13 February 2016

Hamilton-Auckland flights begin



Barrier Air launched its Auckland-Hamilton-Auckland service this morning with the arrival at Hamilton of flight GB55 from Auckland which was operated by Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDB under the command of Travis McKee. The flights will usually operate with two pilots and 11 flights are being offered each week.

Announcing the arrival of Barrier Air flight 55 from Auckland 


Leading the way across the tarmac, Nick Pearson, Barrier Air's Logistics Manager (left) talks to the company's Chief Executive Mike Foster.
The schedule will see flights offered each week as follows

Days              From   To        Dep    Arr
12345            HLZ-AKL       0700   0730
1  3  567        AKL-HLZ       1030   1100
1  3  567        HLZ-AKL       1130   1200
12345 7         AKL-HLZ       1800   1830
         5            HLZ-AKL       1850   1920

The mid morning flights will connect to Kiwi Regional flights to Nelson.

Meanwhile Barrier Air's first Auckland-North Shore service operated on the 4th of February 2016 with Embraer 820 ZK-RDT operating the first service, flight GB310.

For more on Barrier Air's Cessna Caravan see :
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/12/gb-3-akl-gbi-akl.html

For bookings go to : http://www.barrierair.kiwi/

Flights to the Mackenzie Country?



A proposed regular flight service between the Mackenzie District and Christchurch has been slammed by a regional flights expert as a likely flop. Because of the recent growth of international and domestic tourism to Mackenzie – guest nights rose 12.2 per cent to 591,355 in 2015 – Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT) has launched a survey to gauge how much Mackenzie residents are interested in the return of a domestic service. Regular flights between Mt Cook and Rotorua ceased in 2002 and a month-long trial of a thrice-weekly service from Mt Cook to Christchurch by Air New Zealand subsidiary Mt Cook Airline at the end of 2012 was largely unsuccessful. Tekapo and Pukaki airports are favoured as the lead contenders for any future services to be based out of. CCT's Mackenzie marketing executive Annabelle Bray said international visitors' use of regional air services was "fickle" and locals would have to be the ones that airline companies could bank on to use it. Bray said CCT was making the survey available for Mackenzie residents as well as sending it to the Christchurch residents that were known to have holiday homes in Mackenzie. "Once we've collected the results, if residents are favourable to flights, the next step would be a feasibility study," Bray said. "We probably wouldn't run that but we would certainly assist someone to do it." Bray said Mt Cook flights were very popular but the service was often hindered by weather. "We haven't really talked about the logistics of how a new service might work but I would say Tekapo or Pukaki airports are probably the most realistic places to run it from today," she said. Kiwi Regional Airlines chief executive Ewan Wilson, a former Timaru man, said the population base of the region was not big enough to sustain regional flights. "Basically you need at least 20,000 people flying to a major city for it to work unless there is a large corporate base that would support it," Wilson said. "If you were flying over a stretch of water that might change but that's not the case here. Tourism is important to Mackenzie but without all the data I see them as mostly passing through to get to Queenstown, Mt Cook, Wanaka rather than flying there as a destination. "I think on the balance it would be a really hard sell to anyone." Pukaki Airport board chairman Derek Kirke said if Mackenzie residents wanted regional flights the board would do everything it could to support it. "As we've seen in Wanaka recently it's quite tough setting up commuter services out of small centres. "But beyond the size of the airstrip required, and that will depend on what aircraft it's decided will be used, there's really no reason why we couldn't accommodate it here." Air Safaris chief executive Richard Rayward said Tekapo was a genuine option. "This is something we have looked at for a long time but it's not going to be good for anyone if it is uneconomic. We are all well aware that how often people say they will fly and how often they actually do is often wildly different. It's in the melting pot now so let's see what happens."

12 February 2016

Mount Cook Airlines - Part 3 - 1980-1996, From Tourist Airline to a National Airline



Today marks 20 years since Mount Cook retired its Hawker Siddeley 748s. To mark this event this is my third installment on the history of Mount Cook's airline division. The first two parts can be found at :

Part 1 - The 1960's - The Birth of the Airline 
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/02/mount-cook-airlines-part-1-1960s-birth.html

Part 2 - The 1970’s - New Zealand's tourist airline
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/mount-cook-airlines-part-2-1970s-new.html



By the late 1970s the Mount Cook Group of companies was comprised of Mount Cook Airlines, Mount Cook Landlines, Mount Cook Coach Tours, Mount Cook Freightlines, Mount Cook Flightseeing, Mount Cook World Travel Offices, Mount Cook Sea Lines and Coronet Peak Skifield. The company looked to rationalise these individual companies under a single branding with which all operations could align themselves. The name chosen for the new corporate identity was “The Mount Cook Line” which came into being on the 1st of October 1979. Over the next few months the airline fleet was rebranded. Initially this involved changing the titles but after some years the 748 fleet was repainted with a light blue stripe passing down the length of the fuselage and sweeping up the tail bordered by narrow dark blue lines.


Air Pacific colour scheme - Mount Cook Line titles. Hawker Siddeley 748 ZK-MCJ at Christchurch in January 1980.  From memory ZK-MCJ was the first to wear the new branding.
ZK-MCJ again - in the standard colour scheme with the Mount Cook Line titles at Christchurch  at 25 September 1982
The first attempt at a new Mount Cook colour scheme... Hawker Siddeley 748 ZK-MCF seen at Christchurch on 26 May 1982. It failed to impress and it was back into the paint shop rather rapidly.
What became the standard scheme - Hawker Siddeley 748 ZK-MCP at Christchurch on  24 December 1984

With the Group operating under one banner moves were made in 1980 to fill a gap in its portfolio, namely flying in its own tourist passengers from Australia. On the 20th of August 1980 the Mount Cook Group announced that it was seeking Government approval to operate scheduled Tasman air services from Christchurch to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with a leased Boeing 727. It was envisaged the 727 would accommodate 130 passengers and that the start-up costs would be in the order $2.5 million in the first year. The company foresaw frequent summer services of up to two flights a day with a lesser winter schedule. The company’s plans came to nothing due to the death of the company’s managing director, Harry Wigley, the driving force behind the company and the proposed international air service.


What might have been - Mount Cook Line Boeing 727. Source : Mount Cook Messenger, October 1980

The Mount Cook Messenger, the company’s in-house newsletter wrote a fitting tribute. On Monday 15 September last Sir Henry Wigley, chairman of the Mount Cook Group, died — and the transport and tourist industry lost a great and colourful leader and pioneer. It is seldom that the son of a famous father does much more than to take over the reins. It is rare indeed for the son to equal the parent's deeds and even more to exceed those deeds. Henry Rodolph Wigley was born in February 1913 and entered a world of stirring action and development — much of it the product of his imaginative father, Rodolph L. Wigley, who had laid the foundations of the Mount Cook Group by pioneering long distance scheduled motor services in New Zealand's South Island. By the time young Harry, as he was to become widely known, was 10 his father had entered the world of aviation and the smell of aircraft fuel, canvas and paint became a vital part of his young life. While in his early twenties he learned to fly and, in partnership with his father, enthusiastically started an air service based on Queenstown and Mount Cook. But, the war interrupted his plans and in 1940 he received a commission in the Royal New Zealand Air Force. His early service mainly included training duties but in 1943 he was posted to an operational fighter squadron and flew three operational tours in the Pacific which included commanding a squadron. At wars end he was commander of an island base with rank of wing commander. Following his discharge he returned to the Mount Cook company to find that a combination of the depression of the thirties and the war had taken its toll on the finances of the company. With tenacity, Harry Wigley set to and step-by-step commenced rebuilding. Non-profitable assets were sold and gradually new vehicles began to appear. He early realised the potential of tourism and started selling direct by mounting sales campaigns to North America and Australia. He joined and attended Pacific Area Travel association conferences. Slowly the name of the Mount Cook organisation came to the fore aided greatly by the many innovations that Harry' Wigley continued to introduce. In 1955 he successfully combined two of his great loves, skiing and flying, and started the famous ski-plane operation in the Mount Cook area. The early sixties saw him bring to realisation a long-time dream — a scheduled air service linking the key southern resorts with Christchurch. At his death he was head of an organisation generally considered as New Zealand's most versatile, if not the largest, private enterprise transport organisation with a nationwide air service and coach operation, travel offices in most main centres and tourist resorts, flight-seeing and sightseeing activities in both islands plus interests in accommodation, agricultural aviation and much more. He had brought an excitement to the company and to the industry generally. He had grasped life firmly and enjoyed it the full and in so doing had widely and generously shared that enjoyment with his family and that even wider family of staff, everyone of whom felt it an honour to work for and alongside one of the noblest knights this country has ever seen.


Harry Wigley (1913-1980)

In 1981 Air New Zealand announced it would withdraw from the Napier-Christchurch route as part of cost-cutting measures. Until this time Mount Cook had focussed on tourist services but in September 1981 Mount Cook made its first attempt to operate a non-tourist service, applying to the Air Services Licensing Authority for permission to introduce a Hawker Siddeley 748 service between Christchurch and Napier. With both the Mount Cook Line and Air Central wanting to serve the route Air New Zealand decided against withdrawing from the service.

Meanwhile, the Northland service between Auckland and Kerikeri was never the success story Mount Cook hoped it would be and because of this the route never sustained a 748 service. From November 1980 the airline was operating up to three flights a day on the route using one or two BN Islanders depending on loadings. The Islander was not an ideal aircraft and in mid-1982 the company introduced a faster and somewhat quieter Piper PA31-350 Navajo Chieftain, ZK-MCM. This saw service on flights to the Bay of Islands service as well as operating it on some flights between Auckland and Rotorua.  


Piper Chieftain ZK-MCM at Rotorua on 27 January 1984

In 1983 the Mount Cook Line hit turbulent skies as the Nelson-based TNL Group, which among other things owned Newmans, the rival tourist company, sought to take over the Mount Cook Group. Mount Cook was not impressed by the idea and in a full-page advertisement announced that it did not want "this unique company to become yet another autonomous division of a large trucking company." Air New Zealand, who had always had a good relationship with Mount Cook, were also concerned about a TNL take-over and sought to increase its holding in Mount Cook from 15% to 45% while at the same time Dominion Breweries Ltd acquired an 18.9% shareholding in the company.  Ultimately the Commerce Commission refused TNL permission to make the full takeover of Mount Cook it was seeking and TNL moved to establish its own airline. Meanwhile in December 1983 Air New Zealand increased its shareholding in Mount Cook to 30% and then to 77% in October 1985. 

While Mount Cook’s aircraft were mainly used on their scheduled and tourist charter flights they were also used for other work. In June 1983 TNT introduced an overnight freight service to move South Island goods to Wellington and Auckland on a guaranteed overnight door-to-door service. The service used chartered Mount Cook Hawker Siddeley 748s.

In January 1984 Mount Cook upgraded services from Auckland to Kerikeri and Rotorua by purchasing an 18-seat De Havilland Canada Twin Otter, ZK-MCO. This enabled the Piper Chieftain that had previously been used on these services to be transferred to the company's Christchurch base. The Twin Otter flew two return flights each day between Auckland and the Bay of Islands as well as between Auckland and Rotorua. The Twin Otter service, however, was short-lived and from the 24th of February 1986 it instead began flying between Queenstown and Milford Sound with the Chieftain returning to Auckland for flights to the Bay of Islands and Rotorua.


Flying the Bay of Islands and Rotorua service was DHC Twin Otter ZK-MCO as seen at Rotorua on 27 January 1984

For a more detailed post on Mount Cook's air service to Kerikeri see
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2012/11/mount-cook-airlines-sunbird-service-to.html

For the summer of 1984/85 Mount Cook increased its 748 capacity by 50% with the return of the company's fifth 748 which had been on a two-year lease to Calm Air International in northern Canada and the purchase a sixth Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft. The company's fleet at that time was 40 aircraft including the 6 Hawker Siddeley 748 airliners, 1 DHC Twin Otter and 1 Piper Chieftain, 6 Britten-Norman Islanders, 15 Cessna 185 and Pilatus Porter skiplanes, 11 agricultural aircraft and two non-flying historical aircraft, ZK-BDX the Auster that the first ski-landing and de Havilland 82 Tiger Moth ZK-BRC.


Eventually all the Britten Norman Islanders were Queenstown-based operating scheduled services to Milford Sound, Te Anau/Manapouri and Alexandra and Dunedin as well as their major work, flightseeing to Milford Sound. Here three are seen with Mount Cook Line titles. Above, ZK-MCB at Dunedin in 1980, centre, ZK-DBV at Christchurch on 14 September 1985 and bottom, ZK-MCD at Queenstown on 24 October 1987.



In October 1984 plans for the launch of TNL’s airline, named Newmans Air, was well under way. Nonetheless, the TNL Group’s board continued to believe that a combined operation with Mount Cook would be “in the best interests of the shareholders of both companies and the future prosperity of the tourist industry." Newmans Air began operations on 13th of February 1985 operating two De Havilland Canada Dash 7s. Mirroring the Mount Cook tourist routes Newmans flew Auckland-Rotorua-Christchurch-Mount Cook (Glentanner)-Queenstown services.

The introduction of the new airline brought competition not only on the airways but also inside the cabin. On the 20th of August 1985 the Christchurch Press carried an article by Les Bloxham comparing the service on the two airlines. His account gives a good insight to the Mount Cook service at the time…

Mount Cook Flight NM5: August 16.
Rotorua to Christchurch.
Aircraft: Hawker Siddeley 748.
Scheduled departure: 12.35 p.m.
Actual departure: 12.45 p.m.
Scheduled arrival: 2.45 p.m.
Actual arrival: 2.36 p.m.
Time in air: 1hr 50min.
Cruising altitude: 22,000ft.
Altitude wind: nil.
Total seats available: 44.
Seats filled: 33.
Cabin attendants: two.

The first of two phone calls to the airline's reservations number was answered promptly; the second produced recorded music for 3min 10sec before my inquiry was handled. After a smooth check-in at Rotorua, passengers boarded the 748 and were directed to their seats by the hostesses in a pleasant manner. My seat was comfortable with adequate leg room, but I had limited space for' my feet and brief case under the row in front. Pre-flight emergency instructions were announced clearly. There was no visual demonstration of the procedures. A safety card and airline magazine were in the seat pocket. An excellent selection of magazines was offered after take-off and passengers were given a choice of tomato or fruit juice. A highlight of any Mount Cook flight is when the captain invites passengers on to the flight-deck: on this flight the door was left open for visitors (two at a time) for about an hour, thereby affording those passengers in rows where viewing was obstructed by the wings an opportunity of seeing the mountains at their winter best. The food service began about 30 minutes into the flight when the hostesses handed out wicker baskets containing a fresh club sandwich, piece of iced shortcake, kiwi fruit and a mini-pack of raisins with plastic knife, spoon, stirring straw, sugar and serviette. My sandwich contained lettuce, cheese, and ham. (The airline's food from Rotorua is also produced by Glenis and Ray Robinson). Vegetarian food is carried only if requested in advance. A hostess answered my call button promptly, but was unable to produce either an Air New Zealand or a Mount Cook Airline timetable. Hot drinks were served in cardboard cups with flap handles. The cabin was cleared 40 minutes before landing. Frequent informative announcements were made from the flight-deck drawing passengers' attention to points of interest along the way. Engine noise was noticeably louder towards the front of the cabin. The lavatory at the rear of the aircraft was clean, but the seat had to be held up by hand. Toffees were offered before landing. Baggage was available for collection nine minutes after arrival at the gate.

The launch of Newmans Air didn’t mean, however, that the battle for the ownership of the Mount Cook Group had ended. In May 1985 the Commerce Commission rejected a bid by the Nelson-based Goodman Group Ltd to acquire 47 per cent of the Mount Cook Group. At that time the Wellington based Goodman currently held 19.9 per cent of Mount Cook and had been seeking approval to buy Dominion Breweries Ltd’s 27.04 per cent of shares. The Commission’s decision was coloured by Goodman's 24.9 per cent shareholding in Newmans Group Ltd. It said that in the Commission's view the public interest was best served by having two vigorous operators in the principal tourist air routes. It considered that competition between Mount Cook and Newmans would be likely to bring real benefits to New Zealand.

Despite the competition from Newmans Air, Mount Cook’s passenger numbers continued to grow. The company carried 178,668 passengers in the first six months on 1985, up from 143,813 for the corresponding period the previous year, an increase of 24 per cent. Even before the competition took to the air Mount Cook had started to revamp its Hawker Siddeley 748 fleet. 






In November 1984 the airline was branded as Mount Cook Airline. A new colour scheme was introduced with a broad blue stripe with white, red and yellow stripes above. The 748's cabins were refurbished with the seating capacity being reduced from 48 seats to a more comfortable 44 seats. In August 1985 Mount Cook introduced new uniforms for the cabin attendants. The company also introduced non-stop flights from Christchurch to Queenstown, and reintroduced non-stop flights between Rotorua and Mt Cook, from the 14th of October 1985.


Hawker Siddeley 748 ZK-DES at Mount Cook on 23 January 1988
DHC Twin Otter ZK-MCO at Queenstown on 23 May 1987 where it was based for flightseeing operations
Piper Chieftain ZK-MCM in the new scheme at Christchurch on 24 August 1985
BN Islander ZK-DBV at Te Anau on 22 December 1985

Over the year Mount Cook chartered Fokker Friendships. The Civil Aviation Division’s Fokker F27 Mk 200 Friendship ZK-DCG was used in 1981 and ZK-DCB was used from 1986 to 1988. On both occasions the Friendships carried Mount Cook titles. The Following its retirement from Air New Zealand Fokker F27 Mk 100 Friendship ZK-BXF saw service with Mount Cook Airline from 1991 to 1994 and this was painted in full Mount Cook colours. In 1988 Mount Cook also used Bell Air’s Beech 99 ZK-LLA on services between Auckland and Rotorua and again this aircraft carried Mount Cook titles.


Chartered Fokker Friendship ZK-DCB at Twizel's Pukaki Airport on 16 April 1988 after diverting from Mount Cook due to high winds.
Fokker Friendship ZK-BXF arriving at Rotorua on 23 January 1992. I think the scheme on the Friendship looked better than on the Hawker Siddeley. 
Bell Air's Beech 99 ZK-LLA wearing Mount Cook Airline's titles seen here at Auckland on 8 February 1988

In the early 1980s Nelson saw the rise of the commuter airline Air Albatross. Following its collapse a new operator, Pacifica Air, was established and it introduced flights from Nelson to both Christchurch and Wellington in April 1987. Fearing competition in the Nelson market Mount Cook, which was now completely owned by Air New Zealand, introduced twice daily Hawker Siddeley 748 flights between Christchurch and Nelson. Flights were timed to run at the same time as Pacifica Air. Mount Cook’s first service into Nelson was flown on the 21st of September 1987 in Hawker Siddeley 748 ZK-DES.

Further expansion occurred the following month with Taupo and Wellington being added to the Mount Cook Airline network for the first time from the 23rd of October 1987. The northbound flight departed Christchurch at 6.50am reaching Wellington at 7.55am, departing again at 8.25am and reaching Taupo at 9.35am before continuing on to Rotorua where it arrived at 10.15am. The southbound flight from Rotorua landed at Taupo at 5.10pm, Wellington at 6.35pm and Christchurch at 8.15pm.


The route network, from the timetable effective 1 October 1988

In 1988 Air New Zealand was looking to reduce its Fokker Friendship fleet. At the same time it wanted to introduce an early morning service between Nelson and Auckland. To help Air New Zealand facilitate these aspirations Mount Cook Airline introduced four weekday return flights between Nelson and Wellington. A reduced service was offered over the weekend. These flights commenced on the 28th of March 1988. At the same time an extra Nelson-Christchurch service was introduced. With Pacifica Air and Air Nelson also operating the Nelson to Wellington route there were 19 flights each day! With such competition something had to give and on the 7th of June 1988 Pacifica Air withdrew all its Nelson flights and instead operated flights from Christchurch to Alexandra and Wanaka. Mount Cook also set out to compete with Pacifica Air's flights to Wanaka and from the 28th of March 1988 they introduced Britten Norman Islander flights between Wanaka and Queenstown to connect with the Mount Cook flights to and from Queenstown.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s a second Piper Chieftain, ZK-EBT, was leased from Airwork. This saw service on the Kerikeri and Rotorua routes as well as continuing to operate the Auckland-Tokoroa air service that Airwork were operating. It later saw service on flightseeing in the South Island.

Piper Chieftain ZK-EBT at Christchurch on 26 February 1989...
and repainted at Tokoroa operating the air service in support of NZ Forest Products on 24 January 1991

In August 1990, following the announcement of Safe Air’s closure of its air freight and airline services, the Chatham Islands’ Local Authority Trading Enterprise Board chartered Mount Cook Airline to operate a temporary air service between the Chatham Islands and the mainland until a permanent service was established. These first services were flown in October 1990 with a return flight to the Chathams being operated from Christchurch on Mondays with additional flights being operated from Wellington on the 4th and 25th of October. Mount Cook subsequently secured the contract to operate a permanent Hawker Siddeley 748 service to the Chathams. A Christchurch-Chathams-Christchurch service was operated on Saturdays and a Christchurch-Wellington-Chathams and return service operating on Tuesdays.

Air New Zealand’s purchase of Eagle Air and a 50% share in Air Nelson led to the withdrawal of Friendship fleet and on the 15th of April 1991 there was a reshuffle of Mount Cook services. From that day Mount Cook pulled out of its Nelson services in favour of Air Nelson while in return Air Nelson quit Rotorua. Mount Cook then increased its Wellington to Rotorua return services from two to three a day as well as launching a daily return service between Wellington and Hamilton, and flights from Palmerston North to both Auckland and Christchurch. On the 18th of April 1991 Air New Zealand acquired 100% interest in the Mount Cook Group. Up until this point Mount Cook always had 748s available for special flights in support of the tour business. Now scheduled services throughout the country increasingly demanded the whole 748 fleet and the tourism focus of the airline started to wane.

Later in the year, on the 1st of July 1991, Mount Cook withdrew its Queenstown-Alexandra-Dunedin service. This service, which had operated since the collapse of SPANZ, was poorly patronised and no longer economically viable.


I never managed to source a photo of a BN Islander taken at Alexandra... ZK-DBV is seen here at Queenstown on 19 March 1989 wearing its Milford Sound Flightseeing titles. This was the main work for the Islanders.

For a more detailed post on Mount Cook's air service to Alexandra see


In the 1990s there was still no adequate IFR approach into Queenstown. This meant the Mount Cook’s 748s did an IFR approaches on the Alexandra NDB before flying visually through the Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown. The aircraft would keep to the right hand of the valley to keep clear of any traffic coming the other way. There were two missed approach points where the aircraft could turn and retrace its steps back to Alexandra at Roaring Meg and Wairtiri Station. This wasn’t always easy and one story is told was of a 748 holding in a turn in the Gorge for 45 minutes waiting for snow showers ahead and behind of it to clear. There was, as is still the case, no night flights into Queenstown. With a growing number of tourists wanting to access the Queenstown skifields in the winter of 1992 runway lights were installed at Alexandra allowing Mount Cook Airline to operate evening Hawker Siddeley flights into Alexandra with bus connections to Queenstown thereby giving a same-day Australia-Queenstown connection for skiers.

1993 saw the introduction of a Wellington-Napier overnight service and the take over of Taupo services that had been operated by Eagle Air. The Taupo-Auckland services were initially flown with a Piper Chieftain three times a day but later this was changed to a Chieftain flight and a 748 flight. After Air New Zealand withdrew its Friendship services to Taupo Air Nelson operated flights between Wellington and Taupo for a brief period from late 1990 to mid-1991. The Air Nelson service was replaced by Mount Cook Airline which operated two 748 flights to and from Wellington, one via Rotorua and the other direct. A sixth Hawker Siddeley, ZK-MCB, arrived on lease in December 1993.


The route network from the summer timetable, 1993-1994

In late 1994 an air war raged between Mount Cook Airline and Air Chathams on the air service to the Chathams. Mount Cook heavily discounted its fares and boosted its services to five flights a week operated by their 748s or chartered Metroliners. The fierce competition continued throughout 1995 until Mount Cook suddenly withdrew from the Chathams on the 29th of January 1996.

For a more detailed post on Mount Cook's air service to the Chatham Islands see
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/05/mount-cook-airline-and-its-air-war-with.html

1995 saw a number of changes for the Mount Cook Group. A second Twin Otter, ZK-TFS, was added to the fleet for Milford Sound flightseeing services but this occasionally did overflow service to Mount Cook and Christchurch. Helicopter operations began from Mount Cook initially using two AS350 Squirrels but later using BK117s. The company also leased United Aviation's Navajo ZK-KVW using it for flightseeing based out of the Pukaki airstrip near Twizel. On the airline scene a seventh Hawker Siddeley 748, ZK-MCH, was leased to boost capacity over the 1995-1996 summer but an even bigger change was the announcement that the Hawker Siddeley’s were to be replaced with 66 seat ATR 72s.


Hawker Siddeley 748 ZK-MCH flew for Mount Cook for about 8 months. It is seen here at Christchurch on 8 November 1995.
Piper Chieftain ZK-KVW on 14 December 1995 while based at Pukaki Airport near Twizel waiting for its next flightseeing customers. 

The arrival of the ATRs signaled the end of the familiar Mount Cook lily that had been on the tail of Mount Cook aircraft since the first DC-3 services began in 1961. The ATRs were painted in Air New Zealand Link colours and the first ATR 72 began service on Monday, the 27th of November 1995 with flights operating from Christchurch to Invercargill and Dunedin.

The following year, on the 12th of February 1996 Mount Cook Airline flew its last commercial Hawker Siddeley 748 service from Wellington to Christchurch. The final service was flown by 748 ZK-MCF under the command of Captain Alistair MacLeod. He had been the co-pilot on the delivery flight of ZK-CWJ in 1968 and for the final flight one of his passengers was retired Captain Geoffrey Williams who had been the captain on the delivery flight. The final flight ended 27 years of service by the Hawker Siddeley 748 in New Zealand and the Mount Cook lily being seeing on airline services in New Zealand.


The Press, 13 February 1996

Mount Cook Airline's Turbo Airliner Fleet


Beech 99

LLA (c/n U-52)                                                      (Leased)



De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Series 300 Twin Otter

CJZ (c/n 259)
MCO (c/n 530)
TFS (c/n 573)


DHC Twin Otter ZK-TFS at Milford Sound on 14 September 1994

Fokker Friendship

BXF (c/n 10185)                   Mk 100
DCB (c/n 10445)                  Mk 200                    (Leased)
DCG (c/n 10262                   Mk 200                    (Leased)


Hawker Siddeley HS748 Series 2A

CWJ (c/n 1647)                    Aorangi
DES (c/n 1689)                    Tongariro
MCA (c/n 1712)                    Rangitoto
MCB (c/n 1767)                                                     (Leased)
MCF (c/n 1697)                    Te Wai Pounamu
MCH (c/n 1791)                                                     (Leased)                               
MCJ (c/n 1661)                     Rotorua
MCP (c/n 1694)                    Tutoko



11 February 2016

Tauranga coverage of last Beech 1900 flight


8 February 2016

The Air NZ Beech 1900 made its final arrival and departure flights from Tauranga this afternoon (8 February 2016). The aeroplane arrived at Tauranga Airport from Auckland at 3.15pm today and departed back to Auckland at 3.50pm. Tauranga radio journalist, and avid aeroplane enthusiast, Grayson Ottaway says it is the last ever flight to and from Tauranga for the Air NZ Beech 1900. Grayson says every time an aeroplane makes its first or final flight a water cannon salute is traditionally given to signify the important event, but it is now against Air New Zealand policy. A SunLive reporter at the scene says the arrival flight appeared to be full and passengers were shaking the captain's hand as they walked off the aircraft. Air New Zealand corporate communications manager Brigitte Ransom says in November 2014, Air NZ announced it would gradually withdraw the 19-seat Beech aircraft from its fleet and move to operating 50-seat Q300 aircraft in its place on routes where sufficient demand exists. “Our Tauranga to Auckland service has been operating predominantly by 50-seat aircraft for several years, with some services flown by the smaller Beech and larger 68-seat ATR aircraft. “The last of the scheduled Beech services will operate on the route today with Auckland to Tauranga serviced by predominantly 50-seat and some 68-seat services from tomorrow.” Brigitte says the Beech aircraft will continue flying to a number of other ports on Air New Zealand's regional network for some months.

For photos of the last flight which was operated by ZK-EAB see - 

10 February 2016

Beech 1900 Farewell from Taupo


Thanks to Fraser who recorded the last Eagle Air Beech 1990 service to Taupo on Monday 8 February 2016. ZK-EAB operated flight NZ2981 Auckland to Taupo and flight NZ2978 from Taupo back to Auckland. Air Nelson now operate the Air New Zealand services between Auckland and Taupo with Bombardier Q300s.










09 February 2016

85 years ago yesterday - First ever fatalities on a scheduled air service in NZ



For a full history of Dominion Airlines see 
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/dominion-airlines-east-coasts-first-air.html


All three people on board a Dominion Airline Desoutter were killed in a crash near Wairoa on 8 February 1931. This was the first fatal air service accident in New Zealand.

The plane left Gisborne for Hastings at 12:45 pm.

The pilot was asked to drop a mailbag of telegrams at Wairoa as disruption to the roads in the area due to the recent Napier earthquake prevented the mail from being speedily delivered any other way.

The drop was carried out successfully, but as the Desoutter pulled up to climb away it stalled and dived onto the side of a road.

The aircraft was completely wrecked and rescuers had great difficulty in removing the occupants.

Two of the persons on board were found to be dead and the third expired within minutes of being extricated from the wreckage.

The three were Pilot Flt-Lt Ivan Louis Kight, a former Air Force officer and a barrister in civilian life, and his passengers Mr Walter Findlay and Mr W.C. Strand.

Dominion had helped maintain contact between the areas devastated by the recent Hawke’s Bay earthquake and the rest of New Zealand.

The first regular scheduled passenger service began in 1930, when Air Travel launched a tri-weekly service between Christchurch and Dunedin using a DH 50 borrowed from the government. Passenger numbers were low and after only nine months Air Travel closed down. Soon afterwards Dominion Airlines Ltd began a daily service between Gisborne and Hastings.

This proved invaluable in maintaining contact between the areas ravaged by the Napier earthquake and the rest of New Zealand. Unfortunately just five days after the earthquake, the company’s Desoutter monoplane crashed at Wairoa, killing its three occupants. Dominion Airlines was forced into liquidation.

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Capacity: 2
Length: 7.9 m
Wingspan: 10.9 m
Wing area: 183 ft²
Empty weight: 536 kg (1,180 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 863 kg (1,900 lb)
Powerplant: 1 × De Havilland Gipsy III 4-cylinder,
inverted air-cooled inline engine, 90 kW (120 hp)

Maximum speed: 109 knots
Cruise speed: 86 knots
Stall speed: 40 knots
Range: 432 nm
Service ceiling: 17,000 ft
Rate of climb: 1000 ft/min