Wanaka Airport named NZ Regional Airport of the Year

Ralph Fegan giving award speech at NZ Airports conference sml

11 September 2015

Wanaka Airport named NZ Regional Airport of the Year

Wanaka Airport Operations Manager Ralph Fegan says he’s “absolutely thrilled and humbled” after Wanaka Airport was named BECA Regional Airport of the Year last night at the 2015 New Zealand Airports conference in Taupo.

The accolade recognises Wanaka Airport’s work in facilitating the successful completion of NASA’s inaugural mid-latitude southern hemisphere super pressure balloon launch from Wanaka in March.

NZ Airports Association CEO Kevin Ward said: “Led by Wanaka Airport Manager, Ralph Fegan, this one project has generated multiple positives including the significant economic and tourism benefits for the region and secured an ongoing role in the NASA balloon launch programme.”

Mr Fegan was on hand to accept the award and said that the success of NASA’s visit was made possible by great teamwork and a hugely supportive local community base.

“It was a real privilege to work alongside NASA and the Columbia Scientific Space Balloon Facility and I thank them for choosing Wanaka Airport,” he said. 

“I feel very humbled to accept this award on behalf of all of the people who made NASA’s visit a success. There was a lot of collaboration required locally and nationally to get this project off the ground so my sincere thanks goes to everyone involved. 

“NASA was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the region and the hospitality of the airport operators and local community so we’re delighted that they’re coming back next year.”

NASA has confirmed that its balloon programme team will return in 2016 and is planning launch its first scientific research payload on the massive super pressure balloon in April.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Vanessa Van Uden congratulated Mr Fegan and all those involved and said Wanaka’s brand association with NASA, in conjunction with the international publicity and goodwill it generated, has been “invaluable”.

“The project has brought significant economic benefits to both Wanaka and New Zealand with at least US$1.25 million injected directly into the regional and national economy this year,” she said. 

“It has also demonstrated our commitment to Wanaka’s community’s vision which is to bring benefits to the district by attracting economic investment and innovative businesses.

“Thanks to a successful launch, Wanaka Airport is now part of a select global group of NASA test sites located in the US, Sweden, Australia and Antarctica, and we’ve formed a strong working relationship with one of the world’s most internationally recognised organisations.”

Wanaka Airport is a Queenstown Lakes District Council-owned facility which is contracted to Queenstown Airport Corporation to manage.