29 November 2014

The best of British....

Here is the caption...

Getting to travel in ultimate luxury isn't something we get to do very often. Thanks to Team McMillan Limited we got to sample the latest Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II, and shoot it alongside the gorgeous jets that Inflite Charters organised for us. You can read all about it in our upcoming issue, New Zealand Classic Car....

Here is the video clip...


28 November 2014

Four possibilities for Kaitaia

Whichever airline ends up replacing Air New Zealand on the Kaitaia-Auckland route, the town's air passengers are likely to end up with a better timetable. One of the gripes about the current twice-daily Air New Zealand service is that the morning flight leaves too late for business travellers to get a full business day in Auckland. As a result many drive the extra hour to Kerikeri to catch an early flight. However, Tauranga-based Sunair - one of four airlines now vying to fly the route - says it would base an aircraft and two crew at Kaitaia. That means its first flight could leave at 7am, guaranteeing a full day in Auckland, and return about 9.30am. A second return flight could leave about 4-5pm. Sunair owners Dan and Bev Power were in Kaitaia on Friday to meet airport operators Far North Holdings, Kaitaia business representatives, and the Chinese owners of a major tourism venture on Karikari Peninsula. Auckland-based company Inflite was also in town on Friday, making use of a charter flight to Kaitaia to show off its plane and give a few lucky locals a free flight to Auckland. Two more companies are understood to be interested in flying from Kaitaia but their identity is still under wraps. Mr Power said his company would use its nine-seater Piper Chieftain or, as long as the business plan stacked up, buy a 12-seater Cessna Caravan. The level of landing fees charged at Kaitaia would be one of the crucial factors in deciding whether the plan had wings. It was too early to say what flights would cost but a one-way ticket was likely to be similar to the current Air New Zealand fare. Reaction to the firm's proposal had been very positive, Mr Power said. "Being somewhat remote the local community requires an air service. There's some nervousness about the possibility of not having one - we're here to allay those fears." Mrs Power said the feedback so far had included one particularly heart-warming letter from a Kaitaia GP who told them how much medical services depended on flights to Auckland and Wellington. If there were no Kaitaia flights it would be even harder to persuade good staff to live in the very Far North, the GP said. While in Kaitaia the Powers met airport staff and Far North Holdings chief executive Andy Nock, Kaitaia Business Association representatives, and the owners of Carrington Estate where a huge hotel development is planned. Meanwhile, Inflite's 19-seat Jetstream 32 dropped into Kaitaia on Friday afternoon with 16 Chinese passengers heading to Carrington Estate. The plane had been due to return empty to Auckland so the firm offered the seats free to Kaitaia's business community and, via a GP, locals who needed to get to Auckland but could not afford to fly. The remaining seats were offered to Age readers who phoned in after last week's story. In the end only Bruce and Chris Buckby seized the opportunity, flying to Auckland to visit elderly parents before making their own way home to Kaitaia. Inflite is the only third-level airline already operating planes of the same size as the Beechcraft 1900D Air NZ uses on the Kaitaia run. It also plans to offer early-morning flights if its bid is successful. Air New Zealand's last flight out of Kaitaia is on April 28.

There is a nice photo of Dan and Bev Power at Kaitaia with Aztec ZK-ECM at 

25 November 2014

Sunair Service Set to Start

Sunair's new service between Auckland's Ardmore and Great Barrier Island and Ardmore and Whitianga is set to start next week as advertised in the latest issue of the Barrier Bulletin. This particular project is being fronted by Ryan Bergman who has excellent credentials for the job, being the son of Jim & Ruth of GBA fame. He spent a couple of days on the Barrier last week doing the rounds and is very enthusiastic. 

Sunair seem keen to get the formula right with free parking at Ardmore and free ground transport to connect with the trains at Papakura station being provided.  Sunair will also operate to Great Barrier's Okiwi airfield and the Coromandel's Matarangi airfield.

24 November 2014

Cessna 208B N771AL/ZK-SAW

Sounds Air Travel and Tourism Ltd, trading as Soundsair, have taken delivery of their 5th Cessna Caravan with the arrival at their Omaka maintenance facility 24 November of Grand Caravan N771AL.  
The low-timed Garmin 1000 equipped turbine is set to be repainted into the airline's colours and be registered ZK-SAW

The arrival of ZK-SAW sees the NZ population of Grand Caravan's grow to 7 with an 8th example, destined for parachute operations and fitted with a Garrett turbine engine, is currently on its delivery flight from the USA to NZ and due mid week.

23 November 2014

Roaring off to the Chatham Islands

After catching Air Chathams' Convair ZK-CIF departing Timaru last week http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/11/take-off-from-timaru.html I was delight to get ZK-CIB departing Wellington on 19 November 2014. Looking forward to seeing the map on the tail again !

22 November 2014

Sunair Checks out Whakatane

Sunair's chief executive Dan Power flew into Whakatane earlier this week to talk to representatives from the Whakatane District Council and the Eastern Bay Chamber of Commerce.  Initially Sunair was looking at operating two scheduled daily return services between Whakatane and Auckland using a Cessna Caravan. Sunair is also offering to provide connections to Gisborne and Napier but their last attempt to include Whakatane didn't generate much traffic.

Dan Power said “We wanted to gain from the business community what they want from an air service so we’ve got local input and can work on schedules and prices.” A survey is planned for the business community and Air New Zealand has provided Sunair with statistics on the Whakatane-Auckland route. This seems to indicate four return flights a day would be needed, not two. If it extended its operation to Whakatane, Sunair would have a base at the airport and two pilots living in the community. 

Meanwhile locally-based East Bay Aviation is interested in expanding their businesses to include scheduled flights to Auckland. A third unnamed company is also looking at servicing Whakatane. 

New Helicopter Base for Inflite Charter

Inflite Charters Limited is opening a new base at Taupo Airport. In conjunction with well-known local operators, Toby and Cushla Clark, and Vaughan Nairn (Base Manager), Inflite are delighted to be expanding helicopter and charter plane services into the Central North Island region. The new operation will be based at the Izard Air complex at 1159 Anzac Memorial Drive, Taupo Airport. This stunning facility, built by Richard Izard, is well suited for Inflite’s operations and allows a great opportunity for growth, as the business establishes in the region. Scenic helicopter flights, lodge transfers, golfing, fishing and vineyard trips are available immediately in our AS355 Twin Squirrel and Robinson R44 helicopters. Our helicopter flights can operate from the Taupo Airport and Taupo harbour-side helipads, as well as regular private landing locations. With the enhanced safety of twin-engine performance, the Squirrel AS355 offers a roomy and comfortable cabin capable of accommodating up to five passengers. This very sought after helicopter is especially appreciated for its VIP, corporate and tourist flight capabilities. The Robinson R44 helicopter comfortably carries up to three passengers, and offers excellent visibility through the bubble canopy, making it an ideal aircraft for exploring the stunning mountain, geothermal and lake scenery. Having high quality and reliable helicopter and charter plane services in this thriving business community and energetic tourist destination is imperative, and Inflite look forward to providing exceptional service to locals and visitors alike. Further announcements will be made shortly regarding new scenic flight products and packages, charter plane options.

Source : Inflite Charters Press Release

21 November 2014

Further Taupo Reaction

Air New Zealand's attempts to defend its decision to pull out of the Taupo-Wellington route have been labelled a "waste of time" by those attending a meeting with businesses in the tourist town. The meeting was held yesterday after the airline announced cuts to its regional services. Air NZ chief sales and commercial officer Cam Wallace told the crowd of about 50 people that using the 19-seater aircraft being phased out lost the company $26 per person per flight. This resulted in a $1 million loss each month, and it was not economically viable to offer the larger 50-seater service. "Taupo to Wellington - that's not a market, we don't want to be in [it]." But those present struggled to understand how the service was not financially viable, with some asking why an Auckland-Taupo-Wellington route could not be added. But these ideas didn't fly, with Air NZ reps drawing attention instead to the benefits of the Auckland route. Taupo District Council member and business owner Rosie Harvey said she was sick of it being "all about Auckland". "We're [Taupo] the events capital of the North Island. It's time we were looked after." Wallace made it clear Air NZ had no interest in re-entering the Taupo to Wellington market, stating its future was more looking at different options for the route. "We are more than supportive of any player coming in, and more importantly we will help support them." Mayor David Trewavas said the council had had a few approaches from people looking to step in. Wairaki resort manager Kathy Guy said with the Wellington flights ending from April 2015, and the Auckland to Taupo flights not going to 50-seaters until February 2016, the region was being left short. "Our business had a huge exponential increase, now this has been a real blow for us. " . . . Trying to get people into Taupo has become so difficult, they're saying, 'it's all too hard and we're going to go somewhere else'."

20 November 2014

Inflite Interested in Kaitaia

Another aviation firm has put its hand up to fly the Kaitaia-Auckland route in the wake of Air New Zealand's shock announcement it plans to pull out of the Far North town. Inflite, an Auckland charter company with two 19-seater aircraft and a history of flying to the Far North, contacted the Far North District Council and Far North Holdings this week to signal its interest. The company had already been approached by councils in other towns which have lost air services in earlier cutbacks by the national carrier. Inflite's advantage is that it is the only third-level airline already operating planes of the same size as the Beechcraft 1900D Air New Zealand uses on the Kaitaia run. Tauranga-based Sunair Aviation, the first company out of the blocks, has a fleet of six-seater Pipers but is considering leasing a 12-seater Cessna Caravan if it wins the right to fly the Kaitaia route. Inflite charter manager Paul Aston said it was still early days and the company needed to work out whether the level of demand warranted daily flights or three a week. "On face value it stacks up. If it does, we'll be in, boots and all. The fit for us in Kaitaia is very strong, more than in other regions." Inflite specialises in corporate and tourism charters using its two Jetstream J32EP aircraft. It has previously flown between Kaitaia and Auckland as a back-up for Air New Zealand and has good links with the Far North tourism industry. Mr Aston said it was too early to say what flights would cost but there were likely to be only one or two fare levels, unlike the complex multi-level system used by Air New Zealand. The departure time could be adapted to Kaitaia's needs. Inflite is flying to Kaitaia on Friday with 16 charter passengers and returning on Saturday to pick up another 12. The twin-engined Jetstream turboprop will be parked on the runway in Kaitaia from about 4-5pm on Friday for anyone who wants a look. With the plane originally due to fly back empty the company has offered the seats free of charge to members of Kaitaia's business community and, via a GP, Kaitaia residents who need to get to Auckland this weekend but cannot afford to fly. A very limited number of seats are left. Anyone who wants a free one-way flight to Auckland, departing about 5pm on Friday, can call Mr Aston on 027 230 4407. First come, first served.

April Start for Q300s to Wanganui

Wanganui needs to heed the message that comes with Air New Zealand's decision to change the way it will be flying to and from regional centres in the next six months. Unprepared to continue carrying rising costs, the airline has called time on the Eagle Airways' Beech 1900D aircraft that flies to 15 regional cities and towns. The harshest blow has been delivered to Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport, which lose their services altogether. In the reshuffle, Air NZ will gradually phase out the Beech 19-seater turbo props, replacing them with the 50-seater Bombardier Q300 planes and Wanganui will see the first of them on a regular service from April. From February 2016, the Beech will no longer come here, with the Bombardier taking over the service completely. Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon told the Chronicle that while they were tough calls, rising costs and increasing losses on the regional routes called for drastic action. Mr Luxon said independent research showed the national carrier provided a good regional service by world standards but the economics of running the service "are really tough". "We have three regional airlines running three different turbo-prop fleets. Mt Cook operates 68-seat aircraft, Air Nelson operates 50-seat aircraft and Eagle Airways operates 19-seat aircraft," he said. "But over the past five years the cost of operating our regional services has increased significantly." Mr Luxon said fuel costs were up 14 per cent, navigation charges had climbed 23 per cent and the company was paying 46 per cent more in airport charges. "These three costs alone account for 40 per cent of our regional cost base, yet we've worked very hard not to pass these increases on to our customers. In fact, our average regional fare is down two per cent in nominal terms over the same period and that's more than 10 per cent when adjusted for inflation." He said the difficulty was simply one of seats and their take-up, and the 19-seat Beech planes - the smallest aircraft in the fleet - were the dearest to operate on a costs-per-seat basis. "Eagle Airways has been losing more than $1 million a month for the past two years. That's the equivalent of losing $26 on every one-way ticket sold." But he said even taking these economic realities into account, there was still a perception that regional fares were unjustifiably high. "In some cases, customers just aren't willing to pay what it costs to operate to their town. There's also been a suggestion that our recent strong commercial result has come at the expense of the regions. This is simply not true." He said Air NZ's improved annual result was largely due to the turnaround of its international network. And he said it was that turnaround that was giving the company the leverage to reinvest in its regional fleet. As a result, it has ordered four new 68-seat Mt Cook aircraft worth $100 million, bringing the total spend on new aircraft for that fleet to $300 million over the past four years. Mr Luxon said it means the airline would be putting the larger planes on to routes where the demand was greater, and moving the remaining routes to 50-seat aircraft, where there was sufficient customer demand. "These aircraft have significantly better operating economics, partly because fixed costs can be spread across more passengers," he said. He said this better "seating economics" meant fares on the regional routes, including those like Wanganui being serviced by the Bombardier Q300s, would drop 15 per cent. "That's exactly what's happening in Wanganui. From February 2016, Wanganui customers will be able to access services in larger aircraft and benefit from cheaper fares." The Bombardier service would increase the number of seats available between Wanganui and Auckland by 75 per cent. Mr Luxon made it clear that some smaller markets that struggled to support a 19-seat operation could not be expected to provide sufficient demand to support 50-seat planes. It was on this basis that those three towns have been cut from services altogether, while a number of other services will end in April. While Mr Luxon is not saying it in so many words, the message to Wanganui is clear enough - use it or lose it.