08 December 2019

3½ passengers are not enough - SPANZ's service to Matamata


In 1959 South Pacific Airlines New Zealand Ltd, founded by Captain R. Daniell and Captain R. A. L. Anderson, sought Air Services Licensing Authority approval to operate scheduled and non-scheduled services to link the Auckland, Matamata, the Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch using two Douglas DC-3 "Hawaiian" aircraft. The “Hawaiian’ was described as “a swept-up version of the well-known Dakota aircraft used by the National Airways Corporation. Fitted with extra large windows to ensure a wider view of scenic attractions, the aircraft has comfortable seating capacity for 31 passengers.” Matamata’s Mayor, Mr K. N. Gouk, was delighted with the news saying, “I am sure the Council will vigorously support the establishment of the proposed air service. If successful in the application for a licence, the service will bring Matamata into line with modern developments of transport and tourist air travel."

By July 1959 four routes were proposed
Route 1: Auckland – Matamata – Tauranga – Masterton - Wellington. Four return services per week.
Route 2: Tauranga – Matamata – Hamilton - New Plymouth – Nelson – Blenheim -Christchurch. Two return services per week. 
Route 3: Napier – Takapau – Masterton - Blenheim, connecting with N.A.C. - Nelson and Christchurch. Two return services per week.
Route 4: Auckland – Matamata - Hamilton (N.A.C. connections) -Tauranga (Gisborne connection) - Napier.

In late July 1959 two meetings were held in Matamata to give locals the opportunity of becoming shareholders and also to discuss timetables and the advantages of the new service. Keen interest was displayed by Matamata businessmen and as a result local capital was invested. Captain R Daniell stressed that one of the many benefits to Matamata from direct air flights would be that the Matamata businessman who needed to go to Wellington on business could spend four hours in Wellington and be back in Matamata the same day. Captain Daniell also pointed out that the development of Matamata on a main air route would naturally be a further step in the development of Matamata as a tourist area.

A year later the airline was still to get airborne. Matamata’s hopes to be included in the new airlines network were stunted in June 1960 when it was announced that Matamata was not being included in the routes as the Waharoa airfield was not licenced for DC-3 operations due to the height of trees on the northern approach. A meeting of  representatives from the Piako and Matamata County Councils, the Te Aroha, Morrinsville and Matamata Borough Councils, the Te Aroha Chambers of Commerce and the Piako Aero Club was convened with the aim of ensuring the airfield was brought up to DC-3 standard. The trees were duly dealt with and Matamata was assured that SPANZ would provide a three-day-a-week service to Matamata provided that Waharoa airfield was granted a licence for DC-3 operations.

On the 22nd of November 1960 the Matamata County Mail announced the news the town leaders wanted to hear, As from December 14, Matamata will be linked by air services to main centres of New Zealand as well as many other towns. South Pacific Airlines of New Zealand, Ltd., will operate three southbound and two northbound services each week from the Waharoa Airfield. Recently representatives of the Company, Civil Aviation officials and members of local bodies held a conference on the airfield to see what could be done to bring it up to required standard. As a result of this conference, the major obstacle has been overcome. This was the fact that the main highway did not give a satisfactory angle of take-off from the airfield and the company was faced with either patrolling the highway at specified times or finding extra airfield space to increase the runway on the eastern side. A lease of sufficient area of land has been obtained by the company and the necessary preparation is well in hand for the initial flight. Specially converted DC-3's, Viewmasters, will be operated by the company. These aircraft have been especially chosen for sight-seeing and have specially constructed view windows. Incorporating the latest ideas for passenger comfort, convenience and pleasure, the aircraft will seat 31 passengers. The proposed Matamata service is:-
Mondays: An early morning flight to Masterton-Christchurch, linking with the service to Dunedin and Invercargill.
Wednesdays: An afternoon flight to Napier and Masterton.
Fridays: An early afternoon service to Napier, Masterton and Blenheim.
Northbound services are:-
Mondays and Fridays: An afternoon flight to Auckland.

The President of Matamata Visitors' Bureau, Mr H. G. Harris, commented, “Linking Matamata with New Zealand centres such as Napier, Masterton, Blenheim and other main cities with weekly eights from Waharoa is yet another factor in the fast development of Matamata as a tourist centre. Not only will these service's attract visitors to Matamata but the charter flights service run in conjunction by the Company will enable visitors to Matamata having the opportunity to have scenic flights over the North Island departing from and returning to Matamata. This alone should attract an increasing number of visitors to Matamata."

On the 11th of December 1960 Airlines of New Zealand brought their Douglas DC-3 Viewmaster ZK-BYD to Matamata as part of a promotional tour the visited Hamilton, New Plymouth, Nelson, Christchurch, Oamaru and Alexandra, Blenheim, Wellington, Masterton, Napier and Matamata before returning to Auckland. The Matamata County Mail reported the event a couple of days later.

A crowd of over 300 at Waharoa airfield last Sunday saw Captain R. D. Daniell pilot Airlines of New Zealand's new Viewmaster D.C. 3 to a perfect touch down on the company's inaugural flight from Alexandra in the south to Auckland in the north. The arrival of the shining, brightly coloured aircraft marking Matamata's air linkage throughout New Zealand was a fitting tribute to those of the community who have laboured through the years to maintain Waharoa airfield. The first of the twice-weekly northbound flights will be on Thursday, December 15 and the first of the thrice-weekly southbound services will take off on Friday, December 16. To introduce the new service, the company choose the "Viewmaster" ahead of turbo-prop aircraft because this aircraft can operate in complete safety from grass airfields barred through-out the country to the prop-jets. Impressions gained by the County Mail from a courtesy flight on Sunday, are:- From two five-foot long windows on each side of the fuselage of the "Viewmaster" - other windows are also enlarged - passengers get an uninterrupted panoramic view. Other refinements in the aircraft include intercom which enables the crew to keep passengers informed on flight progress. Short commentaries can also be given on scenic attractions being flown over. And throughout all flight passengers are looked after by smartly dressed girl pursers... Fitted with 32 adjustable seats in eight -rows of four, the cabin of the aircraft is tastefully decorated in a powder blue ceiling, pink and mushroom walls, fawn carpets and tan fabric upholstered chairs. Each passenger has his individual cool vent and reading lamps. Ash trays for in-flight smoking are set in the arm rests. The temperature of the cabin is controlled and the buffet enables provision of adequate refreshments. The aircraft is painted a glistening white along the top of the fuselage and the letters A of NZ run vertically down the broad tail-fin.

A letter of greeting was sent by Mr R. J. Larkin president, Matamata Chamber of Commerce to his fellow presidents in Napier, Masterton, Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch, Oamaru and Auckland and also to the Mayor of Alexandra on the occasion of the inaugural flight of Air-lines of New Zealand connecting those towns last Sunday. In his letter to the Mayor of Alexandra, Mr Larkin said:- On the occasion of the inaugural flight by Airlines of New Zealand from the Waharoa aerodrome, I desire to extend the warmest greetings to you and to all citizens of Alexandra from the Matamata Chamber of Commerce. We pay tribute to Mr F. E. Harris and other members of the Piako County Council, to the Piako Aero Club, to Mr A. E. Wrigley and more recently Mr H. Baigent of our Chamber and to all in the district who by their faith and vision have preserved the Waharoa aerodrome for this historic flight which will prove to be only the forerunner of many yet to come. The Waharoa aerodrome constructed as it was during the grim war years when the threat of invasion was very real was later honoured by the Queen's Flight during Her Majesty's visit to the Dominion and it is a tribute to the servicemen at the helm of Airlines of New Zealand that this company should show the way in providing a passenger and express freight service linking our district with you. You and your fellow citizens of Alexandra will no doubt share our pleasure that once again private enterprise has overcome all obstacles to give a service as distinctive as the planes it operates. It should not be forgotten that like Alexandra, Matamata is also the centre of a host of attractions for the tourist. Whether they come on business or pleasure bent, you and your fellow citizens will find the same warm welcome that we know awaits us from you in Alexandra. May God prosper this service and all who use and operate it.

A great series of shots of Douglas DC-3 Viewmaster ZK-BYD at Matamata on a scheduled service.
Date unknown. Photos J Schwartz via F B Gavin Collection

On the 15th of December 1960 ZK-BYD operated Matamata’s first scheduled service with the Viewmaster flying a scheduled Christchurch – Blenheim – Wellington – Masterton –Napier – Matamata - Auckland service. The original schedule saw flights a Monday morning flight from Matamata to Masterton and Christchurch, a Wednesday afternoon service to Napier, Masterton and Christchurch and a Friday afternoon service to Napier, Masterton, Blenheim and Christchurch. Afternoon flights from Matamata to Auckland operated on Mondays and Thursdays. The arrival of Airlines of New Zealand meant that Matamata, Masterton, Oamaru and Alexandra received regular services to main centres for the first time. 
MOTAT photo

In the first five weeks of the service 150 passengers were carried north and south from Matamata. Travel between Matamata and Christchurch was most popular with 40 passengers while Matamata-Napier totalled 31. Passengers came from as far away as Tokoroa, Mangakino, Rotorua, Mount Maunganui and Morrinsvile to use the service.

The schedule was increased to a six day a week service from the 14th of March 1961. The new schedule connected Matamata with Wellington.

The SPANZ schedule effective 14 March 1961

But also in March 1961 Captain R. Anderson, Airlines of New Zealand’s operations manager, told the Matamata County Mail that, "Unless something is done not only to increase traffic but also to improve the airfield, my company will be forced to review the place of Matamata on our scheduled flights." The company was using the Piako Aero Club’s clubrooms as a terminal. These contained a lounge, toilet and refreshment facilities but these faciliites were considered poor. Rapidly growing grass on the runways and a rough entrance drive and a general state of deterioration was also cited as needing attention.

The SPANZ schedule effective 8 June 961

In the first six months of services to Matamata to the 1st of July 1961 1378 passengers flew in or out of Matamata. During this period the airline experienced an operating loss of £21,949. By the end of the year the company was in dire straits.

On the 7th of October 1961 Matamata was included in SPANZ’s Figure 8 Route, a weekend aerial tour of New Zealand that left Auckland and flew south through Matamata, Hamilton, Napier, Masterton, Blenheim, Nelson, Hokitika and Invercargill. The following day the flight flew from Invercargill to Alexandra, Oamaru, Timaru and Christchurch before returning to Auckland all for the price of £35-0-0.

In December 1961 Matamata was included in a Gisborne-Matamata-Hamilton-Auckland  service and all Matamata passengers to and from Auckland passed through Hamilton.

By now the airlines was in serious financial straits and the airline decided to drop Matamata as a destination. The last scheduled service to Matamata was operated by Douglas DC-3 Viewmaster ZK-BYD on the 10th of February 1962.

In late March 1962 Captain R. D. Daniell, general manager of Airlines of New Zealand, told the Matamata Jaycee meeting that his company would recommence regular air services through Matamata provided the company can survive its present acute economic problems. He said that it was considered economic to operate the Viewmaster aircraft if the average passenger uplift per flight totalled five persons. He added that the 12 months figures out of Matamata showed an average uplift of three to three-and-a-half persons. Captain Daniell told the Jaycees that his Board had decided to meet their drastic position with drastic action. This resulted in severe retrenchments among the staff and the curtailment of services to Matamata. "We are in no position to run the airline on, potential, he said, "we have been right through our entire operation with a fine tooth comb in an effort to cut costs. We met with reasonable success and if we can maintain our present level of economy I feel that we will give every consideration to coming back to Matamata, we certainly didn't want to pull out of this town." He said that the company's present forward planning catered for heavy concentration on closed circuit package tours in which Matamata could be a focal point.

06 December 2019

Operating 2 Hours Later

Air Chathams have announced a slight change to its Norfolk Island timetable.  With increasing numbers of departures from Auckland International Airport and for improved operational efficiency the airline is moving the weekly Friday departure time to Norfolk Island. As from the 28th of February 2020, the flights will depart Auckland at 11:00am (NZ time) - instead of 9:00am and from Norfolk Island at 1:20pm (Norfolk Island time) instead of 11.20am.

The new schedule will allow same day travel from a number of domestic airports to and from Norfolk Island.

05 December 2019

More from France

The last photos from my trip to France... Had a little time to plane spot at Lyon... good spot but lousy weather

CityJEt British Aerospace Avro RJ85 EI-RJF at  Pau Pyrénées Airport on 13 October 2019

Volotea Airlines EI-EXI Boeing 717 at Lyon on 18 October 2019

HOP Bombardier CRJ-701 F-GRZJ landing at Lyon on 18 October 2019... I flew on it to Rome the following day

Air France Airbus A320 F-HBNL at Lyon on 18 October 2019

Flybe Embraer ERJ-175 G-FBJA landing at Lyon on 18 October 2019

EasyJet Airbus A319 OE-LQU at Lyon on 18 October 2019

KLM Boeing 737-700NG PH-BGH at Lyon on 18 October 2019

Pegasus Airlines' Airbus A320 TC-NBL at Lyon on 18 October 2019

04 December 2019

Jetstar Withdrawal Offers Other Opportunities

An interesting piece from the Marlborough Express... The same may well be true for flights out of Whanganui Airport...

Jetstar has done Marlborough a favour by pulling flights from regional centres in New Zealand, the region's tourism boss says. Destination Marlborough chairman Nigel Gould said Blenheim could see an increase in tourism now that Jetstar has left Nelson Airport, removing price competition between the region's two airports. "Anybody looking at pricing comparative positions between Nelson-Auckland and Blenheim-Auckland [flight paths] will immediately see the prices are almost in the same position, which is great," he said. "It that means Blenheim is now considered, officially, the gateway into the top of the south, and is on an equal footing with Nelson." Jetstar ended flights from Nelson, Napier, Palmerston North and New Plymouth in late November, saying rising fuel prices and a slowing economy made them unsustainable. Gould said the knock-on effects were "already very apparent" in Blenheim. A search of the Air NZ website showed flights to Auckland cost about the same from Blenheim and Nelson. Marlborough Airport chief executive Dean Heiford said it was too soon to see an increase in passenger numbers, but he expected more Marlburians would travel though Marlborough's airport, rather than Nelson's, in future. "There have been a lot of cheaper options out of Nelson [Airport] in the past, but now, with Jetstar leaving, we will see an equalisation of fares, so there's no advantage to going to one airport over another," Heiford said. He said Jetstar leaving Nelson reduced chances it would join Marlborough. "One of the things Nelson Airport had over Marlborough Airport was sheer numbers, with a higher number of passengers serviced in a year," he said. "It's a market other airline companies are looking to get into, and with us having less passengers, it's not viable to have a third contender yet." When asked if Marlborough Airport was still looking at attracting airlines, he said the company was "always looking at other options" for the public. "Competition brings the prices down, both out of Marlborough, and into it." Destination Marlborough general manager Jacqui Lloyd said Jetstar's departure would help give airlines and tourism companies a "more rounded picture" of who travelled in and out of Marlborough. This could impact ticket pricing, flight frequency or flight routes. "We've heard anecdotally that people will go to Nelson to fly domestically, so then airlines think there's no need for more flights to come out of Blenheim. This will make a difference." Jetstar's departure also gave Sounds Air, a Marlborough company which also operated in Nelson, a "great opportunity" in the top of the south, she said. Lloyd and Gould presented Destination Marlborough's 2019-20 annual plan to the Marlborough District Council's planning, finance and communities committee last week. The annual report showed Marlborough's seven-month tourism season, which ran from October to April, was extending, Gould said.

03 December 2019

Look out for further growth

Nelson-based airline Originair is looking to increase its Palmerston North flights and plans to resume other North Island services after getting its own operating certificate. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued Originair its own Part 125 Airline Operator Certificate (AOC), allowing the company to operate its 18-seat Jetstream aircraft independently from November 29. Since 2015 Originair had operated its services through contracted arrangements with other AOC holders. Chief executive Robert Inglis said while such an arrangement was not uncommon - as Air New Zealand had done with Air Nelson or Jetstar with Eastern Airlines - receiving its own certificate would provide a sound foundation for Originair's future development. "We were doing that because we were operating under a modest operation and the overhead costs of holding your own certificate are really significant. "The team of senior persons that have to be approved by the CAA is quite extensive and a lot of cost comes with that ... it's been a lengthy process - over a year - and it's something that the CAA doesn't take lightly. "The key thing really is we're not planning to offer any major network - we do have to look at some modest expansion of our fleet because the overhead costs of obtaining our AOC means we have to be able to amortise the costs of those overheads - our aim is to really offer Nelson some more choice." Originair was established in 2015 and has provided services to Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Napier and Wellington, prior to Jetstar's entry to that route.  Currently the airline only flew passenger services between Nelson and Palmerston North. Flights to New Plymouth were affected by Jetstar's plan to stop its services to regional New Zealand at the end of November. It left Originair without check-in and tarmac services operated by Jetstar's handling company. The airline plans to resume direct services when New Plymouth's multi-million dollar new airport terminal is opened early next year, and will use its own handling staff. Inglis said Originair still had an interest in resuming its Napier route in the near future as well as "one or two other sectors" that offered flyers another destination of choice in the North Island. "We're really pleased with our services to Palmerston [North] - that's been very well supported - for Nelson people especially it gives them a springboard to other North Island destinations - you've got the Wairarapa, Hawke's Bay and Whanganui areas all within about an hours drive from there - we will be looking to expand on our service there through frequency."

30 November 2019

Jetstar's Regional Network Laid to Rest

Jetstar ended its regional operations Bombardier Q300 services this evening. Jetstar's last regional flight, JQ378, from Nelson to Auckland has just landed. 

The Auckland-based regional operations began on the 1st of December 2015. Initially flights were offered from Auckland to Napier and Nelson. On the first day of operations Q300 VH-SBI flew Napier–Auckland–Nelson–Auckland–Napier as “SCR 350/371/372/357”. On the 1st of February 2016 flights began between Auckland and New Plymouth (first flight operated by VH-SBI), Auckland and Palmerston North (first flight operated by VH-TQM) and Nelson and Wellington.

By March 2016 Jetstar was operating its full schedule of 27 flights per week from Auckland to each of its regional ports, that is, Napier, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Auckland, and 21 flights per week between Nelson and Wellington

The initial frequency was found to be too high and the schedule for winter 2017 saw flights reduced to 14 flights a week between Auckland and New Plymouth and 22 flights per week between Auckland and Palmerston North. The services between Wellington and Nelson were reduced from 3 to 2 daily flights. There continued to be seasonal fluctuation over the coming years.

In announcing the decision to end the regional services on the 25th of September 2019 Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans said the decision came about due to an increase in costs and a drop in demand. "We understand there will be disappointment in regional centres at today's announcement," he said. "The New Zealand regional market is facing some headwinds, with softer demand and higher fuel costs and we don't see the outlook changing any time soon. "We have given it a real go. However, despite four years of hard work - including becoming the most on-time of the two major regional airlines and having high customer satisfaction - our regional network continues to be loss-making." The airline had lost $20 million flying the regional network last year.

Lining up at Auckland Airport for the last day's services, Jetstar Bombardier Q300s VH-TQD, VH-TQL VH-SBI VH-TQM. Thanks to Philip Kyle for this awesome historical photo.  

The final services into Auckland on 30 November 2019

On the final day of operations the following sectors were operated.

VH-SBI operated AKL-NSN (JQ371), NSN-WLG (JQ391), WLG-NSN (JQ390), NSN-AKL (JQ372), AKL-NSN (JQ375) NSN-WLG (JQ395) WLG-NSN (JQ394), NSN-AKL (JQ376)

VH-TQD operated AKL-PMR (JQ381), PMR-AKL (JQ382), AKL-NPL (JQ361), NPL-AKL (JQ362), AKL-NPE (JQ355), NPE-AKL (JQ356), AKL-NSN (JQ377) , NSN-AKL (JQ378)

VH-TQL operated AKL-NPE (JQ351), NPE-AKL (JQ352), AKL-NPE (JQ353), NPE-AKL (JQ354), AKL-NPE (JQ355), NPE-AKL (JQ356), AKL-NPL (JQ365), NPL-AKL (JQ364), AKL-PMR (JQ387), PMR-AKL (JQ388)

VH-TQM operated AKL-NSN (JQ377), NSN-AKL (JQ378), AKL-NSN (JQ373), NSN-WLG (JQ393), WLG-NSN (JQ392), NSN-AKL (JQ374),

Over the four years Jetstar operated six Bombardier Q300s on its regional services...

VH-SBI at Auckland on 19 January 2019
VH-SBW at Auckland on 3 December 2017
VH-TQD at Auckland on 1 August 2016
VH-TQK at Auckland on 5 April 2018
VH-TQL at Auckland on 20 January 2019
VH-TQM at Nelson on 24 January 2018

29 November 2019

Whakatāne Saab services commence

Air Chathams commenced Saab 340 services to Whakatāne today with the first flights, 3C 824 to Whakatāne and the return flight to Auckland 3C 829 being flown in Saab 340 ZK-KRA under the command of Captain Mitch Brady and First Office Jacob Stead while the passengers were under the care of Flight Attendant Nicki Hayes.

The Saabs will operate the Friday afternoon flights from Auckland to Whakatāne at 3.15pm and 6.35pm and the Whakatāne to Auckland Friday afternoon service at 4.45pm. It will also operate the Saturday morning 8.00am flight from Whakatāne to Auckland. On Sundays the Saab will operate from Auckland to Whakatāne at 11.00am and 6.15pm, and from Whakatāne to Auckland at 4.45pm. On Mondays the Saab will operate the morning flight from Whakatāne to Auckland at 6.45am.

First Officer Jacob Stead

Saab 340 ZK-KRA at Whakatane on the inaugural flight on 29 November 2019

Originair Airborne... Again

After a year of not operating regular services, Originair today resumed scheduled operations. BAe Jestream 31 ZK-JSH operating flight OG3215 with the callsign ORIGIN 31 has departed from Nelson for Palmerston North and will later operate flight OG3216 from Palmerston North to Nelson. The company's reservation system shows this is the recommencement of regular services between Nelson and Palmerston North. In recent days Originair said it would recommence New Plymouth and Napier services once the new terminals are complete and new handlers have been found for their flights. Previously Swissport, which handled the Jetstar services, serviced the Originair flights.

Originair's problems began in September last year when air2there, which operated Originair's services ceased operations. The Jetstream ZK-JSH operated a Nelson-Palmerston North-Nelson service with callsign AIR2THERE 61 on the 12th of September 2018 and the Jetstream has not flown on regular services since.

Originair then used aircraft from Air Chathams, Skyline Aviation and Air Wanganui to operate their services until the weekend of the 30th of November 2018 when services ceased. Some holiday flights were operated for Originair at Easter and in September by Air Wanganui.

In a press release today Originair announced that This week the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) issued a Part 125 Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to Nelson-based airline Originair.

“We are very pleased to receive our Air Operator’s Certificate as this provides a sound foundation for our future and security for our customers,” said Originair’s CEO Robert Inglis.

“Since 2015 we have operated our services through contracted arrangements with other AOC holders however it’s now time to base the next phase of operational development on our own Air Operator’s Certificate. Originair will operate its own Jetstream aircraft independently from 29 November 2019.”

Originair's schedule shows the airline is currently intending to operate four services each week between Nelson and Palmerston North.

Also being prepared for service

Thanks to Mitch Brady for these great pictures of Air Chathams' Douglas DC-3 ZK-AWP which is also being prepared for service. The DC-3 will be offering scenic flights around the North Island over the summer.

28 November 2019

Being prepared for service...

Thanks to Richard Currie for this picture of Pilatus PC12 ZK-PCB being prepared for service with Sounds Air at Omaka today, 28 November 2019. Certainly one to watch out for over the summer. PLB is Sounds Air's sixth PC12.

26 November 2019

Shire Service Still to Take Off

Flights from Auckland to Matamata for Hobbiton fans are expected to bring "vibrancy" and "life" to a tired airfield. Fly My Sky, a Qualmark Gold endorsed, New Zealand-owned airline based at Auckland Airport, recently announced the introduction of flights and tours to the Hobbiton Movie Set, New Zealand's third largest tourism destination. The scheduled flights and tours will operate return journeys twice daily, seven days a week. The service will operate between Auckland Airport and Matamata (Waharoa) Aerodrome using Fly My Sky's twin-engine Britten Norman Islander aircraft, capable of transporting up to 9 passengers and accompanying luggage. Fly My Sky Director, Keith McKenzie said the company has been working with Hobbiton for months and is very excited to be the first to provide a flight service for Hobbiton tourists. "Often travellers in Auckland would like to go to places like the Hobbiton Movie Set, but don't have the time. This service will allow Hobbiton fans to visit the destination without the added hours on the motorway," McKenzie said. "It will also give an add experience to complement the Hobbiton Movie Set experience with a specular view over the country, which is nothing like anywhere in this world." The flight company will be using a pre-existing site at the Waharoa Aerodrome and shuttle services will take the travellers to the Hobbiton Movie Set site.​ While flights were meant to begin on November 18,  Fly My Sky Director, Keith McKenzie, said no bookings have been made yet. "We've had a delay in being able to advertise these flights due to strict rulings on the 'Hobbiton' brand and putting procedures in place, which has slowed down the process. At this stage we are busy doing large amounts of marketing with wholesalers and retailers with a great amount of interest being shown. "We expect future bookings to be very popular, but like any new business it will take some time to gain significant traction and become an established product. "We are looking forward to establishing a regular service to Matamata and the Hobbiton movie set during the summer season and a slightly reduced service during the winter." Hobbiton has worked with many coach and helicopter providers out of Auckland but this is the first providing transfers via plane. "It's great to have more transport options available for visitors looking to visit us here at Hobbiton Movie Set. We're very supportive of this new tour experience and look forward to hosting their guests using the service," Hobbiton general manager of sales and marketing Shayne Forrest said. "The tour experience once the visitors arrive at Hobbiton Movie Set will be consistent with our other tours. Like all other Auckland providers, they will be transferring guests to our location on Buckland road where they will join one of our tours of the Movie Set." Local Matamata aerodrome users are also excited about the possible tourism opportunities to come out of the Hobbiton flights. "They [My Sky] didn't consult with us but we support any activity that will bring life to the airfield and benefit Waharoa and Matamata," Matamata Aero Club president Anna Doerr said. "We know there has been a bit of a discussion about the flights, with the aerodrome being a recreational airfield, but we have no problem with the service." Sky Venture pilot Peter Ryan, who regularly flys in and out of Waharoa Aerodrome, said it's a smart move for the Matamata township and hopes it's a catalyse of more to come. "We've had no consultation with the users to my knowledge, but they're just going to be bring people into Matamata to Hobbiton, which commercially is a good thing," Ryan said. "They won't interfere with the flying people here because it will just be an aeroplane arriving and later on it will be departing. "It's a good commercial decision going on. Hobbiton people pay a lot of rates and bring a lot of money into the town so I would encourage that. Aligning with the Provincial Growth Fund to expand on the use of the Waharoa Aerodrome, Ryan said he would also like to see the old aerodrome campsite to open again. The campgrounds closed in 2017 after an investigation into allegations against the campground's cleaner. "Ten to 15 years ago it was bringing in $23,000 a year, with Hobbiton growing like it is it would be bring in $40,000, so we won't have to worry about landing fees for visitors and instead make it welcoming for all visitors.

NAC getting airborne again

Being repainted in NAC colours is Air Chathams' Douglas DC-3 ZK-AWP... One presumes it is because it will be 80 years since the start of TEAL next year... Air New Zealand tends to take this as it "birthday"

ZK-AWP was last repainted in NAC colours in 2000.

25 November 2019

Jim Jamieson RIP

I received sad news this evening that Jim Jamieson has passed away in Oxford... A long time resident of Hokitika Jim was a keen aviation enthusiast and historian with a particular interests in aircraft modelling and West Coast aviation history. For many years he serviced the Air Nelson flights at Hokitika and was often at the Hokitika Airport at night to switch on the runway lights for med evac flights. He was one of the influences on me developing my passion for aviation.

May he rest in peace.

But are they going to restart operations?

Originair summer flights between New Plymouth and Nelson have been temporarily grounded. The airline will resume direct services between New Plymouth and Nelson when New Plymouth's muilt-million dollar new airport terminal is opened early next year. Originair's flights to New Plymouth have been affected by Jetstar's plan to stop its services to regional New Zealand at the end of November, managing director Robert Inglis said. "Their handling company, Swissport, has carried out check-in and tarmac services for both Jetstar and Originair. This Swissport service will also be terminating at the end of this month when Jetstar services cease. "[We] have initially engaged staff at Palmerston North and will do likewise at New Plymouth and Napier in the future. At New Plymouth we plan to coincide this step with the opening of the new terminal early next year." Passengers on affected flights have already been rebooked on to alterative flights at no additional cost. "Originair has enjoyed providing a direct link to Nelson for New Plymouth travellers and look forward to doing so in the future from the new terminal." The airline launched a direct flight between Nelson and New Plymouth in 2017.

24 November 2019


I caught three helicopters at Rotorua on 15 November 2019...

Beck Helicopter's Bell UH-1B ZK-HHA

Volcanic Air's Eurocopter AS 350 B2 ZK-IVA

...and Advanced Flight's Bell 429 ZK-IXW

I had caught this machine on 18 June 2019 from my backyard while it was checked the HT lines...