02 September 2014

Corporate Visitor

Jetting into Auckland on Saturday 23 August 2014 was Australian registered Cessna Citation 680 Sovereign  VH-VPL

01 September 2014

Remember the World Cup

Emirates' Airbus 380 A6-EEQ was still wearing its 2014 FIFA World Cup "Pele" livery when it visited Auckland on 24 August 2014... It was caught operating EK435 from Auckland to Brisbane...

31 August 2014

Sounds Air - The Fast Scenic Way to Cross Cook Strait

This is the third and final installment on the story of Skyferry to Sounds Air story. For the first installments see : http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/08/skyferry-making-crossing-cook-strait.html and http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/soundsair-well-have-you-across-cook.html. Once again I am extremely grateful to Cliff Marchant and Andrew Crawford for their time and encouragement in the preparation of these three posts.  

In December 2003 Cliff and Dianne Marchant sold two-thirds of Soundsair to Auckland businessmen Andrew Crawford and Steve Handyside. Andrew Crawford was appointed as Managing Director, the airline name was changed from Soundsair to Sounds Air and a new orange colour scheme was adopted with an albatross logo. 2004 began with a new Gippsland GA8 Airvan, ZK-KLC being added to the fleet and this replaced Britten Norman Islander ZK-REA. On the 19th of July 2004 Sounds Air started twice daily services between Wellington and Kaikoura. The new Airvan was the mainstay of the Kaikoura service but the Caravan was also used if a larger aircraft was needed. While the Kaikoura service continued for a number of years it was never the success the company hoped for and by May 2009 services to Kaikoura had ceased. 

In October 2003 Cliff and Dianne Marchant decided that they would sell two-thirds of the company to enable Soundsair to achieve to its full potential. This led to Andrew Crawford and Steve Handyside investing Soundsair and the formation of a new company, Sounds Air Travel And Tourism Ltd. In December 2003, with Andrew Crawford appointed as Managing Director, the first changes appeared with the change of the name from Soundsair to Sounds Air and the adoption of the current albatross logo and orange colour scheme. 2004 began with a new Gippsland GA8 Airvan, ZK-KLC being added to the fleet and this replaced Britten Norman Islander ZK-REA. On the 19th of July 2004 Sounds Air started twice daily services between Wellington and Kaikoura. The new Airvan was the mainstay of the Kaikoura service but the Caravan was also used if a larger aircraft was needed. While the Kaikoura service continued for a number of years it was never the success the company hoped for and by May 2009 services to Kaikoura had ceased.

The new colours of Sounds Air seen on Gippsland Airvan ZK-KLC at Wellington on 29 March 2005 (above), Cessna 172 ZK-EKE at Blenheim's Omaka Airfield on 29 September 2009 (middle) and Cessna 208 Caravan ZK-PDM at Blenheim's Woodbourne Airport on 17 February 2005 (bottom)

The Kaikoura service was added on the 19th of July 2004

Another of Andrew Crawford’s innovations was to form Skydive the Sounds Ltd with Neil Bradley and Callum McGlinchy in 2004. This increased the utilisation of Sounds Air’s Cessna 206 and smaller Cessna 172. In mid-2006 a 10-seat Britten Norman Islander, ZK-DLA, was added to the fleet. While this was cheaper to purchase than a Caravan the operating costs were a lot higher and it was sold to Mountain Air the following year being replaced by a larger Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-SAA. In July 2007, in partnership with Craig Anderson, the company bought Aeromotive (Blenheim) Ltd, an Omaka-based aircraft maintenance company and renamed it Sounds Aero Maintenance. During 2007 the company also extended the runway at Picton’s Koromiko airport and the existing house was redeveloped into a new terminal building.

Britten Norman Islander ZK-DLA (above), on approach to Wellington on 13 September 2006, was replaced by Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-SAA seen below taxiing to the terminal at Wellington on 3 April 2014.

Sounds Air’s network started to expand when the company took over flying the Dominion Post newspaper from Wellington to Blenheim and Nelson on the 9th of January 2006. Initially the flight operated from Wellington to Nelson via Blenheim with a direct flight back to the capital but from mid-2007 both Nelson and Blenheim received their own dedicated newspaper flights enabling an early morning flight to Wellington from both centres. In November 2007, with the arrival of the Grand Caravan, the company added an evening flight between Wellington and Nelson and return which operated on four days a week. A third Cessna Caravan, ZK-TZR, entered Sounds Air service on the 3rd of October 2008. In the same month the company opened a counter in the main Nelson airport terminal increasing both the company’s profile and passenger loadings from Nelson. Part of Sounds Air’s appeal is the pricing system which is set at a reasonable level and where a ticket costs the same whether it is bought months or days before travelling.

Sounds Air's timetable mid 2007 with the Dominion flights to both Nelson and Blenheim included

The third Caravan and the same aircraft... Cessna 208 Caravan ZK-TZR (above) photographed at Wellington on 4 December 2012 was re-registered ZK-SAN on 28 June 2013 and photographed as ZK-SAN again at Wellington on 3 April 2014

Further expansion to Nelson services occurred in April 2009 with the take-over of Nelson-based Flight Corporation Scenic which provided a range of scenic flights, flight packages and private charters from Nelson. This led to the Cessna 206 being based at Nelson. Additional services between Nelson and Wellington were added in May and November 2009, February 2010, September 2011 and November 2013 so that today there are 23 flights per week.

Cessna 206 ZK-ENT at Koromiko on 17 November 2011
Flightseeing from Nelson after the take over of Flight Corporation

Sounds Air’s services to Blenheim, like the services to Nelson, began with the introduction of the Dominion Post service on the 9th of January 2006. Evening services to Blenheim were introduced on the 11th of April 2008 when Sounds Air began services between Wellington and Blenheim on Fridays and Sundays nights. These flights rapidly gained popularity and additional flights on Monday and Wednesday evenings soon followed. A major expansion to the Blenheim service began on the 1st of August 2011 when Sounds Air added 13 extra return flights a week to and from Wellington in addition to the 10 weekly return flights it already operated. Further flights to Blenheim were added in August 2013 and September 2014 so that today there are 33 flights per week.

September 2009 saw Sounds Air add a 2000 model Cessna 172, ZK-SAN, to the fleet. This Cessna was IFR equipped and GPS certified enabling it to be used for instrument training and IFR endorsements. In 2010 the company moved to establish an airpark at Picton Airport offering 16 freehold residential sections on farmland it owned behind the airport in Koromiko.

In May 2013 Sounds Air added a second Cessna Grand Caravan to the Fleet. ZK-MJL had previously been operated by Salt Air and Air Milford and it was re-registered as ZK-SAY when it became part of the Sounds Air fleet. This has enabled Sounds Air to offer the possibility of dedicated freight flights as well as to offer more charter flights and extra flights at peak times, especially over weekends and during the summer season.

Sounds Air's fourth Caravan, a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan at Wellington on 28 April 2014

In September 2013 Air New Zealand announced that it was going to withdraw its Auckland to Masterton and Wellington to Wanganui services. Sounds Air explored the possibilities of connecting both Masterton and Wanganui to Wellington but in the end the company favoured Wanganui as the most viable option. A six day a week service between Wellington and Wanganui began on 21st of January 2014. An early morning service is flown to Wellington Monday to Saturday and a return service to Wanganui is flown Sunday to Friday.

Wanganui Chronicle, 18 January 2014
The Sounds Air timetable effective 3 December 2013

In February 2014 Cessna 206 ZK-ENT and Cessna 185 ZK-PRM were registered to Pelorus Air. The new company has taken over the small piston aircraft and small airstrip operations which have been progressively wound back by Sounds Air in order for them to focus on the all turbine, mostly IFR Caravan operations.  Pelorus Air is separate to Sounds Air, but shares the use of Picton Airport to connect to the remote airstrips in the Sounds.

Pelorus Air Cessna 185 ZK-PRM at Koromiko on 16 February 2014

From the 1st of September 2014 Sounds Air doubled its weekday flights Wanganui to two flights a day. Southbound flights depart Wanganui for Wellington at 6.30am and 3.30pm Monday to Friday and at 4.00pm on Sunday afternoons. The northbound services depart Wellington at 9.30am and 7.30pm with a 7.00pm flight on Sunday evenings. All the Wanganui flights connect with Sounds Air flights to and from Picton, Blenheim and Nelson both in the morning and in the evening. 

Sounds Air is an airline that has grown from find its niche as a charter carrier to the remote areas of the Marlborough Sounds to being rightly labelled a Cook Strait commuter offering reliability, safety, a good timetable, good fares, a good relationship and reputation with your passengers of being a friendly airline. What Sounds Air’s future will be is very much, I suspect, tied up to Air New Zealand’s attitude to some of its provincial services. Whatever that future might be, the present structure of the company will provide a solid foundation for further expansion in the years ahead.

Aircraft Operated by Soundsair

ZK-DLA - Britten Norman BN2B-26 Islander (c/n 2131)    
ZK-EKE - Cessna 172N Skyhawk (c/n 17269940) 
ZK-ENT - Cessna U206G Stationair (c/n U20603667)
ZK-KLC - Gippsland GA8 Airvan (c/n GA8-03-040)
ZK-PDM - Cessna 208 Caravan (c/n 20800240)    
ZK-PRM - Cessna A185F Skywagon (c/n 18504414)
ZK-SAA - Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (c/n 208B0862)                                   
ZK-SAN - Cessna 172S Skyhawk (c/n 172S8673)
ZK-SAN - Cessna 208 Caravan (c/n 200800360) (ex ZK-TZR)
ZK-SAY - Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (c/n 208B0861)           
ZK-TZR - Cessna 208 Caravan (c/n 200800360) (re-registered ZK-SAN)

30 August 2014

Got it at last...

Fiji Airways' Boeing 737-800 DQ-FJG has been an elusive one for me... I finally caught up with it at Auckland on 24 August 2014

29 August 2014

Nothing Exciting...

While waiting for my flight to Sydney on Monday 25 August I had 20 minutes in the departure lounge at Auckland International, not that there was much to photograph but nice backgrounds and a better perspective being somewhat higher... 

China Southern's Boeing 787-8 B-2727 taxis in to its remote gate... 

Air New Zealand Airbus 320 ZK-OJK taxis in to park right in front of me...

Jetstar Airbus 320 VH-VFD
That was all I had time for before boarding Qantas' ZK-ZQE for the flight to Sydney and then Qantas' Airbus 330 VH-EBQ for the flight to Perth... first flight on an Airbus 330 and I must say I was very impressed with the Qantas crew and service!

28 August 2014

OJR Repaint

Air New Zealand's Airbus 320 ZK-OJR has had a paint job in recent weeks losing its All Black colour scheme in favour on the new standard Air New Zealand scheme. 

Airbus 320 ZK-OJR on approach to Wellington on 9 April 2012
The same aircraft on approach to Auckland on 22 August 2014

27 August 2014

Rotorua Q300 service

This is a follow-up to the news that Air NZ Link is going to increase its Q300 flights to Rotorua...

Just four months after the introduction of the larger 50-seat Q300 aircraft on the morning Auckland-Rotorua return schedule, Air New Zealand has announced the Q300 will also be added to the route’s afternoon schedule from 9 February 2015. The Q300 provides 31 more seats per flight than the smaller Beech 1900 aircraft - equivalent to a 30 per cent increase in passenger capacity, or 16,000 additional seats per year. From February the Q300 will fly to and from Rotorua twice daily on weekdays. Flights will leave Auckland at 8.35am and 4.25pm, and depart Rotorua at 9.35am and 5.40pm. Rotorua International Airport chief executive Alistair Rhodes said Q300 flights introduced in February had proven popular with travellers – particularly business travellers – prompting the addition of more capacity on the service. “The introduction of the Q300 aircraft on this key route not only means more seats on offer but more cheaper fare options available. “It’s an efficient and cost-effective schedule for locals and visitors alike and it means that business travellers in particular will be able to make a daily round-trip on the larger aircraft. “These schedule changes are significant and positive developments for Rotorua, making it even easier and more economical to get to and from Auckland for international connections, or travelling domestically for business or pleasure. “The airport, alongside its key stakeholders, partners and Air New Zealand, has been working hard to secure an afternoon flight with the Q300 and we are pleased to see that this development has come to fruition. It’s a real win for the region and the local economy,” said Mr Rhodes.

Source : http://www.rdc.govt.nz/our-council/news/Pages/default.aspx?newsItem=5317

26 August 2014

Black Heavies

Caught on approach at Auckland last evening were Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 ZK-NZE...
...and Boeing 777-300 ZK-OKQ. Photos taken at Auckland on 22 August 2014

25 August 2014

LYP back to Auckland

Air Chathams' BN Islander ZK-LYP flew back from the Chathams to Auckland on Saturday... it wasn't parked in a particularly good possie for a photo. LYP flew out to the Chathams on 7 March 2014 and it has been used as a back-up aircraft for the service to Pitt Island.

BN Islander ZK-LYP on the Chathams on 20 April 2014

24 August 2014

Oamaru Service Ends

Mainland Air operated its last Oamaru-Christchurch-Oamaru service today as Waitaki 1 northbound and Waitaki 2 southbound.

Mainland Air's service began on the 4th of June 2014 with the inaugural flight with three passengers being flown under the command of Sven Thelning and Phil Kean in Mainland Air's Piper Pa31-350 Navajo Chieftain ZK-KVW. Two return flights were offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and late afternoons as well as a return Sunday afternoon service.

Mainland Air's inaugural flight arrives at Christchurch on 4 June 2014

Subsequent flights were operated by Mainland Air's Piper Senecas, however, by the 20th of June the company was acknowledging that the service had been slow to take off. One Oamaru businessman suggested the company fly direct to Wellington but that would have required a faster and bigger aeroplane for the longer flight.

On the 28th of July the company announced the Sunday and Monday flights would end, though the company would honour any bookings made. Phil Kean, Mainland Air's Managing Director, told the Otago Daily Times the 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. “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.”

With passenger numbers failing to build the company ended its service, the final flight being operated by Piper Seneca ZK-LSP on 24 August 2014 under the command of Jordan Kean and Dan Veale. The Seneca then positioned home to Dunedin. Sven Thelning, Mainland Air's Oamaru pilot has taken up a job in dairy farming.

Seneca ZK-LSP, the aircraft that flew Mainland Air's final service to Oamaru today. Photo taken at Dunedin on 18 December 2013.