Update on operations at Glide Omarama

Monday 17 August 2020

Sadly, Glide Omarama does not expect to be operating from the Omarama Airfield in the near future.

It has been an incredibly challenging six months for us on many fronts.

Many of you will know that the Civil Aviation Authority decided to discontinue our letter of exemption from part 115 of the civil aviation act earlier in the year. This decision, to enforce new compliance on Glide Omarama’s operations, was abrupt and unexpected and was made following extensive personnel changes within the Authority. Unfortunately for us it fell in the middle of our season. Part 115 compliance for Gliding is unique to New Zealand and is a complex, lengthy and expensive process. Requiring significant new levels of regulatory and administrative overhead it would have vastly increased our operating costs without adding any measurable safety benefits. It would also push many of our most experienced and talented instructors out of the industry.

Even as we began to tackle part 115 compliance, Covid-19 turned the world upside down. Despite some newfound local interest in gliding, many of our regular overseas clients and team are unable to travel here for the 20/21 season. We’re thinking of you all; whatever this gliding season brings it will not be the same without you.

A further hurdle has now been thrown at us by the Omarama Airfield Company. Despite our existing legal rights to an exclusive license to operate commercial gliding from the airfield, they have proceeded to advertise for new commercial operators. We have been attempting to work with them to resolve our concerns in a way which minimises impact on everybody else. Unfortunately, they have declined to engage with us around the issues raised.

As a result of all of the above, there really is no choice but to suspend operations from the Omarama Airfield until further notice.

I myself have retired and handed over the business assets and affairs to my son George in the hope that he can pull together new leadership and a future for what we have built over the last 22 years in Omarama.

In the meantime, I am preparing all of the equipment for sale including gliders, tow planes, hangers and ancillary equipment, as well as writing a book. So please watch this space for updates.

I am told that over our 22 years, Glide Omarama had grown to become one of the most successful gliding operations worldwide. It was certainly unique considering the skills and professionalism of our staff, our wonderful guests from around the world, not to mention the Omarama soaring environment.

I often said that the real reward from this line of work was the people we met and the adventures we shared. This is certainly true for both Mandy and me.

I would very much like to thank all our guests from wherever you came and our outstanding team. There is also a very special thank you which I would like to make to Rod Dew our General Manager; his outstanding leadership and steady support throughout these difficult times has meant so much.

Gavin Wills – Retired, Omarama