29 May 2016

Scheduled Skiplane


Mount Cook Air Service's scheduled skiplane service from Fox Glacier and Franz Josef to Hokitika that operated from late 1968 to early 1971 is the first third level service that I remember. When we would go up to the Hokitika Airport to see someone off on the Friendship to Christchurch I would talk my parents into staying on to watching the DC-3 go to Westport and further north and then the skiplane to South Westland.  On my day off last week I was able to spend some time in Archives New Zealand that helped me putting some final touches to the history of the air service... It can be found at
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2013/03/south-westland-skiplane-air-service.html

Yet another PC-12 for Sounds Air???



I stole this photo of Sounds Air's Pilatus PC12s ZK-PLX and ZK-PLT at Omaka from the Flinders Aviation Facebook page... 


The comment is what interests me most... "Two of the PC12s Flinders Aviation painted for Sounds Air. Number 3 arriving the 15th of next month." Well PLS was certainly in the country on Thursday as I sighted at Wellington....  I don't think PLZ has skipped the country so is there yet another PC-12 on the way?

As an aside it is no longer possible to just wander down to the satellite terminal in Wellington anymore. This is most frustrating as I used to get some good pics down there!

28 May 2016

Two from Hamilton

How good is your Chinese??? Caught at Hamilton on 27 May 2016 was Pacific Aerospace 750XL. I was annoyed that I missed 750XL P2-SDA the day before... my camera spat the dummy - it took me a while to work out what went wrong
Also in Hamilton on 27 May 2016 was Beech Super King Air ZK-VMF

25 May 2016

Whanganui next centre to get a lousy schedule


If you'll excuse the hoary pun, things are taking off at Whanganui Airport. Not so much because Air New Zealand is flying 50-seater planes through our regional hub, but rather that other things are happening or are about to happen at the airport, all aimed at underpinning the economic well-being of the facility. Allan MacGibbon, airport manager, tracks passengers going through the airport gates to board Air NZ flights. He said allowing for a 65-70 per cent loading on the 50-seater Q300 planes, which were flying up and back three times a day, about 60,000 people were using the service each year. But that scenario will change in March next year when the airline reverts to two daily flights - two out and two back. "It doesn't help because effectively it means the flights will only service the Whanganui market - those flying out of the city - rather than the Aucklanders wanting to come here for a day's business. And I'm alarmed with that call because it changes the dynamics at our airport dramatically." Mr MacGibbon said at the moment the 10am flight from Auckland was showing good passenger loadings and most of them were "suits" (business people) but the pending change would affect that. He said that was the problem the airline had with the Whanganui to Wellington service because it was only good for those flying from here to Wellington with a flight leaving in the morning and returning that night. But the other issue for the Whanganui operation was the ongoing leakage of potential customers who use Palmerston North, an airport serviced by more planes and flying to more destinations. "We're relying on these (Whanganui) flights for our income because Air NZ is our biggest customer by far in terms of landing fees. "We work as well as we can with them to make sure they get everything they need here. And they appear to be more than happy with what we're doing," Mr MacGibbon said. He said Air NZ's schedule changes reflected the competition it was responding to in other parts of the domestic market from the likes of Jetstar: "It's just that Whanganui's at the bottom of the list." But he said there were some obvious positives happening at Whanganui's airport, and one of those was the pilot training school that was to set up here before the end of the year. "The sky's the limit really in how big that becomes. It only depends on how much money you want to pour into it," Mr MacGibbon said. The school gets government funding for 14 New Zealand student pilots. The rest will be privately funded and most of those are from overseas. But it could be that more than 40 students are enrolled at any one time. "But there's potential to grow if they're looking at the international market." So while the national carrier is the biggest customer, it's not the only one. The airport is a busy place with agricultural planes, the aero club, Air Wanganui and more recently the RNZAF contributing the income. "The Air Force is using its Texan trainer aircraft for a lot of touch-and-go landings. And we've had indications from the Air Force they'll be using our airfield a lot more," he said. "They need to get their pilots into different places as they learned to fly in different environments. The King Airs fly here and the NH90s and Agusta 109 helicopters. It's very convenient for them because we're only 10 minutes away from Ohakea. "They pay the same for a touch-and-go as they would if they landed. But if they do 10 touch-and-goes, we'll only charge them as if it was one landing. That's the same as we charge others." For the airport it represented revenue but Mr MacGibbon said Whanganui's charges were in the lower quartile. "We're between a rock and a hard place. We don't want to raise charges to drive people away but equally the ratepayers shouldn't be subsidising someone's flying, so it's about striking a balance." Whanganui Airport is a busy regional airport and on a typical day racks up between 30 to 50 movements. That includes Air NZ, agricultural aircraft, the air ambulance and aero club flights. It's a 50/50 partnership between the city and the Crown, one of six left in the country working under that arrangement. While he's promoting the airport, Mr MacGibbon has been a prime mover behind the idea of an aviation network servicing the country. "We've got a roading network which everyone accepts as vital but for some unknown reason we haven't done the same for the aviation industry. But we're working to get this changed. "Whether you're a small or large airport, it essentially doesn't change what you are. It depends on the ownership model and in our case we've had outstanding support from the district council. Look at the medical flights going from here. Without Air Wanganui's service there are a lot of people who wouldn't be alive today." He said airports were often taken for granted but there was a considerable financial commitment made to the operation of the facility. Next year, for example, they would spend $250,000 on a protective sealing coat over the runway. "Whether we're going to be a major scheduled passenger airport into the future, I don't know. We're so close to Palmerston North. But in terms of driving the local economy, our airport is absolutely vital. "And I think we're going to see more third-level carriers emerge as well. Companies like Air Chathams and Sounds Air might start getting involved again in smaller centres. "But without that passenger link to Auckland especially I think this would be a different place. Whether we can sustain it into the future and whether we've got a carrier committed to providing the service is another thing. But we've proved that we can support that network. "The numbers through here are pretty good and it's convenient but I'm just a bit concerned that their plans do not include a service that suits people flying from Auckland to Whanganui. "That said, we value Air NZ and try and provide the best damn service to them that we can," Mr MacGibbon said.

Source : 

Sounds Air Taupo - 1 year on...



It has been nearly one year since Sounds Air began flying between Taupo and Wellington and the service is still going strong. Sounds Air took over the Taupo to Wellington flight service after Air New Zealand pulled its flights in April 2015. Taupo District Council signed a six year deal with the Marlborough-based air operator for them to provide three return flights each week day and two return flights on Saturdays and Sundays. The council guaranteed the first three seats in each flight meaning if they were empty ratepayers would pick up the tab. To date council has not had to purchase a single seat. "It was a bit slow to start," Sounds Air Managing Director and co-owner Andrew Crawford said. "We have been finding now it has been picking up. It takes a while for customers to move to something different." While it might be some time off yet Crawford said they would be looking at expanding their Taupo to Wellington service in the future. "The only change we would make is to increase it," he said. "We're watching it pretty closely." One thing that is definitely ruled out will up will be adding a larger aircraft on the route. "If Air New Zealand couldn't get it to work we won't be able to," Crawford said. Mayor David Trewavas was the first passenger on the flight 12 months ago and said the service has been vital for Taupo business. "When Air New Zealand pulled out the business community rallied behind and said they need a flight to Wellington," he said. "The other alternative was to go from Rotorua but then you have to have 2.5 hours of dead time. "The flight from Taupo takes just 45 minutes." Trewavas uses the flight often.


Source : Taupo Times, 24 May 2016

Ironically someone told me they were the only passenger on a recent Taupo-Wellington flight

Coverage of the first flight can be found at :

Paraparumu's airline - air2there

It wasn't a particularly nice day to day at Paraparaumu but the sun was out was to photograph air2there's Cessna 208 Grand Caravan which had just arrived from Nelson.
Down the line was their Piper PA34 Seneca ZK-WIW... I'm not sure whether this is used on the service or not. The Navajo and Chietain were nowhere to be seen

22 May 2016

Interesting Development for Air Rarotonga




Air Rarotonga has acquired a Cessna Citation business jet to expand air charter operations both within the Cook Islands and to neighbouring Pacific Island countries. The aircraft seats up to eight passengers and can reach the Northern Group islands, Tahiti or Niue direct from Rarotonga in less than two hours flight time. It is fitted with a gravel kit for operation onto unpaved runways. It is presently in Sydney at the Citation Service Centre undergoing maintenance and modifications prior to delivery. The expanded air charter operation will be operated under the trade name of Pacific Private Jet with long time Air Rarotonga executive Teariki Numanga heading up sales and operations for the venture. An application for licensing of the new aircraft has been made to the Cook Islands Ministry of Transport. The Citation will be delivered to Rarotonga in August and will come with the additional equipment to undertake medevac flights within the region and to New Zealand. Air Rarotonga Managing Director said “ the ability to operate charter over long sectors around the region at jet speeds will be a real game changer for us. As well, a fully equipped air ambulance with the ability to get through to Auckland is the realisation of a long held ambition we have had”. Company pilots and engineering personnel will be undertaking training in the USA and Australia prior to flying the aircraft to Rarotonga for entry into service.

Source : Air Rarotonga Media Release

21 May 2016

What's going on???

It's been a while since I wrote my thoughts on what's going on in the regional scene. The news that Kerikeri and Whangarei are losing overnighting flights has prompted me to think somewhat about these centres.

The news that Kerikeri and Whangarei are loosing their overnight Air New Zealand services meaning a later departure from the Northland centres to Auckland and with earlier late evening return services is a major blow to Northland business traffic. One wonders what Air New Zealand's motivation is. Perhaps it is the saving of not having to pay overnight accommodation for the crews? Or perhaps the Q300s are being deployed elsewhere to battle Jetstar. Whatever the reasons Air New Zealand seems to be going back to a Friendship-days mentality of providing services to the provinces when they have got aircraft spare. They have already cut services to Westport, Whakatane and Kaitaia and links between Auckland and Hamilton and Taupo and Wellington following the earlier withdrawal from Masterton, Wanaka and Oamaru. With the replacement of the Beech 1900s with Q300s Hokitika and Taupo have lost their overnight services and Timaru has a less than adequate service for early morning flights into South Canterbury with a late afternoon return. The tragedy in my opinion was all the work that Eagle Air and Air Nelson did to develop these routes has been lost.

In saying that Westport seems more than happy with their Sounds Air service. From my observation the Taupo run seems a bit slower on the uptake but anyone who does use it loves it. Whakatane love their Air Chathams service and as has been reported their is the possibility of a Wellington service. Certainly both Whakatane and Westport have owned their new airlines and both airlines care about the communities they serve. It becomes then a mutual win win for town and airlines. 

Barrier Air have had a harder job on the Kaitaia run but it seems to have bedded down a lot better with two flights a day operating to Auckland, albeit one operating via Whangarei. Sadly for Barrier the new Air New Zealand schedule from November will have a Q300 almost replicating their new Auckland-Whangarei service.

One wonders then if some of the regional airlines can actually do a much better job. I really do think Air New Zealand should think about doing some interline agreements with them - even just for baggage and late connections. People are flying the regionals and if their passengers fly to a major centre they then have a choice of airline to connect with... Why fly Air New Zealand when they offer nothing to encourage people to connect with their services?

One wonders if there is room for a regional airline to pick up early morning services from Kerikeri to Auckland (the return of Salt Air?), from Taupo to Auckland (the return of Taupo Air Services?) from Hokitika or Greymouth to Wellington (the return of Air West Coast?). I still think Masterton-Auckland is a possibility as well as Oamaru-Wellington. Perhaps an airline with an Aero Commander 690 could test the market before putting a Metroliner on the market?

Before I leave Air NZ the Hamilton-Palmerston North will reduce to one flight a day from late August BUT is back to two flights a day from November! 

On other fronts, Kiwi Regional keep trucking up and down the country. Their plan had been to go daily by now but they are staying with a five day a week schedule. This was probably quite wise. In the end it seems to me that there is not a lot of room for them to move without tackling Air New Zealand.

All remains quiet on the Originair front. I would have thought that the Nelson-Palmerston North would be a good fit for Sounds Air or Air2there but there have been no moves in that direction.

Barrier Air is still offering some Hamilton-Auckland services. I want to try this service at some point (especially if the Partenavia is doing the run) but the schedule is not great. I think Barrier Air needs to really do its homework as to who that service is for and really target advertising accordingly. 

And speaking of advertising - Sunair. I love seeing what Sunair is doing. They have a fairly solid service between Gisborne, the Bay of Plenty and Hamilton with one or two flights operating most days. Sunair aren't cheap (though they have daily specials) and they fly when they have traffic. But they save a huge drive especially if people are doing a day return trip and this is the niche market for this run. But they don't advertise. I wonder how many people know of their services. The new North Shore service is a point in case. I've heard that it has flown but I haven't seen it on Flightaware. I think it was a shame they pulled out of Napier. With no Air New Zealand connection via Auckland there surely must be some traffic to Hamilton and/or Tauranga. And with the growth in Tauranga is there room for flights from there to Palmerston North or New Plymouth? Just wondering!

Stewart Island Flights, Golden Bay Air, Air2there and Fly My Sky seem content with their niche services and there doesn't seem a lot of room for development of additional services.

And of course then there is Jetstar... haven't heard a lot but I have hasn't spoken of high load factors. One wonders!

Well this should generate a bit of comment!

Enjoy the weekend

Steve

20 May 2016

Kerikeri to lose overnight service


Users of Air New Zealand's Kerikeri to Auckland services say they will be inconvenienced by a change to the flight schedule. Currently Auckland bound flights leave Kerikeri airport at 6.55am. From October the earliest flight out of Kerikeri will depart at 9.10am. Dr Robin MacDiarmid flies to Auckland frequently on the early service. "It's particularly helpful to get to a 9am Auckland meeting or onto meetings in Blenheim," he says. "This later flight is going to obliterate those two possibilities." Green Party MP David Clendon says the early departure time allows users to be in the CBD by 8.30am. With the later flight you would be lucky to get into the city by 10.30am and a good chunk of the business day would be gone, he says. "I would like to see a bit more commitment from our national airline, reducing our connectivity will impact our economic growth. "This service was always well patronised, mostly by business people and you could be ready for a whole day of business." An Air New Zealand spokesperson says the airline has analysed the flow of passengers to ensure they provide the best possible connectivity to, from and through Auckland for customers in Kerikeri. "While we acknowledge the new schedule may not meet the needs of every customer, our analysis shows the majority of passengers on the Auckland - Kerikeri route only travel as far as Auckland." They note that the airline has not cancelled any services, but rather have made amendments to the departure times. Clendon says more people will have to bear the cost of travelling the night before and booking accommodation. A Facebook page: AIR NZ - Save the Kerikeri 6.50am Flight has been launched. Meanwhile, Barrier Air Services will continue with its scheduled early morning flights to Auckland from Kaitaia. Chief Operating Officer Nick Pearson says the company is no longer receiving financial assistance from Far North Holdings to run its Kaitaia services and has recently added more flights to its schedule.


19 May 2016

CIF Repainted #2


Everything was going for Aviationshotz when he caught Air Chathams newly painted Convair 580 ZK-CIF at Auckland on 19 May 2016... a beautiful full sun day... 




For more of Aviationshotz photos see : http://aviationshotzphotography.blogspot.co.nz/