Zealand and the world. They are in line with global developments and safely enable the growth of Auckland Airport, which is vital to New Zealand’s economy.

Four SMART Approach flight paths currently operate at Auckland Airport, two from the north and two from the south. The diagram below shows the SMART Approach flight paths. Green X23A descends from the north to Runway 23L. Red Y23 descends from the south to Runway 23L. Blue X05A descends from the north to Runway 05R. Black Y05 approaches Runway 05R from the south.

Airways designed and proposed these four SMART Approach flight paths in line with civil aviation requirements at the request of the participating airlines. Civil Aviation Rule (CAR) Part 173 required Auckland Airport to agree that the airport could be used for the SMART Approach flight paths before any flight path was implemented. After an assessment of the routes, in 2011, Auckland Airport agreed to the implementation of one SMART Approach flight path from the south onto Runway 05R (Black Y05), and to the trial of the three other SMART Approach flight paths (Green X23, Blue X05 and Red Y23).

The Blue X05A and the Green X23A SMART Approach flight paths can only be used by aircraft between 7am and 10pm. A maximum of 10 flights per day can use each of the Blue X05A and Green X23A SMART Approach flight paths. The Black Y05 SMART Approach flight path from the south to Runway 05R and the Red Y23 SMART Approach flight path from the south to Runway 23L are available 24 hours a day uncapped.

A third SMART Approach to Auckland Airport from the north, known as the ‘Yellow U23 SMART Approach, was trialled between September 2015 and August 2016.

Final Report published on the Yellow U23 Trial Smart Approach Flight Path

In May 2018, Airways New Zealand, Auckland Airport and the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ) published the final report on the Yellow U23 SMART Approach flight path trial.

SMART Approaches are an example of best practice international air traffic management. They are becoming more and more common place in New Zealand and typically use less fuel, reduce aircraft noise and deliver significant benefits for the environment.

The decision to trial a third satellite-guided flight path to Auckland Airport from the north was publicly announced by the aviation industry in December 2014. The 12-month trial commenced on 1 September 2015 and concluded on 31 August 2016. The trial flight path was used between 7am and 10pm by up to 10 aircraft per day. It was flown by 441 aircraft, saving 3,396 nautical miles and 78,710 kilogrammes of fuel, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 248,724 kilogrammes. Noise experts concluded that the difference in noise exposure on a day with 10 Yellow U23 SMART Approach flights and a day with no Yellow U23 SMART Approach flights was less than one decibel, or imperceptible, at most monitor sites.

A draft report on the trial was published on 20 October 2017 and was followed by a public consultation process. Written submissions on the draft report were accepted until 15 November 2017, and there was an opportunity for members of the community to present their submissions in person.

As a result of public feedback, Airways, BARNZ and Auckland Airport have modified the flight path to further avoid populated areas. It is now almost 1.5 kilometres off the coast of Eastern Beach, Mellons Bay, Cockle Bay and Waikiteroa Reserve, on average, and it’s also now around half a kilometre south-east of Whitford. Aircraft using the modified flight path will also be higher — at 5,000 feet when they fly over Bucklands Beach and 2,800 feet when flying south-east of Whitford. While these modifications would result in a slightly longer flight path for aircraft than trialled, they will reduce the impact of the flight path on the local communities.

The modified flight path will become operational in March 2019. Aircraft will only be able to use it between 7am and 10pm, with a maximum of six flights per day. That maximum number of flights per day can be increased to 10 in the future if certain conditions, outlined in the final report, are met. A third satellite-guided flight path to Auckland Airport from the south will also be trialled from March 2019.

Click here to download a copy of the final report on the 2015-2016 Yellow U23 SMART Approach Flight Path Trial.