Airport tractor ban 'ageist'

KRA tractor An old tractor might be useful on a farm, but at Nelson Airport it's a different story. The arrival of a 40-year-old Massey Ferguson tractor on the tarmac has caused a stir after it was rejected by the Airport Company to tow luggage for new airline Kiwi Regional.

Kiwi Regional Airlines chief executive officer Ewan Wilson called the Nelson Airport Company "ageist" for turning down the tractor he purchased especially.

"It's just ageism, it doesn't blow smoke and it may be slightly older than their other vehicles but Massey Fergusons have been the backbone of aviation for years," said Wilson.

"It's a beautiful classic thing. We were very frustrated and a little disappointed in the end."

Nelson Airport chief executive Rob Evans said the tractor could be used to tow Kiwi Regional's SAAB 340 aircraft, but it would be "cumbersome" to tow luggage carriers at the front of the terminal.

Rob profile

"Having that operating at our terminal is not at the sort of standard of engineering that we would expect from an airline. Quite frankly it's a [40] year old tractor, it's meant for the farm."

He said the tractor was not suitable when driven close to adults and children at the terminal.

The airport has provided Wilson with a modern electric cart to tow luggage while he finds an appropriate towing vehicle.

Wilson said he was disappointed that he was required to purchase a new cart.

"I think the decision was unjustified but ultimately they're the airport company and they make the rules," he said.

Meanwhile, the airline's SAAB 340 has performed its proving flight with the Civil Aviation Authority ahead of its first public flight next week. It flew to Nelson on Monday.

"We're really pleased with how the proving flight went," said Wilson.

He said he was waiting for an official notification to certify the plane was fit for commercial use and he expected to know within the next three days.

He said the was encouraged to see plenty of pre-bookings from Nelsonians travelling to Dunedin and Hamilton.

 - Stuff