Some recent discussion in a popular social media group has raised some good discussion about controlled airspace around airports, and if it is always active.
The NZ AIP (GEN 3.3-2 1.4) tells us that:
Aerodrome control services within CTR’s at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are provided H24 (i.e., all the time!). Aerodrome control services within other CTR’s are only provided when the respective aerodrome control unit is on watch.
When CTA and CTR are not operative, the rules and procedures for Class G airspace apply.
Remember a CTR is a control zone. This is the controlled airspace that comes right down to the surface around the country’s major airports.
So, to answer our question. Around Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, yes controlled airspace is always controlled, and you must always have authorization to fly here.
However, around all the other airports with a control zone (such New Plymouth, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Napier, Blenheim etc etc) the answer is not always! If the tower is not on watch, then the airspace becomes uncontrolled (Class G).
Practically speaking this means if you fly early in the morning, or late in the evening you may be able to fly in the area without authorization. However, obviously you must then be careful you are not flying before morning civil twilight, or after evening civil twilight (at night), as this is not permitted in accordance with CAR Part 101.
But how do we know when a tower is active?
This part is very important! Tower hours of watch are published in the NZ AIP supplements, or NOTAMs. If you do not know what these resources are, then do not fly in these areas until you find out!
The best place to learn about NOTAMs and the AIP Supplements is by completing one of Drone TRUST online drone training courses.