Air National was founded in 1989 as a dedicated charter airline, initially trading as Menzies Aviation. In 1992 the company was renamed Air National Corporate Ltd and the following year added an Embraer Bandeirante to its fleet and began supporting scheduled regional airline services.
The company introduced its first British Aerospace J32EP Jetstream, ZK-ECN, the “City of Rotorua” to its fleet in. 1996. In 1997 it began using ECN for services between Auckland and Rotorua on behalf of Ansett New Zealand Regional. In September 2000 ECN was registered to Tasman Pacific Regional Airlines, operating with Tasman Pacific Connection titles and with their colours on the tail. It returned to Air National in July the following year.
In January 2006 Air National commenced support services for Air New Zealand Link’s Eagle Air between Auckland and Kaitaia providing twice daily return services on weekdays. Later that year, in August, Air National also received a contract to fly Air New Zealand Link’s new Christchurch-Oamaru service (see http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2010/01/31-december-2009-air-new-zealand-drops.html) as well as to fly one or two flights between Christchurch and Hokitika on a daily basis. To facilitate this, and other back up work for Eagle Air, Air National obtained three additional Jetstreams.
The first, ZK-ECI, has had several personas in New Zealand. It began as ZK-REY operating for Ansett Regional from March 1999 to the end of August 2000. It too saw service with Tasman Pacific Connection who reregistered it as ZK-TPC. Following the collapse of Qantas New Zealand it was unused for some time before being picked up by Origin Pacific who registered it ZK-JSU in May 2006. Following the subsequent collapse of Origin Pacific it again languished until purchased by Air National in July 2006. It was registered ZK-ECI and named “Spirit of Waitaki” and flew the inaugural Christchurch-Oamaru service.
Above, ZK-ECJ at Wellington on 15 November 2007 with ZK-ECR below taken at Wellington on the following day, 16 November 2007.
At various times Air National’s Jetstreams, or ‘Sodastreams’ as the irreverent might call them, have been running regular services between Auckland and Taupo, Wellington and Wanganui, Wellington and Westport and Wellington to Blenheim and onto Christchurch as well as the routes mentioned above and for back up work for Eagle’s Beeches that are on maintenance or go unserviceable. With the economic recession these regular flights have all but disappeared. From my reckoning the only regular route the Jetstreams are used on is three days per week between Christchurch and Hokitika. The Christchurch based aircraft is swapped each Friday with a return Christchurch-Blenheim-Wellington service being flown.