21 October 2020


There was no SPANZ DC-3 at Matamata on Sunday but it was nice to get a couple of other interesting visitors...

Boeing Stearman ZK-XAF at Matamata on 18 October 2020

NZ Aerospace CT/4B Airtrainer ZK-JMV at Matamata on 18 October 2020

20 October 2020

Air Chat's ATR Flying Scheduled to Christchurch


Air Chathams commenced scheduled ATR 72 operations into Christchurch with ZK-MCO flying the weekly flight from the Chathams to the Garden City, flight 3C 514 and the return flight 3C 541. 

Thanks to the two spotters from Christchurch who kindly sent in their capturing of the first Christchurch flight...

And a note to Air Chats, some decent titles would look good!

19 October 2020

Hamilton for Lunch


Originair commenced services to Hamilton this morning with BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-JSK under the command of Captain Murray Vincent and First Officer Josh Hutchison flying the first of its weekday services, OGN 419 from Palmerston North to Hamilton and the return service OGN 426. The service is being at the middle of the day with the flight into Hamilton arriving at 11.50am and the southbound flight departing at 1.00pm. The new service allows passengers to fly between Nelson and Hamilton with a stop in Palmerston North. The airline has indicated it may look at a more business friendly timetable in the new year. 

It was a gray and gloomy day outside but all sunny yellow inside as Hamilton airport prepared to welcome its first Originair flight 

Originair's BAe Jetstream 32 on touchdown of Hamilton's Runway 36

Welcome to Hamilton

Palmerston North airport departures...  

Hamilton airport arrivals...

In addition to the new service Originair is now operating more services between Nelson and Palmerston North and Nelso and Wellington. The new schedule requires the use of two Jetstreams and ZK-JSH was operating the Wellington services this morning.  

And finally, a note to Originair... You need to overnight a Jetstream in Hamilton then do a HLZ-PMR-NSN return in the morning and then repeated in the late afternoon/evening. Good for business folk in all three cities and having Hamilton as the starting point would mean the fog would have cleared by the time you get back to back to the Tron in the morning!

18 October 2020

Tail Draggers at the Tron

In the circuit at Hamilton of 3 October 2020 was Piper Cub ZK-BQV

At, the same time, after a refeul Cessna 185 ZK-CES was on the taxi to be tied down for the night.


17 October 2020

A Longer Runway on the Way


Chathams Island Airport Limited has signed an agreement with the Government’s “Shovel Ready” project agent, Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP), for stage one of an anticipated two stage project to construct a Lengthened and Strengthened airport for the Chathams Islands. The project’s goal is to lengthen the current runway at the Inia William Tuuta Memorial Airport from its present 1370 meters to 1800 metres and strengthen it to carry larger aircraft in the code 4 c category – Boeing 737/Airbus A 320 class of aircraft. On completion the project will provide airport facilities to serve the island’s needs for the next 30-50 years. Government ministers have approved initial funding for stage one which will facilitate the identification of a suitably experienced and capable contractor, finalisation of project design and establish the overall project cost. Subject to successful completion of stage one, a project cost within the anticipated funding envelope and the receipt of further ministerial approvals, the aim is to be able to commence the construction of the extended runway in mid 2021 with completion envisaged in mid 2022. Initial geotechnical investigations, survey and preliminary design were completed in 2018/19 with funding from the Governments Provincial Growth Fund. The current investigations under stage one serve to refine that work, update costs and explore options for innovation to ensure what the Chatham Islands needs for its future social and economic development are established and the project is completed for acceptable costs. An interesting aspect of the current investigations is the review of how the original airport was built, including gathering information from some of the local people who were involved in the 1982 project, that information is proving to be extremely valuable. The project engineers, BECA Limited, are assisting the CIAL with the project contractual processes, leading the design and will be managing the project.

Mu2 Magic

If I had to choose a favourite 10-seat commuter aircraft I think it would have to be th Mitusbishi Mu2... such a superb looking aircraft... 

 Unfortunately there are no Mitsubishi Mu2s in airline service in New Zealand, BUT there were

Can you name the three airlines that used them?
And do you know the regos?

15 October 2020

Air Chathams Commence ATR operations to the Chathams.

Air Chathams have commenced ATR operations to the Chatham Islands today with ATR 72-500 ZK-MCO just airborne from Auckland on its first flight to the Chatham Islands. This marks the next chapter of air services to the Chatham Islands.

The move comes after some weeks ago Air Chathams announced that their Convair 580s will be retired from the fleet in 2021. In preparation for the Chatham Islands service the ATR was fitted with a HF radio. The ATR remains a passenger aircraft first and foremost, but some seat bags have been made with some modifications to carry a small amount of freight in the aircraft cabin. Modifications have been made to the galley to enable life rafts to be carried.  The ATR will have 2 flight attendants on board as opposed to the Convair's one. 

Today's flight does not mark the end of the Convairs flying passenger services to the Chatham Islands. They will continue to be used until such time as the finally retired next year. 

It will fly the first flight out of the Chathams tomorrow as flight 3C 512 to Wellington before returning to the Chathams as 3C 521.

ZK-MCO on the gate for final boarding at Auckland on 15 October 2020 

My profile on Air Chathams has been updated to include news from the last eight months...

How many airlines have flown regular services to the Chathams???
A list of the airlines that have flown to the Chathams can be found here...
...and of course Air Chathams has been the most successful!

14 October 2020

Hokitika update


From the 2nd of November 2020 Air New Zealand is adding two more flights to its Hokitika Christchurch return service which gets it back up to 92% service of operations prior to the Covid lockdown. The extra days will be added on Tuesdays and Fridays. 

This will give Hokitika two daily return weekday flights and a single return flight on Sundays. 

It is great to see Air New Zealand rebuilding the regional air services.

11 October 2020

From Aero Club to Airline - Mercury Airlines

The Mercury Bay Aero Club’s beginnings can be traced back to the 30th of April 1948 when a number of interested men signed their names to a piece of paper expressing a desire to become members of an aero club in Mercury Bay. What instigated the interest initially was when Mr L Russell and Mr H Rees discovered the government had drawn up a proposal for an airfield in Whitianga during World War II. The thinking at the time was that by having its own airfield, Whitianga would gain better access to the outside world as well as creating an opportunity for those locals wanting to learn to fly. 

On 1 October 1948, the Mercury Bay Aero Club became an incorporated society and not long after the first organised, albeit unofficial, flying day took place. Two Tiger Moths were flown from Auckland and landed on Buffalo Beach, where local aviation enthusiasts were taken for joyrides around the Bay. When the tide came in, the planes were pulled up onto Albert Street and parked in a paddock behind what was then the home of the Mercury Bay Bowling Club.

In the early 1950’s, Norman (Boy) Wells expressed an interest in forming an aerial topdressing strip on his Whitianga farm at the northern end of Racecourse Road. The aero club, keen to get something happening, agreed to form the airstrip on Boy’s farm for an agreed sum of 450 pounds, which was to become the start of the club’s aircraft fund. Soon to follow was the start of another fund by way of things such as debentures and scrap metal drives to build a hangar on the land. A temporary strip licence for dual flight training using an Auster aircraft based in Thames was also sought from and approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.

On 26 June 1955, the Mercury Bay Aero Club’s first official flying day took place when 30 club members were taken for dual flight training by Mr B H Packer, an ex-Air Force instructor, who had been duly elected as club instructor. With the runway complete and a hangar under construction, an aircraft of their own was the next priority for club members. They finally settled on a Tiger Moth purchased from the Waikato Aero Club for the sum of 525 pounds.

After the Midland Air Services link to the Coromandel ended members of the Mercury Bay Aero Club, and the local community also believed the basing of an air service at Whitianga was essential. The club had started operations with de Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth ZK-BFH registered to the Mercury Bay Aero Club on the 31st of December 1956. With a growing membership and interest the Tiger Moth was replaced in May 1960 when the Club acquired a Piper PA-18-95 Super Cub, ZK-BWG. This in turn was replaced by a more powerful Piper PA-18A-150 Super Cub, ZK-BRX in 1961.

In mid-1963, following the closure of Midland Air Services, the Mercury Bay Aero Club applied for its own Air Transport Licence. However, they were not the only one applying for a licence and in the end what became Peninsula Air Travel was given rights for non-scheduled and air charter services, with the proviso that it base at least one aircraft at Whitianga, and that the Mercury Bay Aero Club be the first party approached should an additional or replacement aircraft be required. The Mercury Bay Aero Club won rights for scenic flights and joyriding from Whitianga, and if it had the consent of the new airline, air charter services from there also.  Meanwhile the Club had ordered a new Cessna 172D aircraft from the Cessna sales agents, Rural Aviation Ltd in New Plymouth and Cessna 172D ZK-CDJ was registered to the Club on the 5th of December 1963.

The Mercury Bay Aero Club's Cessna 172 ZK-CDJ

Relationships between the two operators soured quickly. In March 1964, the Aero Club complained to the Licensing Authority that Peninsula was using Cessna 172 aircraft hired from Executive Air Travel Ltd (a subsidiary of the Auckland Flying School Ltd), to fly passengers into Whitianga on its behalf. Peninsula in turn accused the Aero Club of operating in quasi-commercial opposition by allowing members to hire the club's Cessna for friends to fly to other centres, even if the hirer did not actually fly in the aircraft.

Peninsula Air Travel was experiencing financial problems and withdrew their hired Cessna 205 from Whitianga, in breach of their licence. In the end the Air Services Licensing Authority resolved the issue stating in its decision, "This Authority is not generally favourably disposed to an aero club being in possession of a commercial licence" but nonetheless, granting the Mercury Bay Aero Club non-scheduled rights for services between Whitianga, Thames, Ardmore and Whenuapai, and air charter rights from Whitianga, with one Cessna 172 aircraft and one additional aircraft of similar capacity.

The Mercury Bay Aero Club flew its first service, presumably in the Cessna 172 ZK-CDJ, on the morning of 9 November 1964. Geoff Norman flew three passengers to Whenuapai and returned with one from there and also picked up another at Ardmore. To provide backup, the club took delivery of a French built Morane­-Saulnier MS.880B Rallye ZK-CDB just eleven days later. The Rallye was the only aircraft of its type used on “airline” service in New Zealand. The Piper Super Cub, ZK-BRX, was sold in January 1965.

The Mercury Bay Aero Club's MS Rallye ZK-CDB. I don't know the location. Can you help?

From just after Christmas 1964 until late January, the club flew the Auckland Star and 8 O'clock Saturday evening sports paper from Auckland to Whitianga, with airdrops at Coromandel, Colville, Whangapoua, Hahei and Tairua. They also flew the Waikato Times from Hamilton with a landing at Thames and drops at Coromandel and Hahei, before arriving at Whitianga. All drops were out the window and no wing racks were used. Norman tried the Rallye several times on the paper drops but found it unsafe because of the need to slide the canopy open to eject the papers. This destroyed the airflow at very critical flight times. The Rallye was relegated to club flying, training, and was utilised on the Auckland service.

The Aero Club was keen to purchase their own airfield and on the 4th of May 1965 a proposal was put forward to obtain 200 acres of land owned by Mr R Rohrlach. The price was £15,000. After arranging suitable finance, a resolution was eventually passed at a meeting on the 16th of February 1966 that the Mercury Bay Aero Club should take the bold step to purchase the land. The Club constructed two long airstrips and a 5000 square foot hangar, mostly with volunteer labour and the current airport was opened in November 1968.

By 1966 Owen Whiting was employed as part-time commercial pilot because of the increasing workload. Another Piper Super Cub, ZK-BKW, was on the line at the Club from January 1967 to October 1968. The Rallye was sold in June 1968 being replaced in the training role by AESL Airtourer 115 ZK-CWD. In December 1968 Cessna 172 ZK-CXD was added to the fleet.

The Mercury Bay's Aero Club Victa Airtourer ZK-CWD.

After the sale of the Rallye the Mercury Bay Aero Club's two Cessna 172s ZK-CDJ and ZK-CXD aircraft were the mainstay for operating the twice-daily air service from Whitianga to Auckland. However, with growing numbers using the air service the Club looked for a larger aircraft.

The Mercury Bay Aero Club's Cessna 172 ZK-CXD

Selected was a three-engined de Havilland Australia DHA.3 Drover ZK-DDD which was purchased in Australia in 1970 and flown to New Zealand by Geoff Norman. From the introduction of the Drover on 14 November 1970 the airline service was known as 'Mercury Airlines.'

Mercury Airlines' DHA-3 Drover, ZK-DDD, at Whitianga on 11 October 1971

Mercury Airlines' DHA-3 Drover, ZK-DDD, at Whitianga on 19 March 1973

The Club’s first Cessna 172, ZK-CDJ, was sold in February 1971. On the 3rd of February 1973 the Club’s Airtourer ZK-CWD was destroyed at Whangamata when it crashed during a cross country flight due to fuel exhaustion.

In August 1975 the Drover was replaced by Cessna 207 Skywagon ZK-DXT and this became Mercury Airlines’ flagship. Supporting the 207 over the next 10 years were a number of Cessna 172 Skyhawks being added to the fleet. ZK-DRT joined the fleet in June 1977, replacing Cessna 172 ZK-CXD. ZK-EJY was on the line from January 1978 to September 1980. ZK-DRT was sold in April 1981 and replaced by ZK-JAZ.

Mercury Airlines' Cessna 172 ZK-EJY at Hokitika in April 1980

By 1986 the Aero Club was looking to divest itself of the Mercury Airlines’ air charter business and the air service to Auckland. To that end Air Services Whitianga Ltd was established which traded as Air Coromandel. The new company took Cessna 207 ZK-DXT and Cessna 172 ZK-JAZ and began operations on the 1st of November 1986.

This marked the end of the Mercury Bay Aero Club’s 22 year operation of the Whitianga to Auckland air service.

Aircraft Operated

AESL Airtourer 115
ZK-CWD - c/n 511

De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth
ZK-BFH - c/n 83343

Cessna 172D
ZK-CDJ - c/n 17250492

Cessna 172I
ZK-CXD - c/n 17256521

Cessna 172M Skyhawk II
ZK-DRT - c/n 17263287

Cessna 172N Skyhawk 
ZK-EJU - c/n 17269288
ZK-EJY - c/n 17269393
ZK-JAZ - c/n 17270686

Cessna 207 Skywagon
ZK-DXT - c/n 20700296

De Havilland Australia DHA.3 Drover Mk.3A
ZK-DDD - c/n 5019

Morane Saulnier MS880B Rallye Club
ZK-CDB - c/n 5302

Piper PA-18-95 Super Cub
ZK-BKW - c/n 18-4673
ZK-BWG - c/n 18-5591

Piper PA-18A-150 Super Cub
ZK-BRX - c/n 18-5686

09 October 2020

Last photos from Auckland

The last photos from my time at Auckland International on 4 October 2020...

Jetstar is back in the air... Airbus 320 VH-VFO

Airbus 320 VH-VFP

Airbus 320 VH-VFX

Air Chathams' Saab 340 ZK-CIZ was off to Paraparaumu

Fly My Sky BN Islanders ZK-EVO

and ZK-PIZ

The only "heavy" I photographed, Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777-300 B-KPI