31 July 2014

Oamaru Service Reduced

This from Tuesday's ODT...

Mainland Air representatives will meet today to discuss the future of its Oamaru Air Service. They will likely confirm a change in scheduling, to ensure the service is viable. Discussions concerning rescheduling have come as a result of spread-out patronage on flights, chief executive officer Shirley Kean said. ''At this stage we're just going to have a look at rescheduling,'' Mrs Kean said. ''We're going to ... maybe cut it back to two to three days a week.'' Since June 4, Mainland Air has operated morning and afternoon return services between Oamaru and Christchurch, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Morning flights leave Oamaru at 7.30am, arrive in Christchurch at 8.10am and return to Oamaru at 8.45am. Afternoon flights depart Oamaru at 4.30pm, returning by 6.10pm. A Sunday flight leaving Oamaru at 4pm, landing back again at 5.40pm was likely to be cancelled altogether, Mrs Kean said. Patronage had been ''really good'', but numbers had been too spread out. The service required five passengers on each round trip to be viable. The majority of flights averaged three passengers travelling to Christchurch, but none coming back, Mrs Kean said. From the outset, the company had made it clear if the service did not work for it, it would be scrapped. ''We don't want to pull out,'' she said. ''But if [rescheduling] doesn't work then we're out of there ... If this is not going to work, there's only so long we can keep going.'' She could not confirm a time frame to trial new scheduling before making a final decision on the service's future. Mainland Air's passenger mix was dominated by business travellers and local travel agents had been actively promoting it for holiday-makers. Wednesday and Friday had been the most popular travelling days.

It seems the service will only operate on Wednesdays and Fridays...

30 July 2014

Palmy's Air Ambulance

Captured at Auckland on Sunday 27 July 2014 was air2there's Beech 200 Super King Air ZK-MYM (c/n BB-1466). The aircraft is Palmerston North based is operated by air2there for a joint venture air ambulance operation with Helipro.

29 July 2014

Air New Zealand's new toy...

I finally got to take my first photos of Air New Zealand's newest toy, their Boeing 787-9 ZK-NZE as it departed Auckland yesterday for a training flight to RNZAF Ohakea... From a distance the 787-9 looks small... however when it was taxiing out from the Air NZ base I was struck by how big it appeared. I was also struck by how incredibly quiet it is! All in all, a spectacular aircraft!

28 July 2014

Oamaru - Is it about to lose another air service?

The Mainland Air Service flights from Oamaru to Christchurch cannot continue under the current schedule, says chief executive Phillip Kean. The five-day-a-week service was introduced by Mainland Air in June, after Mr Kean saw a market for it. However, he said not enough people were booking flights and he was only willing to wait so long before he reassessed the situation and reviewed the schedule. “I’ll give it a bit more time, but the way it’s heading at the moment, we won’t be able to continue, which is disappointing.” The plane departs Oamaru at 7.30am each day, then returns from Christchurch Airport about 9am. Mr Kean said he was happy to listen to views from the public about changing flight times. “We will certainly consider it and if we feel it is going to bring us more customers by flying out at 7am, which we have done before, then we will look to do it. “At the end of the day, whether we continue or not is solely up to the public and if they decide to get in behind us, or provide ideas which may help to attract customers to fly with us,” Mr Kean said. The 10-seater plane was often occupied by only one or two people on the way to Christchurch and there was no guarantee it would return with any passengers, he said. “The number of passengers is largely hit-and-miss; we go up with one or two, then often down with no one and that can’t continue.” Mr Kean said he was disappointed. “It’s definitely frustrating. We have thrown a lot of money into getting this service up and running and made nothing from it.”

Provincial Schedule Changes

Further changes are being made to provincial air services from the 5th of February 2015.

ATR-72s will be used for the first time on the direct flights between Napier and Christchurch with the morning southbound and evening northbound flights being operated by ATR aircraft. The other direct flights will continue to be operated by the Q300s. ATR 72s will also be operating between Christchurch and Tauranga on Saturday afternoons and between Tauranga on Christchurch on Sunday mornings.

As previously mentioned in this blog the Nelson-Palmerston North services and Beech 1900 flights to Kerikeri are being upgraded to Q300s. In addition to these, the late afternoon flight between Auckland and Rotorua and return will upgrade to Q300s. The morning flight was upgraded to Q300s in February of this year. 

Tauranga is also to pick up more Q300s flights to Auckland from late September this year. 

27 July 2014

TEAL's Domestic Route - Wellington to the Chathams

During the course of the Second World War the Royal New Zealand Air Force regularly made use of the Tasman Empire Airways flying-boats ZK-AMA Aotearoa and ZK-AMC Awarua to make a number of maritime patrol flights that searched for enemy surface raiders and checking unidentified vessels. For these flights the civilian boats were armed with 500lb bombs.

On the 25th of November 1940 the German surface raiders the Orion and the Komet intercepted the sighted and captured the steamer Holmwood which was on passage between the Chatham Islands and the Port of Lyttelton. The 29 crew and passengers were taken off, as well as several hundred live sheep, after which the Holmwood was sunk by gunfire. When the ship failed to arrive TEAL’s Short S30 Flying boat Awarua, under command of Captain W. J. Craig was sent from Auckland to search west of the Chathams. The aircraft sighted the Chathams but did not land or overfly them.

In the Aviation Historical Society of New Zealand Journal of December 2007 J W Best outlined the development of the Air Force Base and the first visit of an aircraft to the Chathams.

It could not have been long after this that preparations to get the base established were started. A temporary jetty, a large motorised refuelling barge, a launch, and kerosene flare floats, were provided. Two buoys were placed in Waikato Bay, a small inlet off the lagoon. Petrol (20,000 gallons) and oil (176 gallons) was stockpiled. Two sighting beacons were installed on land as night mooring aids. The base was under the supervision of a local resident, Mr Glennie.

Short S.30 Aotearoa (Capt. J. W. Burgess) left Auckland at 2:30 am on 29 April 1941 to undertake a reconnaissance flight around the Chathams. The flying boat searched some 15,000 square miles without incident then landed in Te Whanga lagoon at 11:19 am. Burgess was taken by launch to the refuelling barge. Only 44 gallons of petrol were taken aboard the S.30 "in ... accordance with instructions" Burgess reported. (This first visit by an aircraft was probably made primarily to test the facilities and equipment at the newly established mooring.) Burgess and his crew stayed less than 1 hour 30 minutes at the Chathams. The S.30 took off at 12:45 pm and arrived at Lyttelton at 4:36 pm. They flew back to Auckland next day (30 April), arriving at 3:55 pm.

A war-time visitor, TEAL's Short S30 Empire ZK-AMA, Aotearoa, was the first aircraft to visit the Chatham Islands on the 29th of April 1941.

Following the Second World War the RNZAF made numerous flights to the Chathams and in 1949 the National Airways Corporation tried to establish an air service to the Chathams using their Short Sunderland flying boats. The early hopes for the NAC’s service did not eventuate and NAC’s early involvement in the Chathams ended early in 1950 when it retired its Sunderlands.

In 1949 TEAL added four Mark IV Short S45A Solent flying boats to its fleet. ZK-AML, Aotearoa II, arrived on the 7th of December 1949, ZK-AMM, Ararangi, on the 29th of September 1949, ZK-AMN, Awatere, on the 23rd of October 1949 and ZK-AMO, Aranui, on the 30th of November 1949. A fifth Mark III Solent ZK-AMQ Aparima was delivered a couple of years later on the 15th of September 1951. The Flight International magazine issue for the 29th of September 1949 described the Solents as having passenger accommodation for 30 to 44 passengers with a crew of seven. With a payload of 17,124 lb, including 44 passengers, luggage, mail and freight, it has a range of 1,450 miles, cruising at 200 mph at 10,000ft.

On 1950 the Minister of Civil Aviation approved of Tasman Empire Airways introducing an air service between Wellington and the Chatham Islands. It was envisaged that six return flights per year would be flown and that if the Company felt that sufficient traffic were offering, additional services might be arranged during the summer and the Canterbury Centennial Celebrations. Approval was given for the Company to be subsidised up to £75 per return trip, the payment to be reviewed after four return trips had been flown. The Government thought TEAL’s service could be tied in with TEAL’s plans for its Wellington to Sydney service saving the cost of positioning an aircraft from Auckland as NAC had done.

TEAL introduced its thrice weekly service from Wellington’s Evans Bay to Sydney on the 3rd of October 1950. In support of this service a flying boat base was established at the sheltered western end of Evans Bay beneath Hataitai Point and terminal facilities for the flying boat operation were built. This was also to become the departure point for TEAL’s service to the Chatham Islands. In the event TEAL found it necessary to position a Solent from Auckland to Wellington for the Chathams’ service rather than use the aircraft that operated the Sydney service. This was due to the heavy volume of traffic on the Wellington-Sydney service, the necessity for the aircraft to carry on to Auckland for maintenance, and the upset to the Sydney schedule if the Chathams service was operated.

TEAL set the schedule for the first Chatham Island flight as follows;

Depart Auckland      0330 hours               
Arrive Wellington     0530
Depart Wellington    0700                          
Arrive Chathams      0945
Depart Chathams    1245                          
Arrive Wellington     1530
Depart Wellington    1730                          
Arrive Auckland       1930

The first flight of the bi-monthly service was flown by Solent ZK-AMM, Ararangi under the command of Captain Cliff Le Couteur on the 15th of December 1950. It carried a full load of 48 passengers from Evans Bay to Te Whanga lagoon including children returning home for the Christmas holidays. It returned to Wellington the same day check with 17 passengers. 

Short S45 Solent ZK-AMM inaugurated the regular service between Wellington and the Chathams on the 15th of December 1950. The same aircraft also flew the last scheduled service to the Chathams on the 7th of April 1954

First day cover for the first TEAL flight to the Chathams operated on the 15th of December 1950

For the period from the 15th of December 1950 to the 13th of April 1951, the Company operated five flights to the Chathams. One of these had to turn back after the weather deteriorated at the Chathams preventing it from landing. The first five flights, including the unsuccessful one, cost £4,419.10.6d to operate which was offset by £3,362.4.3d of revenue. This equated to a loss of £1,057.6.3d. If the unsuccessful flight was excluded, the loss was £119 per trip which was considered reasonable taking into account the positioning of the aircraft from Auckland and when a £75 subsidy per return trip for a flight from Wellington had been budgeted for. If TEAL had been able to fly from Wellington, the flights would have shown a small profit, approximately £200.

Flights continued to operate. A TEAL press release on the 30th of October 1951 advertised its eighth flight which was to operate on the 10th of November 1951. A Solent flying boat will leave Auckland at 4.15 a.m. and Wellington at 7.00 a.m. It will return to Wellington, at 4.30 p.m. and to Auckland at 7 p.m. The aircraft is expected to carry a large cargo which will include sausages, ice cream, oranges and bananas. Six flights a year are operated to the Chatham Islands by TEAL. Since the service commenced the company has operated seven flights which have all carried heavy passenger and cargo traffic. The service is operated on dates which best suit the convenience of Chatham Island residents and government departments and private organisations in New Zealand with interests in the Chathams. Further flights will be made on 5th and 15th December, 30th January, 13th March and 3rd April.

The flight the following month, on the 15th of December 1951, carried a special passenger. Father Christmas flew out to the Chathams by the TEAL Solent to bring Christmas cheer to the Chatham Island children.

The service continued to operate for the next two and a half years. In the 1953/54 financial year the six flights operated made a loss of £ 434.1.10d with costs of £6,029.4.1d and revenue of £5,595.2.3.

Passenger accommodation and the galley on the Solent flying boat service between Wellington and Sydney. Photos : National Library

In 1954 TEAL made the decision to withdraw its Solent flying boats with the exception of ZK-AMO which was kept for the Coral route. TEAL’s plan envisaged this Solent would be based in Fiji and would only come to Auckland for maintenance and over-haul purposes three or four times a year and that was not practical for it to continue the Chathams service during the maintenance visits. The company recognised it would not meet the requirements of the local population “who are more interested in getting two services at a relatively short interval in order to enable islanders to come to New Zealand for a short period or to enable Government officials and others to come from New Zealand to the Chatham Islands for departmental purposes.” TEAL operated their last service to the Chathams on the 7th of April 1954. The flight was operated by Short S.45 Solent flying boat ZK-AMM, Ararangi, under the command of Captain Cliff Le Couteur and Second Officer M. R. B. Wallace.

The Solents were withdrawn from service and their fates were

ZK-AML         Aotearoa II     Sold to Aquila Airways, UK
ZK-AMM        Ararangi         Sold to Aquila Airways, UK
ZK-AMN         Awatere          Scrapped after a fire sometime before withdrawal
ZK-AMO         Aranui            Retained for use on Coral Route
ZK-AMQ         Aparima         Retained for use on Coral Route until October 1956
Scrapped at Mechanics Bay 1957

On the 17th of October 1956, Short S45 Solent ZK-AMQ Aparima returned to Auckland. A couple of days later, on the 19th of October 1956, TEAL flew a charter direct from Auckland to the Chathams and return on behalf of the RNZAF. This was the last time a TEAL aircraft visited the Chathams.

ZK-AMQ, the last Short Solent to visit the Chatham Islands on 19th of October 1956

25 July 2014

A couple of discoveries...

I hadn't got around to sorting out the photos from my last visit to the airport a few weeks ago until tonight and I was surprised to find a couple I hadn't noticed...

Air New Zealand's Airbus 320 ZK-OJS now features the company's new colour scheme. It is seen here at Auckland on 6 July 2014.
Previously ZK-OJS appeared in the simple black scheme as seen here at Auckland on 28 February 2014...
and in the blue scheme as seen here at Auckland on 13 April 2013.
Malaysian Airlines' Boeing 777-200 9M-MRD on approach to Auckland on 6 July 2014. It was shot down over Ukraine eleven days later on 17 July 2014 with 298 people killed

24 July 2014

Sounds Air's Wanganui Service

Sounds Air is looking at doubling its Wanganui-Wellington service. The company is trialling a new service into Wanganui, aimed at getting Wellington commuters to the River City as well as making better connections to its South Island ports. At the moment the company's Cessna Caravan plane flies from Wanganui in the morning with a return flight in the evening. But from September 1 there will be a flight from the capital to Wanganui in the morning with a return flight mid-afternoon. Andrew Crawford, Sounds Air managing director, said the change of schedule essentially doubles the flights to and from Wanganui. "The new service will fly down to Wellington in the morning with a return flight back to Wanganui that same morning," Mr Crawford said. "At the moment there's no avenue for Wellington people to get a day flight to and from Wanganui so this is what this new service will bring," he said. "The beauty of this new service will mean it dovetails into connecting flights to Nelson, Blenheim and Picton. So it means someone can leave Wanganui on the first flight and be in Nelson by 9am. Until this new service they wouldn't get into Nelson until 2pm." He said the company had had inquiries from Wellington people wanting to make that Wanganui connection. At the moment Sounds Air flights leave Wanganui at 6.45am Monday to Saturday, arriving in the capital at 7.25am. Return flights are scheduled Monday to Friday and again on Sunday, leaving Wellington at 6pm and arriving at 6.40pm. From the start of next month, the first Sounds Air flight will leave Wanganui at 6.30am with a return flight from the capital at 9.30am. That will be followed by a Wanganui-Wellington service leaving at 3.30pm and a return flight leaving the capital at 7.30pm, operating on the same days as the current flights. Mr Crawford said the schedule will remain over summer then be reviewed. That review will also decide whether to locate pilots in Wanganui permanently. He said it was a "bold move" but one that he believed will work. "We did the same thing with our flights from Wellington to Nelson and it made a huge difference." He said the revised flights from Wanganui and Wellington would also provide an ideal 'over-and-back' connection to Nelson, Blenheim and Picton. Mr Crawford said the Wanganui service was holding its own. "We could do with more passengers but it's slowly building which is positive," he said. Sounds Air took over the Wanganui-Wellington route when Air NZ axed its daily service in December last year and started its service on January 21. The airline has flown Cook Strait for 25 years.

23 July 2014

Tauranga on Tuesday

There was a bitingly cold wind at Tauranga and not a great deal to photograph... only one new photo...

Sunair's Cessna 172 outside the Tauranga Aero Club on 22 July 2014
A new one for me was Bell Jetranger ZK-HBG at Tauranga on 22 July 2014
Eurocopter EC 130 ZK-HKV at Tauranga on 22 July 2014
A much improved shot of Cessna 525 Citation CJ4 at Tauranga on 22 July 2014 

22 July 2014

A LOT of memories

John Mounce sent in these two pictures of Air New Zealand aircraft on lease to LOT, the Polish airline...

Boeing 767-200 ZK-NBJ went to LOT three years in a row... It is photographed here at Auckland on 9 May 1992 
Taken at Shannon Airport in Ireland on 31 October 1999 Boeing 737-300 ZK-NGD