23 September 2020

The Death of Air New Zealand's last inter-Regional Route


I am somewhat surprised that the Hamilton and Palmerston North newspapers have failed to report on the cessation of the Air New Zealand service between the two centres... not that Air New Zealand has made much attempt to announce their withdrawal from the route.

The Hamilton-Palmerston North route was the last inter-regional route operated by the national carrier. All other domestic sectors operate either between the main centres or from regional centres to or from a main centre.

The Hamilton-Palmerston North service was introduced on the 27th of September 1948 and this was operated by Lockheed Electra aircraft. The first flight was flown in Electra ZK-AFD under the command of Commander R T Mounsey and Junior Commander  K B Fitton. Initially the southbound flight operated from Hamilton to Wellington direct and stopped at Palmerston North of the northbound flight. On the 22nd of October 1948, the National Airways Corporation's Lockheed Electra, ZK-AGK, Kaka, flown by Commander G. M. Hare, was on a flight from Palmerston North to Hamilton when it crashed on the western slope, of Mount Ruapehu. The crew of two and the 11 passengers were killed. 

On the 13th of June 1949 the Electras were replaced by the larger 15 seater Lockheed Lodestars. By 1952 the Lodestars had gone from the fleet and the Douglas DC-3s replaced them on flights between Hamilton and Palmerston North.

In 1966 40-seat Fokker Friendships replaced the DC-3s. The southbound service departed Hamilton at 8.05am for the 1 hour flight to Palmerston North. The flight then carried on to Christchurch. The afternoon service, having arrived from Christchurch, departed Palmerston North at 3.35pm.

As NAC acquired more Boeing 737s the Vickers Viscounts were released to the regional routes and from the 5th of March 1973 the Viscounts took over the Hamilton-Palmerston North-Christchurch route. By this time the Viscounts' days were numbered and from the 21st of July to the 30th of September 1974 there was an unusual addition to the aircraft that operated the Hamilton-Palmerston North route. This was in the form of a Mount Cook Airlines Hawker Siddeley 748 which was chartered to operate the Christchurch-Wellington-Palmerston North-Hamilton services. 

From the 1st of October 1974 NAC's Fokker Friendships took over the daily flight between the two centres and the Friendships continued to operate the NAC service until the 31st of March 1978 and then beyond with Air New Zealand  from the 1st of April 1978.

In August 1980 Air New Zealand announced its intention to trim some of its international and domestic schedules and abandon some routes altogether because of worsening economics. Included in these was the daily Auckland-Hamilton-Palmerston North-Wellington service. Figures given to the Air Services Licencing Authority showed that the Hamilton-Palmerston North service had an average of eight passengers a trip and lost $636,000 a year, and that an average of only 3.2 passengers boarded each Auckland-Hamilton flight for a loss of $625,000 a year. The Hamilton-Palmerston North sector reported revenue of $117,000 compared with costs of $812,700.

On the 16th of June 1980 Eagle Air, which had been operating its own air service between Hamilton and Palmerston North with a Beech Baron and Piper Chieftain, took Air New Zealand Fokker Friendship service between the two provincial services using an 18-seat Embraer Bandeirante. The new service, which also included Auckland and Wanganui, operated three flights a day. This was the beginning of the transformation of this route and turning it into a very profitable inter-regional route. Until the Eagle Air take over NAC and Air New Zealand had only operated a daily service with no thought to being suitable for business traffic. With Eagle Air's flights timed to suit business traffic the numbers using the service grew. 

On the 31st of October 1988 Air New Zealand took over ownership of Air New Zealand. For some time the airline continued to operate in Eagle Air colours but from the 21st of May 1991 the Eagle fleet, along with Air Nelson’s fleet were rebranded as Air New Zealand Link.

With the take over by Air New Zealand Eagle Air the fleet was expanded to include 18-seat Fairchild Metroliners which were used between Hamilton and Palmerston North to replace the  Later the Bandeirantes and Metroliners were replaced Beech 1900s that Eagle Air operated for Air New Zealand.

On the 26th of August 2016 Air New Zealand closed Eagle Air The final Eagle Air services were flown under the command of Captains Peter Reid and Chris Mortimer flying NZ2105 from Hamilton to Palmerston North, NZ2421 from Palmerston North to Wellington, NZ2426 from Wellington to Palmerston North and the final Eagle Air operated service, NZ2106 from Palmerston North to Hamilton.

On the 29th of August 2016 Air Nelson took over the Air New Zealand air service between Hamilton-and Palmerston North. Like Eagle Air before it the Bombardier Q300 left Hamilton early in the morning, had a brief stop in Palmerston North and then continued northbound. A northbound service operated from Wellington through Palmerston North to Hamilton after which the Q300 operated a direct flight to Wellington. The reverse pattern was operated in the afternoon/evening. The Q300 service proved incredibly popular with good loadings considering it upgraded from a twice daily 18-seat Beech 1900 service to a twice daily 50-seat Bombardier Q300 service. 

The Air New Zealand flights between Hamilton and Palmerston North operated until the 24th of March 2020 when the country was placed in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In recent days Air New Zealand has quietly stated their service will not resume.

Meanwhile Originair is positioning itself to commence a Palmerston North-Hamilton service. Sadly their schedule has no appeal for the business traffic which makes up the bulk of the traffic. It will be interesting to see if Originair looks to urgently improve their schedule. Otherwise the route remains ripe for the picking.

22 September 2020

Ardmore Twins

Thanks to Alex for these photos he sent through recently... One wonders if we will ever see a Navajo or Chieftain operating an air service in New Zealand again???

Ex air2there Piper Navajo ZK-WHW at Ardmore on 16 September 2020


Ex Air Nelson Piper Chieftain ZK-NSP at Ardmore on 16 September 2020

Coral Sun Airways Beech Super King Air P2-ALC at Ardmore on 16 September 2020

20 September 2020

Interesting Invercargill News


Business has been up and down at Invercargill Airport but the organisation is bouncing back with traveller numbers increasing steadily. It’s pleasing for the airport’s general manager Nigel Finnerty and commercial and business development manager Julie Jack because they saw the monthly number of people visiting the facility going from 25,000 to 30,000 before lockdown to only 26 in April after the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The number of people through the airport in July was 21,000, compared to 27,000 in July 2019. Travellers are building in numbers and it should continue with Kiwis taking advantage of Air New Zealand’s heavily discounted fares, the upcoming school holidays and planes now back to transporting passengers to full capacity with physical distancing no longer limiting numbers. When Air NZ announced its discounted fares early last week a total of 1400 were snapped up in the first two days on the Invercargill to Auckland and return jet service, its head of tourism and regional affairs Reuben Levermore said. The jet service resumed after lockdown in July but was suspended for four days in August due to alert levels. “Although we had a little setback with recent alert levels and the fact we were unable to sell all the seats on board due to the physical distancing requirements, we see just how much enthusiasm there is for the service ... it’s really encouraging,” Levermore said. Nigel Finnerty and Julie Jack saw signs of passenger numbers growing two weeks after Air NZ had domestic planes back in the air on May 14 when the country went to alert level 2. Business has been up and down but we’ve seen really strong bounce back each time and we can see the demand [going] north and [coming] south is really high,” Finnerty said. Jack added: “The bounce back has way exceeded what we predicted.” 

Also helping has been Stewart Island Flights’ move to changed its timetable to connect with the Auckland-Invercargill jet service. Within an hour of arriving in Invercargill passengers are on a plane to the Island. With the jet’s flight schedule changing in July from 6am departures out of Invercargill and arrivals at 9.30pm to lunchtime arrivals and departures, Finnerty and Jack have seen more tourists on the jet.

Quite a few skiers have been arriving on the jet before travelling by road to Queenstown. Finnerty thought that could be because of physical distancing restricting numbers on planes to Queenstown. One of his long term goals is to have two Invercargill to Auckland and return services operating on the same day.

Source : https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/122789957/increasing-traveller-numbers-passing-through-invercargill-airport

A Sunday Diversion...

Check this out which Fraser sent to me...

Hey Steve, when you get a chance go to google maps, search Tauranga airport, click on satellite, zoom in front of the front of the terminal and get the street-view man and drag it on a little blue bubble that should become visible.. See if you can spot something a little historic parked on the stand in front of the control tower.

It's interesting that the ground level view what of is on the ramp differs from the aerial view... and that is interesting in itself 

19 September 2020

Hamilton-Palmerston North-Wellington Service Officially Cut


Air New Zealand resumed services to all 20 of our ports on our domestic network in June, however we have not resumed services on our Hamilton-Palmerston North-Wellington route due to insufficient demand for our 50-seater Q300 aircraft. 

We have now made the decision not to resume services on this route. Due to the constantly changing environment, the airline is currently making domestic schedule adjustments each month to better align with demand. There are a small number of customers who had booked tickets on this route from mid-February and they will be accommodated via other routes or can hold tickets as a credit. 

Source : Air New Zealand Wing Tips, Issue 5004

The news above will be a major disappointment for the many people who use, in particular, the Hamilton-Palmerston North service which always has many business passengers, often doing a same day return. Originair have announced they are starting a daily return service but the timetable is woefully inadequate for business passengers. The Hamilton-Palmerston North sector, at peak business time, certainly needs something larger than a Jetstream.

The Palmerston North to Wellington sector is probably more problematic as, like the Auckland-Hamilton sector, the centres are too close together. Sounds Air tried Whanganui-Wellington and that didn't work. I suspect most of the passengers on this sector were transhipping at Wellington to other Air New Zealand services which they will still be able to do at Christchurch. However it does mean the loss of an Air NZ connection to Blenheim and Nelson. In Nelson's case Originair already operate, albeit with an inadequate timetable. Perhaps there might be enough passengers for a Blenheim-Palmerston North service for Sounds Air to try similar to their Blenheim-Paraparaumu service. Time will tell.

In the meantime I need an afternoon flight from Palmerston North to Hamilton on the 30th of October. Looks like I will either have to get a flight to Auckland and get a shuttle to Hamilton or get a shuttle to Wellington to be able to fly home.

The only way from Hamilton to Palmerston North on Monday... via Christchurch!

18 September 2020

Welcome to NZ's latest Cessna Grand Caravan EX


Arriving into Auckland in the early hours of this morning was Glenorchy Air's new Cessna 208 Grand Caravan EX N789UT which will be registered ZK-MMZ. The Caravan flew out across the Pacific via Honolulu and Pago Pago... a long hikoi to her new homeland!

Cessna Grand Caravan EX N879UT at Auckland on 18 September 2020... Photo supplied

17 September 2020

Waiting at Wellington...

I had a little time at Wellington waiting for my flight to Hamilton... Read the captions carefully for some interesting news...

Air Chathams' Fairchild Metroliner III ZK-CID on departure... apparently ZK-CIC and ZK-POF have been repainted in the same colout scheme

The newly repainted Life Flight BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-LFW backtracking

Arriving into Wellington, Sounds Air's Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLB


Trying to Preserve NZ's Airline History

This blog is all about preserving New Zealand's domestic airline history. My interest in the NZ airlines started off when I was a child... I remember the West Coast Airways Dominie and NAC DC-3 flying into Hokitika. Later, when the Friendships started flying into Hokitika, we use to have a NAC Friendship operating to and from Christchurch, a NAC DC-3 operating to and from Westport Nelson and Wellington and a Mount Cook Airlines Cessna 185 skiplane operating to and from Franz Josef and Fox Glacier all on the ground at the same time!

The meeting of the air services... NAC Friendship ZK-NAF and Mount Cook Air Services' Cessna 185 ZK-COH at Hokitika. As there is no DC-3 present it was either taken after the 5th of June 1970 or, if before that, on a Sunday. 

And then, in my high school years, Capital Air Services were flying through Greymouth and later Westland Flying Services flew Hokitika-Greymouth-Christchurch. My Capital Air Services flight was cancelled but I got to fly on Westland Flying Services on a number of occasions. The local travel agent gave me a number of timetables - though I did make a mistake some years later in throwing some out - and I started doing some scrapbooks of airline news. 

Westland Flying Services had a counter in the Hokitika terminal but all the flights left using the company's office in the Hokitika Aero Club hangar.

In my early days of taking aircraft photos I met Ian Coates in Greymouth who gave me the number one and two lessons in taking photos - always get the registration in - record when and where the photo was taken. 

Capital Air Services' Cessna 402 ZK-DNQ in Greymouth in 1978 - no date! There is just enough of the N and Q under the wing so I could work out what aircraft it was

Later I met Bruce Gavin from Matamata who quietly and unassumingly has recorded airline histories for a long time. It was Mike Condon, also from Hokitika, who encouraged me to do this blog. Before and since then I have met a lot of people in the aviation industry who have shared information with me and a passion for our New Zealand airlines. For me the collection of material I have managed to put together is not just amassing it but sharing it for others to enjoy.

On Sunday I did a large post on Float Air... The background to this post began with John Low sending me an email about Float Air and suggesting I do a post on this company. I had a certain amount of material on Float Air but John sent me some photos and put me on to his father Gordon, a Float Air pilot and, for a time, owner of the company. He put me on to Jim Anderson who sent me a copy of his incredible write up of Float Air, photocopies of his scrapbook pages on Float Air, and a stack of photos which I scanned and sent back. The result I think was a fantastic account of an interesting operator.

All the newspaper articles I receive I scan into the computer with Optical Character Recognition which means I can paste it into a Word document. In the case of Air Chathams, for example, I have 131 pages of information scanned from magazines and newspapers in a Word document. This sort of information often becomes the basis of my posts on airline posts. These days, as newspapers report less I keep checking out the company's social media posts and websites to get my updates. This information also gets saved. 

Newspaper adds go through Photoshop to tidy them up...

Timetables also are an important part of recording the airline history, but like newspapers are becoming a thing of the past. Nonetheless I have managed to get together a good collection of various airlines' timetables and from that I can deduct all sorts of things about the airline. These days the airlines, sadly, are not even putting a PDF file timetable on their websites and this means a bit of trawling through on line registrations.

Another important source of information is when I get feedback the posts... A couple of nights ago I got details on the first RNZAF passenger flight to the Chatham Islands including the pilot, co-pilot and aircraft registration. All these details help out fill out the history. 

What I am wanting to suggest is the recording of information and keeping it is important, all of it. To often we throw stuff out or after we've gone other people throw it out. That's how history gets lost. Instead of throwing out can I suggest finding someone or some place to throw it towards where it will be preserve. Also, for those who have flown or worked for airlines write your history down and find somewhere to deposit the history. Your story soon enough becomes history. 

My hope in writing this is that the reader will think about their collection of photos, stories, memorabilia etc and think how am I going to ensure this doesn't get lost. Preserving history is something we all can do.

15 September 2020

Yet another Jetstream registered to Originair


This afternoon ZK-ECJ's sister Jetstream, ZK-ECI was also registered to Originair. This aircraft has already been previously operating for Originair and is painted in full Originair colours. Both the transfer of registrations to Originair were on the 7th of August.

BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECI at Nelson on 24 January 2018


Tourist Air Operators Given Helping Hand

A number of NZ domestic tourism aircraft operators have received assistance from a Government fund to save key tourism businesses. The operators given a grant include... 

  • Air Milford - $500,000
  • Air Safaris - $500,000
  • Auckland Seaplanes - $480,000
  • Glenorchy Air - $500,000
  • Salt Air - $500,000
  • Southern Alps Air Limited - $500,000
  • True South Flights - $500,000
  • Volcanic Air - $ 500,000
I hope all these operators, who have invested so much in their operations are able to survive these difficult times.

Another Jetstream for Originair


An interesting move noted on the CAA register today is the registering of BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECJ to Originair. This aircraft was last flown by Inflite Charter and has not flown for some time.

 BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECJ at Tauranga  on 7 November 2016

It was first registered in New Zealand in late April 1999 as ZK-RES and flew for Ansett New Zealand Regional and Tasman Pacific Connection.

Ansett NZ Regional BAe Jetstream 31 ZK-RES arrives at Nelson on 25 June 1999

BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-RES with Tasman Pacific Connection at Wellington on 15 March 2001

Following the collapse of Qantas NZ it was reregistered as ZK-JSR and flew for Origin Pacific.

BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-JSR with Origin Pacific at Nelson on 4 November 2003

In July 2006 it was again reregistered as ZK-ECJ and flew with Air National before joining Inflite Charter.

On the taxi for Wellington's Runway 16 is Air National's Jetstream ZK-ECJ on the 16th of November 2007

One wonders whether it will actually fly or rather be a source of spares.

North Shore Service Begins


Fly My Sky commenced flights between Great Barrier Island and North Shore airport this morning. The flight was operated by BN Islander ZK-SFK. The service starts on the Barrier and then does a return service to North Shore. The first two passengers on the service flew from North Shore to Great Barrier Island.

14 September 2020

Jetstar returns after 4 week lockdown


Jetstar has announced today it will resume domestic services in New Zealand from 17 September. The decision comes after it was confirmed that on-board social distancing restrictions will be eased, allowing airlines to utilise the middle seat. After a four-week suspension, the airline will resume up to 75 flights on six domestic routes, approximately 60 percent of its pre-COVID schedule. In keeping with government requirements, masks will be mandatory on all services, with Jetstar’s Fly Well packs, which include masks and sanitising wipes, available at the gate and on board. Jetstar Group CEO, Gareth Evans, thanked customers for their patience and support over the past few weeks. “We’re really pleased to get our planes and our people back in the sky, right in time for school holidays so we can help reconnect family and friends across the country,” Mr Evans said. “We also know that our low fares services help to bring more people to the communities we fly to - boosting local economies and creating jobs - which is vital after what has been a tough period for many small businesses and towns. “New Zealanders love to explore their own back yard – the bounce back in demand following our previous suspension was really strong. We know Kiwis are excited about getting back in the air to visit loved ones or discover a new part of this incredible country.” Jetstar’s New Zealand current domestic schedule for September is:

  • Auckland to Christchurch (up to 21 weekly return flights)
  • Auckland to Dunedin (up to 7 return weekly flights)
  • Auckland to Wellington (Up to 14 return weekly flights)
  • Auckland to Queenstown (up to 21 return weekly flights)
  • Christchurch to Wellington (up to 7 return weekly flights)
  • Wellington to Queenstown (up to 7 return weekly flights)

The Barrier Air Transformation Continues


Friday, the 11th of September, marked another step in the transformation of the Auckland-based regional airline Barrier Air with the arrival back in Auckland of the company's first Cessna 208 Grand Caravan, ZK-SDB, now painted in Barrier Air's company livery. All Barrier Air's fleet of three Cessna Grand Caravans now carry the same livery. 

Looking sharp! With the return of "Bravo" the Barrier Air fleet at Auckland, with from left to right ZK-SDB, ZK-SDD and ZK-SDC. 

I was fortunate to have been able to have a conversation on Friday with Nick Pearson, Barrier Air's Chief Executive Officer and Grant Bacon, Barrier Air's Chief Operating Officer. Nick sees the repainting of SDB as representing "a real milestone for our airline and is a visual representation of all of the hard work by many people over the past 5 years to make Barrier Air the professional, reliable and safe airline that you see today. The team at Flightcare in Napier have done a great job maintaining our aircraft and the recent paint work is a testament to the high level of service they provide."

Of course a paint job is just about the outside. When I asked Nick about what's going on on the inside Nick said that the Covid restrictions had enabled Barrier Air to get ahead of its normal maintenance schedule. As has been reported on this blog before Barrier Air set aside always set aside revenue from every ticket to ensure scheduled maintenance is always done on time and safety is never compromised (https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2020/03/nzs-northern-most-air-service-part-3.html). This year the lockdown has enabled us to get ahead of our maintenance schedule and this in turn ensures a reliable service. It is very rare for a Barrier Air service to cancelled due to engineering issues. And as for SDB's previous paint job... It was still okay but by doing the repaint we were able to do a couple of extra jobs to keep the aircraft in top condition.  Again, as has been reported on this blog before, Barrier Air are committed to having state of the art navigational equipment that enable them to work with ATC in the busy Auckland skies (https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2018/09/growing-airline-barrier-air-on-rise.html).

Asking about Covid and Levels 4 and 3 and Level 2.5 for Auckland and how is the airline bouncing back, Grant said, "The market to Great Barrier is progressing well. Whilst the lockdowns do put the brakes on revenue for the actual lockdown period, we have found that as the restrictions are eased the sales rebound and all indicators point to this summer being very busy on the routes. Reinstating the North Shore service from this week has also been a significant milestone with decent load factors being achieved so far. The market from North Shore is quite limited but we have added some peak services on Fridays and Sundays this summer along with our standard 5 x weekly late morning schedule which should work well. Finally, the Kaitaia loads are also recovering. We are currently doing a 6 x weekly daytime schedule and will increase to 7 days per week within another few weeks. We are currently overnighting only on Sunday’s and the late night Friday service but we envisage this should return to 6 overnights per week by Labour weekend. 

Speaking on Covid Nick said, "the recent challenges bought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the airline industry globally. Our thoughts are with all of our friends and partners in the industry at this time and we wish them all the best while navigating future uncertainties and challenges in the aviation space. Due to the hard work of our fantastic people, support from our customer base, assistance from central government/council/local boards/local MPs, and a committed and supportive Board, Barrier Air is in a strong position to deal with the challenges presented by COVID-19 and we look forward to settling back into a busier schedule again when the time comes. I would be remiss to not extend my gratitude all of the people who have been part of the Barrier Air family in the last 5 years for their contributions towards helping our airline become the premium air service to Great Barrier Island and the Far North."

Nick and Grant are both quite humble about their and the airline's achievements. Nick says, "I’m very proud of the team at Barrier Air and look forward to further enhancing our brand and product offerings. The future looks bright for the airline. A special mention must be made of our leadership and management teams. I am very grateful to have the support of such a committed, passionate and capable team, striving to continually improve all aspects of our service.”

From a hot potch of pistons to a fleet of three turbo prop Caravans equipped with state of the art navigational equipment and presented with a modern corporate colour scheme Barrier Air has been transformed since its formation. It has weathered the Covid storm and, as Grant says, "With our focus on maintaining and presenting our aircraft to a really high standard, our passengers are loyal and travel with us often” 

One wonders what might be next for this innovative and forward thinking regional airline.

A special thanks to Nick and Grant from Barrier Air... Always good to talk aeroplanes and airlines with you guys.

En Route to NZ - Our First Cessna Grand Caravan EX


Posted on Glenorchy Air's Facebook page is news of the ferry flight of their new Cessna Grand Caravan EX...

Earlier this year, Cessna built us a brand new and state-of-the-art Grand Caravan EX to join our modern fleet here in Queenstown. She was due to depart California, USA in March, but due to unforeseen circumstances and Covid restrictions, she’s been waiting in Merced, California.

But today is the day! This morning, she and her crew of ferry pilots departed the West Coast to travel 10,000+ kms to Auckland, with refuelling stops in Hawaii and American Samoa.

Stay tuned (https://www.facebook.com/glenorchyair/) for more updates on the arrival of ZK-MMZ.