If every pilot and ATC controller pronounces te reo Māori place names the one way, the risk of mid-air collisions will be reduced.
“I was flying near Queenstown a couple of years ago, very new to the area.
“I’d done all the necessary preflight planning and felt like I’d anticipated and planned for all likely scenarios.
“But as I approached ZQN, I began to hear local traffic refer to the Kaworrer River. I didn’t know the name and was worried I’d got a bit lost.
“I started to quickly consult my charts – crucially, taking me away from lookout.
“It was only after someone radioed that I was ‘passing over it now’ that I realised the locals were referring to the Kawarau River.”
This true account isn’t a one-off. Vector Online has spoken to students and long-time pilots who say the same thing – it’s sometimes hard to know where an aircraft is if the pilot is using their own interpretation of a te reo Māori visual reporting point.
‘Locals’ will argue that ‘it’s always been said this way’ and, like colloquial VRPs, it works well for them.
But the itinerant pilots – even those who’ve carried out the best flight planning – have no clue. And a mystified itinerant pilot is not conducive to safety.
Also doing no favours for safety are pilots making position reports with their own unique pronunciation, meaning the same place name can be articulated myriad ways.
That lack of absolute clarity is unnerving – and could be disastrous.
Click on the visual reporting points below, to hear Corporal Ruaiti Everitt of the Royal New Zealand Air Force pronouncing some place names that a non-speaker of te reo Māori might find challenging:
For more help on te reo Māori pronunciation:
Kuwi and Friends Māori Picture Dictionary by Kat Quin with te reo Māori translation by Pānia Papa.