18 December 2014

Matarangi airfield... closing? again?

Sunair's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sunairflights) carries a photo of the tail of Cessna 172 ZK-DHN on "Flight 13 from Ardmore to Whitianga that stopped into Matarangi last week to drop some passengers off. It was a beautiful day in Matarangi. Sunair Aviation have done pick-up and drop-off's to both Matarangi airfield and Coromandel airfield already this summer, we make it easy for you to get where you need to go!"

The Facebook page also says "Very sad that the airfield is closing there on December 27th."

I have been trying to verify this and find in the past the airfield at Matarangi was closed over the Christmas break till the end of January...

Anyone got any info!

It's great news that the Sunair services seem to be taking off...

There is a pic of the new services on page of the Mercury Informer...  https://www.facebook.com/sunairflights

Here is a pic of the Matarangi airfield...

17 December 2014

A good month for Wellington International

Jetstar is adding flights between Wellington and Melbourne from March next year. The airline today announced it would introduce four flights a week from Wellington to Melbourne. The service would be Jetstar's second international offering from Wellington airport, more than doubling its international services to seven flights a week. The Melbourne route would fly on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday using a 180-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. Flights would depart Melbourne after midnight local time, and from Wellington at 7 in the morning. The new service would add 75,000 seats to Wellington's international market, on top of the 56,000 from Jetstar's Gold Coast route which commenced last week. Qantas, Jetstar's parent company, would not be reducing its own flights on the same route as a result. Earlier this week, Fiji Airways said it would operate the first year-round direct route between Wellington and Nadi.

Cheap Flights....


16 December 2014

Expanded Jetstar Flights

Friday and Saturday saw the arrival of two new Jetstar services from the Gold Coast into Wellington and Queenstown. Jetstar announced the new service between the two holiday resorts in September this year, with the first flights timed ahead of the Christmas holidays and peak summer travel season. Jetstar will operate three flights a week between Queenstown and the Gold Coast on Saturday, Monday and Thursday. This followed Jetstar’s inaugural Gold Coast-Wellington flight on Friday which marked the first time in more than 10 years that a new airline has started year-round international services to the capital.

15 December 2014

Fiji Airways Expansion

Wellingtonians will be able to fly directly to Fiji from June, on the first year-round service directly to the holiday destination. Fiji Airways and Wellington Airport today announced to the new route would fly directly from Wellington to Nadi, operating twice a week. The new service would add up to 34,000 seats to Wellington's market, beginning from June 25 and operating on Thursdays and Sundays. Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said Fiji Airways would be the first airline to offer a year round service directly from Wellington to the Pacific Islands. Bookings for flights were available from today. "We have worked with Fiji Airways for a number of years on the opportunity the Wellington market presents and are delighted they have committed to the region," Sanderson said. "This service will be extremely popular both here and in Fiji, for holiday makers and everyone visiting family and friends." The service would provide connecting opportunities throughout the Pacific, as well as to North America via Fiji Airways' new A330 aircraft. Wellington residents travelling to Fiji and to the United States have grown by more than 20 per cent over the last two years. United States visitors travelling to Wellington, meanwhile, have increased by 35 per cent over the same period. Mayor Celia Wade Brown said the service would be an excellent connection to and from the United States. Fiji Airways managing director and chief executive Stefan Pichler said the new route reflected its commitment to the New Zealand market. Fiji Airways has been operating since 1951 and was previously named Air Pacific.

14 December 2014

Air Direct to Blenheim and Kaikoura

Air Direct Ltd was formed in April 1993 by Mark Barry, who had previously been a policeman, a physical training instructor and a flying instructor with the Wellington Aero Club. Charter services commenced out of Wellington after the company’s first aircraft, Piper Pa23-230 Aztec D, ZK-DIR (c/n 27-4242), was registered on the 9th of September 1993. Craig Watson was employed as the Chief Pilot.

Air Direct's first Piper Aztec, ZK-DIR, captured at Wellington on 21 December 1993

Charter services continued until June 1995 when the Aztec was sold to Sunair. At this point the company went into abeyance until it was purchased by Philip Smees and Michael King in August 1995. Another Piper Pa23-250 Aztec C, ZK-JEI (c/n 27-2638), was purchased in October 1995 and this was used for charter and freight work as well as establishing air services between Wellington and Blenheim and Wellington and Kaikoura.

In late September 1995 the company’s managing director, Michael King, announced in the Kaikoura Star Air Direct’s intention to operate an on-demand service between Wellington and Kaikoura using a 12-seater twin-engine turbo prop GAF Nomad. It was intended that services would begin with a single daily flight on the 7th of October increasing to twice a day from the 1st of November 1995. Flights were timed to arrive at Kaikoura at 11.00am and 1.25pm over the summer season and at 1.25pm during the winter months. Air Direct announced once the service was established they would operate it as a daily scheduled service. “Besides the 12-seater, the airline will fly a five seater Piper Aztec which would operate whether full or not,” Mr King was reported as saying.

Work on sealing the Kaikoura airfield runway delayed the inaugural service which was flown in early November 1995. The Kaikoura Star of the 15th of November 1995 reported that, “Air Direct has made its first scheduled Kaikoura to Wellington flight. The five seater Piper Aztec collected a full load of passengers to fly north. The new runway will enable the airline to bring in a 12-seater aircraft once bookings pick up said managing director Michael King.” No details were given of the date of the first flight. Air Direct’s flights to Kaikoura operated under visual flight rules and whenever flights were unable to operate they were shuttled to Picton to be flown across Cook Strait with Soundsair.

On the Kaikoura service... Piper Aztec ZK-JEI at Kaikoura on 10 March 1998

The following year, at the commencement of the 1996 summer schedule, Mike King told the Kaikoura Star that the airline would provide as many flights between Kaikoura and Wellington as were needed to cope with demand. He said the airline has had a change of emphasis this year and intends to arrange its flights to and from the capital to cater for locals, not tourists. "We're trying to arrange our schedule for locals because we can get into Kaikoura in quite bad weather but we don't fly tourists in it because they don't want to whale watch or whatever in bad weather. People want to come to Kaikoura for other reasons than tourism," he said. Mr King said the airline was considering weekend flights, so Kaikoura people could commute to Wellington for the week and Wellington people could visit Kaikoura for the weekend. "We're thinking of flying to Kaikoura and back later on Friday and then again on Sunday."

The only advertising Air Direct did in the Kaikoura Star, 25 September 1996

In addition to the Kaikoura flights Air Direct operated twice daily weekday flights between Wellington and Blenheim with a single flight operated on Saturdays and Sundays. 

On the Blenheim service. Air Direct's Piper Aztec ZK-JEI at Woodbourne on  6 February 1996
Air Direct timetable, ca 1997

On the 30th of June 1996 Piper Pa23-250 Aztec E, ZK-FHO (c/n 27-4585), was added to the fleet, with Air Direct operating the Wellington to Takaka air service on behalf of Takaka Valley Air Services. ZK-FHO continued to wear its Takaka Valley Air Services titles while being operated by Air Direct.

Piper Aztec ZK-FHO at Takaka on 6 January 1998. At this time Air Direct was operating the air service for Takaka Valley Air Services.

In the first half of 1997 Pionair Adventures Ltd purchased a 50 per-cent share of Air Direct, thereby improving Pionair’s access to the Wellington charter market. A new company, Pionair Direct Ltd, was formed in September 1997, and Mike King undertook the oversight of the new company. Piper Pa23-250 Aztec ZK-DGS (c/n 27-7304959) was added to the fleet in October 1998 to provide extra capacity on the Kaikoura service.

Services continued into 1998 with the three Aztecs being sold by the end of that year.

Rebranded... Piper Aztec ZK-JEI carrying Pionair Direct details. Photo taken at Napier on 8 January 1999 after the service ended.

13 December 2014

Interesting Bird Watching Tour

I stole this picture of Air Chathams Convair ZK-CIE on the Chathams from their Facebook site after the arrival of the Heritage Expeditions tour from Christchurch...  What a great way to start the trip with the flight to the Chathams on such an interesting "bird"! So that got me looking and I found this really interesting tour itinerary...

Subantarctic Expedition: Birding Down Under 24 November 2014 itinerary:

Day 1: Christchurch
Arrive in Christchurch and join us for complimentary night’s accommodation at a city hotel. This evening at an informal dinner you will meet other members of the expedition and some of our expedition team.

Day 2: Chatham Islands – Waitangi
We transfer you to Christchurch airport for the charter flight to the Chatham Islands; on arrival we transfer you to the Spirit of Enderby. Familiarise yourself on board and meet the rest of the expedition team.

Day 3: Chatham Islands – Waitangi
After an early breakfast we go ashore on the main Chatham Islands where we might see the endemic Chatham Island Shag and along the coast the Chatham Island Oystercatcher. We visit a private bush reserve on the south coast to see the Chatham Island Warbler, Chatham Island Pigeon and Tui. This evening we will take another look for the Magenta and Chatham Island Petrels as we cruise the southern coastline of the main island.

Day 4: Pyramid Rock, South East Island and Mangere Islands
Arrive early morning at the spectacular Pyramid Rock, the only breeding place of the Chatham Island Albatross. Then at South East Island one of the world’s greatest nature reserves we Zodiac cruise to see the endangered Shore Plover. We will also keep our eyes peeled for the Pitt Island Shag. Before we depart the archipelago we visit the Mangere Islands from where the endemic Black Robin was rescued.

Day 5: At Sea
We continue south towards the Bounty Islands, pelagic birding should be good and will include (among others) Wandering Albatross species, Northern Royal Albatross, Mottled Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Broad-billed Prion, White-chinned Petrel and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels as well as Wilson’s Storm-Petrel.

Day 6: Bounty Islands

These inhospitable granite islets are home to thousands of Salvin’s Albatross, Erect-crested Penguins, Fulmar Prions and the endemic Bounty Island Shag, the world’s rarest. If sea conditions permit we plan a Zodiac cruise here for a closer look at some of these species.

Day 7: Antipodes Islands
One of the most isolated, least known and rugged of the Subantarctic Islands; landings are not permitted, so we cruise along the coast looking for the endemic Antipodes Island and Reischek’s Parakeet. We may also see the Antipodes subspecies of the New Zealand Pipit, and with half the world population of Erect-crested Penguins here, we should encounter one or two as well as Antarctic Terns and Kelp Gulls.

Day 8: At Sea
Join us on the bridge, where we keep a keen lookout for species commonly seen in this area: Black-browed Albatross, Campbell Island Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Sooty Shearwater and Little Shearwater. There should be plenty of petrels and the hard to identify prion species.

Day 9: Campbell Island – Perseverance Harbour
We drop anchor in Perseverance Harbour. Once on shore we walk to the nesting site of the Southern Royal Albatross or to Northwest Bay, pass beautiful megaherbs growing on the hills. During the day ashore we should see the Campbell Island Shag, Southern Skua, Antarctic Tern, Dunnock, New Zealand Pipit, Campbell Island Teal and hopefully the elusive Campbell Island Snipe.

Day 10: At Sea
We will be keeping a keen lookout for cetaceans, albatross and petrels today, relax in the ship’s bar or catch up on your reading in the library.

Day 11 to 12: Macquarie Island
The only place in the world where the beautiful Royal Penguin breeds, this remote outpost supports a breath-taking concentration of wildlife. You will never forget your first experience of a noisy ‘penguin city’ where you will be witness to a thousand chattering, feeding chicks; territorial disputes; petty pilfering and courtship displays: King, Gentoo and Rockhopper Penguins can be seen here. We meet with Park Rangers and seek out the thousands of Southern Elephant Seals lolling on the beaches and along the coast, Redpolls and Imperial Shag can often be spotted.

Day 13: At Sea
We can expect some of the best pelagic birding on this leg of the journey with great views of species such as the Royal Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Shy Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, White-chinned Petrel, diving-petrel, Little Shearwaters, storm-petrels and to confuse everybody numerous prion species.

Day 14: Auckland Islands – Carnley Harbour
These islands have witnessed many a shipwreck in days gone, they harbour tales of castaways and coastwatchers. If weather and sea conditions are suitable energetic expeditioners are able to climb to the South West Cape Shy Albatross colony where Gibson’s Wandering Albatross nest amongst the tussocks above the colony.

Day 15: Auckland Islands - Enderby Island
Enderby Island is a great place to view birds and wildlife. We visit Sandy Bay, the main breeding ground for the rare New Zealand (Hooker’s) Sea Lion and just one of three breeding grounds on the Auckland Islands. There are chances to observe the Southern Royal Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Auckland Island Shag, Auckland Island Flightless Teal, Auckland Island Banded Dotterel, Auckland Island Tomtit, Bellbird, Pipit, Red-crowned Parakeet, Yellow-eyed Penguin and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. We will also keep a lookout for the rare Subantarctic Snipe. On Derry Castle Reef there is a good chance of seeing the Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and perhaps other migratory waders.

Day 16: The Snares - North East Island
Cruise by Zodiac if weather and sea conditions are suitable along the sheltered eastern side of North East Island. We should see the endemic Snares Crested Penguin, Snares Island Tomtit and Fernbirds. Also we should see Cape Pigeons, Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns and Red-billed Gulls. There are hundreds of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters nesting here. Buller’s Albatross breed here from late December onwards.

Day 17:Invercargill
Early this morning we will arrive in the Port of Bluff. After a final breakfast we bid farewell to our fellow voyagers and take a complimentary coach transfer to either a central city point or to the airport.

The itinerary map for 2013... this year's trip reversed the direction

For more details see http://heritage-expeditions.com/trip/subantarctic-birding-down-under-24-nov-2014/

12 December 2014

Hola South America

Air New Zealand has announced it will soon be flying direct to Buenos Aires. The airline has been actively investigating a South American option for about six months but it is understood recent falls in jet fuel prices have made launching the route a more attractive prospect. An Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200 aircraft will operate three return services a week on the route all year round. Flights are set to begin from December 2015. Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said "Buenos Aires is the most popular tourist city in South America and is a perfect stepping stone for those who then want to explore the country, or continent, further." Air New Zealand will enter into a code share agreement with Aerolíneas Argentinas, subject to obtaining regulatory approvals, which will see Aerolíneas Argentinas' code return to the South Pacific market on the new route and on key connecting Trans-Tasman services, and Air New Zealand will code share on Aerolíneas Argentinas' services to Brazil.

11 December 2014

So where would you put a new airport in Whangarei?

Whangarei's 1097 metres of runway with harbour at each end

Whangarei District Council has completed the first of a number of investigations into the future of air transport in the District. The Whangarei Airport Strategic Study confirms that cumulative issues associated with Civil Aviation rules, runway length, and significant costs for extending the existing runway, mean the current airport has a life-span of only 10-15 years. The report by Council’s consultant, Beca, also rules out the use of reclaimed land at Port Nikau as an alternative airport location, and recommends that Council identifies and investigates potential fresh sites for a new airport. On Wednesday 17 December Council will consider whether or not to submit the project as one of the many to be considered for inclusion in the District’s Draft 2015-2015 Long Term Plan which will open for consultation in autumn. Stage One of the study was initiated by Council in February, after discussions with Far North Holdings and Northland Inc, Air New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority about the future of air transport in Northland. “A major change is not imminent, but the current airport’s future is limited. To make the best decisions for the long term we need to start a rigorous programme of investigation and planning now,” said Group Manager Infrastructure and Services Simon Weston. “It is difficult to provide a cost for the project given that we do not have a location in mind, but a new airport is likely to be in the region of $40m. Stage Two of the project will provide costs and commercial information for Council to consider in detail.” Mr Weston said following the evaluation of sites in Stage Two of the project, Stage Three would provide an in-depth investigation of one or two sites, Stage Four would involve obtaining the land and consents required, and Stage Five would include preparatory work on the ground (enabling works). The Stage One study showed that extending the runway would be prohibitively expensive (around $140 million), and would breach many planning controls. The report said the hills surrounding Port Nikau made it unsuitable for use as an airport, and it would cost about $148 Million to establish an airfield there. “It’s not completely out of the picture, but it doesn’t look like a good option at this stage,” said Mr Weston. “We could come back to it if nothing better is found.” “This is a very significant project so it will involve a public consultation process, even though that is some way off. If a new airport was to go ahead, we would potentially plan for this around the end of the decade or in the 2020s."

Source : Press Release: Whangarei District Council

08 December 2014

Dreamliner Number 3 Arrives and More on the Way

Air New Zealand plans to add two more Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners to its fleet, taking its total order to 12. The airline already has already taken delivery of three Dreamliner this year and has a further seven on order.

Air New Zealand's latest Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner ZK-NZG arriving at Auckland on 5 December 2014
Boeing 787-9s have a list price of US$257 million ($335 million), but airlines typically receive discounts for fleet orders. An Air New Zealand source said last month the airline was also looking to use the 787-9 to open a new route from Auckland to the United States. The two additional aircraft are expected to be delivered in late 2017 and late 2018.