26 June 2016

Two Kiwis!

"Regional 14, cleared to land Runway 36 Right"
Kiwi Regional Airlines' Saab 340 ZK-KRA on finals to land at Hamilton today, 26 June 2016

Kiwi Air's Pacific Aerospace 750XL wasn't going anywhere today. Photo taken at Hamilton on 26 June 2016.

The rise and fall of Kiwi Regional

This opinion piece by Max Christoffersen in yesterday's Waikato Times is a good read on the rise and fall of Kiwi Regional Airlines. 

OPINION: And so Kiwi Regional Airlines has crashed and burned. As the story spread of its demise, it seemed many could not hide their glee about the news. The story broke late on a Friday afternoon, confirming for a second and likely final time that Ewan Wilson would run an airline no more. As I backtracked to understand the news, it appears that Kiwi Regional Airlines was caught in a classic grow-or-go scenario. The airline's commercial future required investment in a second plane, but the ticket demand couldn't sustain the passenger numbers required for the new investment. The airline ran out of lift and stalled. The smaller regional routes abandoned by other airlines were not going to be sustainable on a feel-good factor. It had taken Kiwi Regional Airlines management seven months to confirm what was obvious all along to the big boys. The local airline had no future. It was over. Again. The airline's imported Saab 340a airplane met with a spectacular water cannon greeting at Hamilton airport last September is now gone, sold to Air Chathams. The Stuff headline read: Regional routes lost as Kiwi Regional Airlines folds. As the news gathered prominence in the country's media, I spent much of that afternoon reading through the story and the comments posted by those who felt compelled to make their point public. Some were passengers, some were not. Some were out for blood. And many were public about the airline's short-term future they saw coming all along. There is a lot of turbulence still lingering from passengers who were badly let down in the aftermath of Wilson's first nuts-and-cola airline, Kiwi Air. The vitriol was all over some of the comments. Passengers had not forgotten and never will. This was payback time. The lingering anger of those who were left stranded in Australia and New Zealand is ugly when in full view, but it is, nonetheless, understandable. Some opinions were heated, some informed and some were just sad at the closure of what they saw as the small guy up against the big guy coming undone again. Sifting my way through the reader comments was hard work, but some informed commentators, clearly with aviation experience made some compelling points. If the passengers have not been left behind, if Wilson's staff have been placed in new employment with Air Chathams and the only ones to lose money were the airline shareholders, then this is a carefully controlled belly landing with no public casualties. This is actually a company that had a soft landing and should be admired in the way it has been managed into a takeover from a more established player. Where is the harm? More detail will emerge in the future, but if the scenario is correct, then Kiwi Regional Airlines has been managed professionally into Air Chathams. There is no liquidation of assets or receivers making more money than anyone else. There was always something quite compelling about Wilson's story and I was interested to see if Wilson's return to the air was going to work. This was a real life yarn of redemption, a made-for-TV tale of the local boy who loved flying and loved planes. He loved them so much he started his own airline, twice. And the rest, as they say, is history. His pioneering flights of the mid-1990s changed New Zealand aviation and for a short time made us all believers of the possibility of local entrepreneurship. Just like the V8s that would follow, Kiwi Air was bold thinking based in Hamilton and if successful, it would put Hamilton into a big boys league. In an earlier column about the new venture I wrote that "Wilson has got to get this airline right or be damned for good ... don't fool us twice." There was no halfway point on this story. It was always a case of learn from the past and be better. But within hours of the first flight to Dunedin, Queenstown had been dropped from the route. It was a bad start. Regional routes were always a risk and contingencies have to be in place in the event of plane maintenance or breakdown, and when it did, grounding the airline for four days, it looked too much like Amateur Air Ltd. I had hoped we may see a local fairy tale, an Icarus story of the passionate flyer who crashed and burned, but then recovered to fly again. Wilson got close, but this will not be this story. Instead the legacy will be of a passionate flyer who failed passionately. It remains a story of triumph and tragedy that other local entrepreneurs can learn from. It should be retold and understood by those who may be tempted to try again in the future. His turbulent story may be Wilson's great legacy. 

24 June 2016

Kapiti Cuts

Air New Zealand says it is still committed to flying from Kapiti despite reducing flights to Auckland. Three morning flights to Auckland, added this year in an attempt to stimulate demand on the route, will be cut from August. Airline spokeswoman Melody Brass said demand for the services failed to match the additional capacity "and we can no longer sustain these additional flights". She said Air New Zealand was "committed to the Kapiti Coast and will continue to serve the Auckland-Kapiti Coast market". Former airport frequent flyer Tony Froude, of Waikanae, said he used to travel regularly from Kapiti Coast Airport to Christchurch before that service was axed in February, leaving only the Auckland route. Froude said confirmation of rumours that Air New Zealand would cut back on its Auckland flights, dropping 10am flights from Thursday and Fridays, and a morning flight from Sunday, was bad news for the community. "My fear is that it will disappear, because if you cut your services back enough, that's how you kill it. With enough reductions people would start going to Wellington or Palmerston." Froude said increased domestic flights running from Wellington Airport showed the carrier had lost interest in flying from Kapiti. He was worried Kapiti airport majority owner Todd Corporation would be "probably be quite happy" to develop the land, in central Paraparaumu, into houses. The airport is part of the 125-hectare Kapiti Landing business and retail park, being developed by Todd Property, an arm of the Todd Corporation. Todd Property managing director Evan Davies said the company currently had no plans to close the airport and was working on a plan to replace the control tower. He said the airline had informed it about the "small reduction" in return Auckland flights from August. Economic growth in the region was important for the airport's future viability, he said, with Kapiti Landing and the company's investment in the airport contributing to this. The Kapiti Landing development includes Mitre 10 Mega, New World and Smiths City, as tenants and is near the central Paraparaumu interchange for the Kapiti expressway. The expressway replaces the current section of State Highway 1, and will likely to open by the end of this year.

Great Fleet Fotos...

Thanks to MRC Aviation for sending in these superb Air Chathams' fleet photos taken at Auckland yesterday, 22 June 2016... Our intrepid photographer writes... I had to do a u-turn to catch this phenomonen today on my way home from work, and got very wet feet in the process! Well worth the wet feet in my book!

Newest in the fleet is Fairchild Metroliner ZK-CID - yet to fly on service 
A couple of Metroliners CID and CIC with Convair CIE in between
And even more wide angle - in the foreground... Convair CIB, and Metroliners CID and CIC... And obscured, the company's Rockwell Commander 690 ZK-PVB (behind CIB) the top of the DC-3 AWP (behind CID) and the tail of CIE. What a line up!

23 June 2016

Beeches in Hamilton

A quick trip to Hamilton yesterday was rewarded with Air Wanganui's Beech Super King Air ZK-MDC
Also at Hamilton was Eagle Air Beech 1900 ZK-EAN also taken on 22 June 2016

22 June 2016

Sunday Flyers at Tauranga

More from Tauranga on Sunday 19 June 2016... The Auckland Aero Club's Cessna 162 Skycatcher ZK-AAC taxis for departure
CTC Aviation's Cessna 172 ZK-CTT lands
Classic Piper Cherokee 140 ZK-DIW
Sunair's Cessna 172 ZK-DPN was enjoying the sun 
Cessna 172 ZK-EFA was visiting
while Harvard 98, a.k.a ZK-ENJ, returned home... sounded great!

A gusty arrival for Piper Warrior ZK-EQZ
Aerius Helicopters' Robinson R44 ZK-HXY was on scenics
Cessna 172 ZK-JRA arrived in - nice new scheme
Some time at the Club for Maule ZK-MSM before returning to its hangar
Tecnam P92 Echo Super ZK-PFL taxis for departure

21 June 2016

On airline duty at Tauranga

About to depart from Tauranga on  Sunday 19 June 2016 was Air Nelson's Bombardier Q300 ZK-NEF

and arriving was ZK-NEP in the new colour scheme... which scheme do you prefer?

Island Air flights to Motiti Island were being operated by both the Cessna 172 ZK-WGE see landing and Cessna 206 ZK-WWH seen departing. They both made two trips in the time I was there.

20 June 2016

Air United - what might have been

Following on from Kris' comment yesterday about connecting the regional airlines this from 1980... it never came to pass and I suspect the same would be true given Air Chathams and Sounds Air don't have a common airport (unless you count the flights coming in from the Chathams). Sounds Air also had a Wanganui-Wellington service which hooked into their flights to NSN, BHE, and PIC... It still didn't generate a lot of inter-regional traffic.

15 February 1980 – New Service 
A co-ordinated travel service will be set up by James Air in conjunction with two other private airlines under the new promotional name Air United. The manager of James Air, Mr T.B. Wright, said his Nelson-based company, Eagle Airways based in Hamilton, and Air Central based in Napier, would all operate as contractors under "the same umbrella name. The name would be used for advertising and for a coordinated timetabling service between the three companies. Each company could book passengers on another company's flights to reach destinations not serviced by their own. Mr Wright said all three companies go through Palmerston North each day and are hoping they can get their own check-in facilities there as Air United. Combined operations would then be controlled from Palmerston North. The scheme is now in its embryo stage after two or three months discussions he said. "I don't see any cost-savings at this stage, but it provides an alternative," he said.  "We've all been battling with Air New Zealand and the Government over the years to find out where third level airlines fit in with the system. New Zealand is the only country without co-ordinated airline services at this level, so we thought we'd set it up ourselves.”

Source : Nelson Evening Mail

19 June 2016

A Comment on Friday's Regional Airline News

Friday was a big day news for regional air services. First off the rank was the news that Air Chathams had bought Kiwi Regional Airlines certainly surprised me. The news had two dimensions - Kiwi Regional ceasing operations wasn't particularly surprising. The purchase of the Saab was! All this stole the thunder for Sounds Air's news that it was taking over Air New Zealand's Blenheim-Christchurch service.

So what does this all mean?

Kiwi Regional made a brave attempt to operate but I always thought they were like SPANZ of the 1960s. The routes were always going to be lean and it was always going to be a real challenge to fill the seats. In my opinion Nelson would have been a better base than Dunedin offering the flexibility to offer services to a number of large regional centres on one or two days a week. Anway, that is all by the by now. Well done to Ewan and his crew for giving it a go. 
My flight on Kiwi Regional: 

Congratulations to Craig, Duane and crew for taking this opportunity, The purchase of the Saab shows an early commitment to Whanganui/Wanganui... the same community commitment that Air Chathams has given to the Chathams and Whakatane. The move to take over Air New Zealand's service to the River City cements Air Chathams as a solid regional airline in New Zealand. With 2 Metroliners, a Saab and 3 Convairs in the fleet the airline will be able to give a flexible air service to Whakatane and Wanganui. One wonders what the second Metroliner, ZK-CID, will be used for... a spare or new routes??? Also, looking to the future, one wonders if the Air Chathams brand is the right brand for an increasingly regional airline.
My flights on Air Chathams:

Congratulations also go to Andrew and the Sounds Air crew for picking up the Blenheim-Christchurch service. Again this new route solidifies Sounds Air as an important regional airline. Andrew Crawford has said the airline is looking at any further routes but with a solid reputation as a good operator with high customer satisfaction and a network extending from Christchurch to Taupo and Westport to Napier it has come a long way from its sky ferry origins between Picton and Wellington.
My flights on Sounds Air:

The only news we didn't hear on Friday is when Originair expects to start operating again. I think Originair is  wise to keep out of Wellington. There is too much competition on the the Nelson-Wellington run. The withdrawal of Kiwi Regional who has built up services from Nelson to Hamilton and Tauranga gives Originair an opportunity to become a viable airline once all the paper work has been done. I do hope, however, they get their timetable right. The Air New Zealand Nelson-Palmerston North service operated at peak time for business traffic and from what I gleaned did really well. Originair would do well to replicate it with a better business schedule than they previously operated. Then their could be services to Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier or New Plymouth in the middle of the day. I look forward to Robert and his team getting Originair airborne again. 
My flight on Originair:

17 June 2016

Sounds Air to take over Air New Zealand route between Christchurch and Blenheim

Sounds Air today announced it is taking over the Christchurch to Blenheim route that Air New Zealand recently announced it was axing. The regional airline specialist will assume the service on August 1, flying twice daily Monday-Friday. Managing director Andrew Crawford said the connection between Christchurch and Blenheim is of critical importance. “We have been overwhelmed with support to take on the sector since it was announced that Air New Zealand was stopping the service. The local health board sees it as a vital medical link between the regions with many passengers travelling to Christchurch for treatment. Business support has been very high with a great reluctance to have to travel to Christchurch via Wellington. “Initially we’ll be able to cater for 180 people each week but there’s plenty of room to grow if the route is well supported. Additional lunchtime and weekend flights, which we are planning to introduce before the end of the year, will add another 120 seats a week. This will mean we will potentially be able to cater for more than 300 passengers on the route each week.” Sounds Air will use the same Pilatus PC12 nine seater planes it flies on the Wellington to Taupo and Westport sectors. These aircraft have been very well received since their introduction over a year ago. The privately owned airline was traditionally known for its services out of Marlborough Sounds but has undergone dramatic growth in the past 18 months, expanding its usual services and also picking up two other routes dropped by Air New Zealand – the Wellington to Westport and Wellington to Taupo sectors. Established 30 years ago, the company employs over 60 staff – including 24 pilots, most of whom are based in Wellington. “In December 2003, we had one plane and 14,000 passengers. By end of 2016 we will have nine aircraft and close to 100,000 passengers. This has been achieved by offering fantastic service in modern, comfortable aircraft.” Last year, highly respected businessman and former Deputy Chairman of Lloyd’s of London John Stace was appointed as the new Chairman of Sounds Air.

Source : Sounds Air Press Release