19 July 2017

Dominion Newspaper flights

For almost 50 years the Dominion has been flown from Wellington to Nelson on an early morning more or less dedicated air service.

I'm trying to put together a little bit of a history to the service... These are the operators I have found that have flown it... I'm wondering if Rex Aviation or Rawson Aviation ever carried the Dominion???
You may pick up other errors...

1971                                    Capital Air Services

1978                                    James Air

Apr 1981                             Wellington Aero Club

Sep 1981                            Air Albatross

Dec 1985                            Skyferry

Oct 1988                             Fieldair Freight

Mid 1993                             Flightcorp

1999                                    Vincent Aviation

9 Jan 2006                          Sounds Air

As I put something together I would love to hear from pilots that have flown the early morning Dominion flight and maybe answer one or some of these questions

Operator you flew for?

Rough dates who flew the service?

What was your experience or stories of flying the papers?

Did you ever have passengers to or from Nelson?

Have you any pictures of the newspaper operation?

I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks, Steve

18 July 2017

Sunair Timetable #57

Sunair have released their new timetable effective 7 August 2017. There are no changes to the frequency of services, no new destinations and no new increase to fares. There are a few changes, however, with timetable changes to morning flights to and from Great Barrier Island. The biggest change is with the flights between Hamilton and the Gisborne with the aircraft now starting the day at Hamilton rather than Gisborne in an attempt, I suspect to beat the Hamilton fog! 

Meanwhile Sunair, from my observation seem to being doing well, with a number of Whangarei-Hamilton services been operated and Gisborne-Hamilton flights often running full. Gotta love Sunair!

See : http://sunair.co.nz/images/1-New_schedule_wef_7_Aug-Iss1.pdf

09 July 2017

Air Nelson - Part 1 - The Nelson-Wellington Commuter Airline

Air Nelson traces its origins back to Nairn Aviation. In 1976 Robert Inglis and Nicki Smith helped Harry Jenkins establish Associated Aviation in Paraparaumu. Two years later they established their own Motueka-based flying school, Associated Aviation (Motueka). In 1980 they, along with Harry Jenkins, bought Nairn Aviation and changed the flying school and air charter operator's name to Associated Aviation (Nelson). This Nelson-based company was later sold to Martin Butler who gave it the name Air Nelson before he sold the company back to Associated Aviation (Motueka). In 1985 Robert and Nicki decided to concentrate on developing Motueka Air Services and so Associated Aviation (Motueka)’s airline operation was split from the flying school and the airline was formed into a new company, Motueka Air Ltd. Air Nelson became a division of Motueka Air and offered charter, scenic tours, flight training and aerial photography from Nelson. A number of Cessna single engined aircraft were were used including Cessna 152 ZK-ELV, Cessna 172s ZK-EOK and ZK-EOX and Cessna 206 ZK-DFW.

Cessna 152 ZK-ELV at Motueka at 4 February 1989
Cessna U206F Stationair ZK-DFW at Palmerston North on 24 February 1985

Following on the from success of the parent company's Motueka air service Air Nelson began scheduled flights between Nelson on Wellington on the 16th of December 1985. At this time Air New Zealand and Air Albatross were offering numerous flights on the route with Friendships and Metroliners. Explaining his company’s rationale Air Nelson’s managing director, Mr Robert Inglis, said, "There is no intention to rapidly expand the service. We are interested in being complementary to the other airlines at peak times. We are also interested in supplying multi-engined aircraft for charter work for companies, sports and special interest groups." The first flight was operated under the command of chief pilot Bob Schmuke using Piper PA31 Navajo ZK-NSN. Initially two return flights were flown on weekdays and one return flight on both Saturday and Sunday with ticket prices of $55 being lower than both the company’s competitors.

Air Nelson's first aircraft, Piper PA31 Navajo ZK-NSN at Nelson on 20 January 1986

Air Nelson’s entry into the market was fortuitous. Four days after the launch of scheduled service Air Albatross was placed in receivership and ceased operations resulting in a large number of passengers trying to book on the newly established Air Nelson. Robert Inglis told the Nelson Evening Mail, "Most of our Christmas flights have been booked for the last month. We're putting on as many special flights as we can within the limits of staff duty hours and wise operating practices." Asked if his firm decided to begin the Nelson-Wellington run because it believed Air Albatross was going to fold, Mr Inglis said: "That's not the reason. We had observed throughout the last year that there was a gap in the timetable. We were also influenced in the decision to start by the fact that Air Albatross schedules seemed to be very unreliable. We've never seen ourselves as another Air New Zealand or Air Albatross. We're just trying to provide an alternative service at peak times.”

Air Nelson timetable number 1, effective 16 December 1985

By the end of January the service had grown to two return flights each morning and evening using the company’s Navajo and a leased Cessna 402 with the company looking for a larger aircraft. In 1986 two Piper Aztecs, ZK-DIO and ZK-PIX were added to the fleet to provide additional capacity on the Nelson flights as well as providing back-up for the Motueka Air Services flights from Motueka to Wellington.

Air Nelson's two Piper Aztecs that were used to provide additional capacity on the Nelson-Wellington service... Above, ZK-DIO taken at Nelson on 5 February 1989 and below ZK-PIX taken on 4 February 1989

The “larger aircraft”, which did not eventuate for another 12 months, were two 10-seater Piper PA31 Chieftains, ZK-NSO and ZK-NSP which arrived in April and May 1987 to cater for the traffic which had been steadily growing on the Nelson-Wellington route. The new aircraft enabled five return weekday flights to be operated. A lesser weekend schedule was also operated.

Piper PA31 Chieftain ZK-NSO at Nelson on 21 January 1991

With its location at the top of the South Island bounded by Cook Strait and mountains to the south Nelson has always been air minded. At the same time as Air Nelson introduced its two Chieftains Pacifica Air introduced services from Nelson to both Wellington and Christchurch using a Beech Super King Air. Robert Inglis stated his belief that there was only room for one alternative airline to Air New Zealand flying the Nelson-Wellington route and only time will tell if the new Nelson-based airline Pacifica Air will be successful. "We are not competing in the same market, Air New Zealand and Pacifica Air offer a fast, pressurised and turbine-powered aircraft service, and our place in the market offers cheaper fares," he said. He puts this down to more economically-run aircraft. The company intends continuing its five flights a day service between Nelson and Wellington.

The arrival of the Chieftains saw the introduction of Air Nelson’s smart maroon and silver colour scheme giving the company a good corporate image. At this time Air Nelson also tapped into growing demand for charter from business people, special interest groups and sports teams. They also operated air ambulance flights for the Nelson Area Health Board for patient transfers and other emergency requirements.

Air Nelson charter...

The Nelson-Wellington Commuter Airline
Air Nelson timetable, effective 1 September 1987

An Air Nelson advertising supplement from the Nelson Evening Mail of 10 February 1988 showing the fleet, the interior of a Chieftain and the staff.

In July 1988 Air Nelson and Hamilton-based Eagle Air announced they had joined forces to begin a regional network linking Nelson with Auckland, Hamilton, Napier, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington. At the same time it was announced that in November 1988 Air Nelson would extend its services to the West Coast operating a Wellington to Nelson, Westport and Greymouth service in the morning and returning along the same route in the afternoon with a seven seat Piper Navajo.

In their joint statement, Air Nelson’s managing director Mr Robert Inglis and Eagle Air’s general manager Mr Don Good said the move meant "unprecedented commercial co-operation between two New Zealand airlines." The agreement saw Air Nelson move onto Eagle Air's Qantas-developed computer reservation system with Air Nelson taking over the Palmerston North-Nelson service from Eagle Air. "Eagle and Air Nelson's aircraft are tailored to give these routes a high frequency service, allowing the consumer to fly at a departure time convenient to the operational and economic needs of the airline." The strengthening of ties heralded a new era of co-operation between airlines facing the prospect of potentially high cost increases from the Airways Corporation and airport authorities "which the New Zealand consumer in today's environment, especially in the regional centres, will not and cannot pay".

The statement said Air Nelson would restructure its operations to improve efficiency and enhance its service. “Motueka Air and Air Nelson would merge, and be upgraded to a full Piper fleet of Chieftains and Navajos. Its services to Wellington will thus be considerably enhanced." Air Nelson would also open its own maintenance division in Nelson. "Air Nelson takes over the mantle of New Zealand's largest Piper Chieftain operator from Eagle, who at one stage operated four of these aircraft and had build up a great deal of experience over 11 years of owning, operating, and servicing these workhorses of the commuter air business," it said.

For a post on Motueka Air Services see

There were two other pieces of news announced in July 1988. First was the news that Air Nelson would also open its own maintenance division in Nelson. The other announcement was the news that Air Nelson had negotiated a contract with Ansett New Zealand to handle its freight on the Nelson-Wellington run. 

AIr Nelson took over Eagle Air's flights between Nelson and Palmerston North on the 1st of August 1988 with three flights each way on Mondays and Fridays, two flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and a single flight on Saturdays and Sundays. Connections were made at Palmerston North to Eagle Air flights to Auckland and Hamilton.

Air Nelson's Piper Chieftain ZK-NSP at Hokitika on 26 November 1989

Also on the 1st of August 1998 Motueka Air merged with Air Nelson and these flights appeared in the Air Nelson timetable. At this point three Aztec flights were operated between Motueka and Wellington each weekday with one flight being operated on both Saturdays and Sundays as well as a Motueka-Nelson service. Also appearing on the Air Nelson timetable was the Monday to Saturday newspaper service to Takaka. This was flown by Cessna 172 ZK-EOX and operated either from Nelson or Motueka depending on what traffic was offering.

The Takaka plane... Cessna 172 ZK-EOX at Nelson on 21 June 1991

Air Nelson timetable effective 1 August 1988... It shows the planned services from Wellington and Nelson to Westport and Greymouth as well as a Palmerston North-Wellington service all of which were to commence on 1 November 1988 

With the rise and fall of Air Albatross Air New Zealand recognised the need to change its provincial services. With the rise of another regional competitor in an aligned Air Nelson/Eagle Air operation Air New Zealand acted and on the 16th of September it was announced that Air New Zealand had bought Eagle Air and a half share in Air Nelson. It was also announced that it was relinquishing flights to Hokitika, Westport and some of its Nelson-Christchurch and Nelson-Wellington flights in favour of Air Nelson. In announcing the changes Air New Zealand’s chief executive Mr Jim Scott said, "It no longer makes business sense to operate Fokker Friendships when smaller aircraft operating higher frequencies better suit the market. Our provincial services have always been an important part of our operations, but we must adapt to survive in changing times. What has been the best practice in the past does not necessarily provide the best solution for the future."

So began Air Nelson’s part in revolutionising provincial air services in New Zealand. 

07 July 2017

S8 854 from Wellington to Taupo

Thanks to JustPlaneMad for sending this email and pics of a recent flight on Sounds Air...

Saw your latest post on Sounds Air's Taupo service, and thought I would share these quick photos. Taken aboard flight S8854 from Wellington to Taupo on PC12 ZK-PLT. 7 pax including myself onboard, and the gate agent in Wellington seemed to reckon that was a average load. 

Flight was delayed due waiting for connecting passengers. First flight on a PC12 for me. Not a heck of a lot of leg room, but nice big windows - shame about the cloudy weather! :/ 

Definitely a lot quieter then the 1900D! Really cool to see the service is being supported. TIU-TUO via WLG and AKL with Air NZ was $360 one way, Air NZ from Timaru to Wellington, and then on to Taupo direct with Sounds Air, was $320, so it worked out great!

06 July 2017

Taupo doing well

Taupo residents and visitors are continuing to reap the benefits of an air link to Wellington thanks to the strong relationship between Taupo District Council and Sounds Air. In a recent report to the Taupo Airport Authority Committee, airport manager Mike Groome said passenger numbers on Sounds Air’s Taupo to Wellington route at May were 2238 for 2017, up from 2122 for the same period last year. The positive numbers come two years into a six-year agreement between Taupo District Council and the Marlborough-based air operator, which showed interest in the Taupo to Wellington route after Air New Zealand announced it would cease offering the service in April 2015. The agreement sees Sounds Air provide at least three return flights each weekday and two return flights on Saturdays and Sundays. In return, council guarantees the first three seats per flight. To date, no financial contribution from the council has been required as part of the underwriting agreement. Mayor David Trewavas said Sounds Air’s commitment to the route has been a real coup for the Taupo District. "An air link between Taupo and the capital is absolutely vital for our district’s economic development, both in terms of visitors who want to travel to our district, and for businesses that need to operate from both here and Wellington. "In 2015 there was overwhelming support from the community for Sounds Air to bring an aircraft to Taupo to pick up the route, and it’s great to see that support continuing." Sounds Air general manager Andrew Crawford said he was very happy to see increasing passenger numbers on the Taupo to Wellington route. "We are already two years into operating the Taupo to Wellington air service and we are very pleased with the support we are getting from the local communities. It always difficult starting a new operation but the support we have had from the business and leisure travellers has been exceptional. "We look forward to continuing to develop the service long into the future." Flights between Taupo and Wellington on Sound’s Air’s nine-seater single-engine turboprop Pilatus PC12 take around 45 minutes and cost $219, with concession prices available for frequent flyers.

01 July 2017


Withdrawn from the register last month was Cessna 421 Golden Eagle ZK-WLG. Originally operated by Capital Aviation it only saw brief service with Sunair who used it also on Origin Pacific services connecting Tauranga with Origin's flights at Hamilton.

Cessna 421 Golden Eagle ZK-WLG at Hokitika on 16 July 1983
Getting a repaint... ZK-WLG at Christchurch on 19 October 1986
On the campaign trail... Cessna 421 carried National party leadership to Timaru on 4 August 1987
Back in Timaru in November 1988 operating an Air Nelson service prior to the introduction of the Metroliners

For a photo of ZK-WLG in Sunair colours see

30 June 2017

One Jetstream airborne and one Jetstream's flying days over

Originair resumed Jetstream operations today with BAe Jetstream 31 ZK-JSH operating flights OGN 3215/3216 from Nelson to Palmerston North and return this afternoon using the callsign AIR2THERE 7. 

Originair ceased flying 1 April 2016 and remain grounded for some months before they resumed services on the 23rd of September 2016 using air2there aircraft. Since then air2there has been operating the four times weekly direct service between Nelson and Palmerston North. It seems air2there will operate the Originair Jetstream on their behalf.  

Originair's Jetstream ZK-JSH about to start as OGN 3215 at Nelson this afternoon as it resumed the air service to Palmerston North. 

Meanwhile in Auckland another BAe Jetstream, ZK-ECP, has been withdrawn from service and cancelled from the register effective 22 June 2017.

ZK-ECP did service with Tasman Pacific Connection, see

and Air National, see

A rather forelorn looking Jetstream 32 ZK-ECP (right) with two former stablemates, in Originair colours ZK-ECI (left) and Inflite Charters' ZK-ECJ at Auckland on 10 June 2017. 

28 June 2017

Winter pruning

Jetstar seem to be reducing operations on selected regional routes over the winter months. According to a post on routesonline website which drew its information from comparative checking of the Jetstar reservations system services are being reduced from the 24th of July to the 28th of October.

Services between Auckland and New Plymouth reduce from 20 to 14 weekly flights. (I did my own checking on this to come up with twice daily flights rather than the 9 weekly flights as in the routesonline post).

Services between Auckland and Palmerston North reduce from 27 to 22 weekly flights.

Services between Wellington and Nelson reduce from 3 to 2 daily flights.

Source : http://www.routesonline.com/news/38/airlineroute/273519/jetstar-new-zealand-regional-reductions-july-oct-2017/

I don't think there is anything sinister in this approach - I've noticed at various times changes in the Air New Zealand to match the capacity with demand. It makes good operating sense!

And this from Stuff

Budget airline Jetstar has cut back the number of flights between Auckland and New Plymouth, citing a lack of customer demand. A Jetstar spokesperson said the airline had reduced some of its regional flying between mid-July and the end of October to align capacity with seasonal demand in quieter travel months. "Jetstar has operated its full regional schedule of 244 flights a week for the past 16 months without any seasonal adjustments, including 40 flights a week between New Plymouth and Auckland," the spokesperson said. "Following a review of off-peak customer demand Jetstar is reducing some regional capacity on a seasonal basis over three months. "During this period Jetstar will operate 28 flights per week on the New Plymouth-Auckland route." The new schedule would see only two return flights daily. The spokesperson said customers had been transferred to alternative services on the same day as their original booking, but if the alternative service wasn't suitable they could request a full refund. New Plymouth was among five new regional routes announced by Jetstar in August 2015. The move also comes three weeks after the New Plymouth District Council approved a upgrade to the airport's terminal, which is expected to cost between $21.7 million and $28.7m. However, New Plymouth Airport manager Wayne Wootton said the reduction in flights wouldn't affect the upgrade. "These annual fluctuations in flight schedules have been built into our preparations for the new terminal's design," he said. "Normally airlines reschedule every six months. Jetstar have kept their former schedule for 18 months in New Plymouth and their winter schedule will last for three. "Jetstar is bringing a winter schedule into Nelson and Palmerston North too."

Source : https://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/94162697/jetstar-cuts-back-frequency-of-new-plymouth-flights-over-winter-period

18 June 2017

Air Chathams' smart flagship!

After quite a number of months Air Chathams' flagship, Convair 580 ZK-CIB, is back in the air after major heavy maintenance... And doesn't she look smart, both inside and out!

Well done to Duane and the Air Chats engineering team! A top job! And I bet the Chatham Islanders will be pleased to see their plane back on the run looking so good!

14 June 2017

Wairoa Airport - One step forward and one step back

This article was in the Hawkes Bay Today on 9 December 2016...

A month before Airways decommissioned its NDB at Wairoa and since then the Air Napier courier flights between Napier and Gisborne have overflown Wairoa.

The Air Napier courier flight calling at Wairoa on 1 September 2010

Wairoa Airport is set for expansion, with the Wairoa District Council awaiting a report on extending its 914m sealed runway to take small jets. Wairoa District Council CEO Fergus Power said the primary motivation was to accommodate Hawke's Bay's air ambulance service's Cessna Citation Mustang, expected to save lives through quicker and smoother flights. Quieter inside than a commercial jet, its twin engines quickly lift it to still air for a comfortable flight and can retain sea-level air pressure to 21,000ft, of benefit to serious neurological or cardiac conditions. "It is about providing the Wairoa community the same level of medical service and safety that the rest of Hawke's Bay is able to benefit from," Mr Power said. "There is no need for Wairoa to have a sort of B-grade status in the region when we have a tremendous asset which, with a fairly modest investment, will have landing capability for jet aircraft." He said if bigger planes were able to land it would be good safety net, should a natural disaster strike. "The Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group has recognised that of all of the districts throughout Hawke's Bay, Wairoa is the one with the highest risk of becoming isolated in the event of a major disaster such as what just happened in Kaikoura. "We don't really have a navigable port so if our roading became unusable for an extended period then that airport becomes quite critical." The runway extension has considerable economic development potential, including visitors to the satellite-launching Rocket Lab site in Mahia Peninsula. "These people are often either in senior roles in satellite-manufacturing or satellite-ownership companies. If they can save transport time then they will be attracted to that. Having a direct flight from Auckland to Wairoa will be highly beneficial to those people and we have had expressions of interest from air carriers." The Wairoa District Council owned enough land for a business park, should time-sensitive industries sought to be located beside an airport, and local businesses could also take advantage of air freighting for highly-perishable produce. It could also boost tourism. The council has taken over the licence to occupy the former Wairoa Hawke's Bay Aeroclub and entered a joint venture with Radio Te Wairoa. "We have established a larger capacity to broadcast Civil Defence communications via that radio station but one of the issues with that airport is previously it could be regarded as a comatose airport. "If a light aircraft visited it was touch-and-go as to whether a human being was going to be on site. "By inviting the radio station to partner their personnel can become the meet-and-greet carbon-based life form, helping visitors find transport, accommodation and introduce them to the wonders of Wairoa." He said the airport was regarded as one of the best in New Zealand servicing a small population. "It is very wide, quite long and has the capacity to be extended, so the airport runway could match the length of Gisborne's very easily. "If you have just had a farm accident and your spine is in two pieces, I imagine you would think it was a very good investment."

Two airlines have flown direct Auckland-Wairoa air services; 

Locally owned Cookson Air's BN Islander ZK-EVO at Wairoa on 8 May 1984
A full list of the airlines that have flown to Wairoa can be found at