|GAF N22 Nomad, ZK-SAL, at Invercargill on 16 November 1982.|
|An early Southern Air timetable|
The Nomad, which was the only aircraft in the fleet, proved to be a problematic aircraft. The 30 nautical mile sector across to Stewart Island was too short for the turbo-prop Nomad and the aircraft gave the company a lot of engineering problems while they had no backup aircraft. Added to this, poor weather during the 1982-1983 peak summer season effected loadings and revenue placing further pressure on the company’s financial situation. Things came to a head when the Development Finance Corporation placed the company in receivership on the 15th of March 1983. Receivers were appointed and they decided to trade the company back to profitability. The Nomad was sold in Australia and a Mount Cook Airlines BN Islander and a Piper Aztec, ZK-DUB, were leased as an interim measure. The Aztec was used mainly on the Dunedin run and was with the company until sometime in the first half of 1984. Meanwhile a second hand Britten Norman Islander was obtained and this, ZK-FFL, entered service in June 1983.
|ZK-FFL, still reflecting her previous ownership by Air Fiji, at Invercargill on 10 November 1983.|
|ZK-FFL at Invercargill on 24 May 1987.|
In June 1984 the company announced it would cease its Invercargill-Dunedin flights from the 6th of July. The death knell to the service was losing a courier contract to road transport and there not being enough passengers to keep the service viable. The company said it would concentrate on its Stewart Island service and charter work.
|Southern Air timetable, 1st November 1985|
This paid off for in late December 1985 the company told the Southland Times that. “during the 1983-84 financial year, about 14,000 people were carried by the airline. In the past year, traffic volume rose to 22,000 people and the forecast for the current year is 30,000 passengers.” To some extent this situation was helped by the demise of the Stewart Island ferry service. In November 1985 Southern Air had taken delivery of its third Britten Norman Islander, ZK-FLU. Also used was a Cessna U206G, ZK-ETN, owned by Brian Hore and a Cessna 172M, ZK-FSI owned by Bruce Forde. Both were used for about 3 years, mainly for beach work but they were also used on the run quite a bit.
|BN Islander ZK-FFL at Ryans Creek on Stewart Island with one of the yellow Transit vans in 1985.|
|Squirrel ZK-HBH at Invercargill with Richard Mills and Keith Smith.|
|ZK-FFL on the beach (above) and on Dog Island (below) both in 1987.|
|Ryans Creek Airstrip on Stewart Island after the hill was removed and the runway extended to 800 metres.|
|BN Islander ZK-FLU arrives at Ryan's Creek, 3 July 1993.|
|Reflecting its previous New Caledonian owner, Air Moorea, ZK-FWZ, is seen at Invercargill on 2 July 1993.|
|BN Islander ZK-FGR on an air ambulance flight to Taieri, 27 September 1991.|
The early 1990s saw Southern Air buy the Post Office/depot to serve as a terminal for the waiting passengers. Southern Air bought its own vans to collect and drop passengers at Ryans Creek. Southern Air also bought the South Seas Hotel.
|The Depot after its purchase in 1995|
|The 1992 Southern Air team... Barry Rhodes, Annie Stinger, Philip Kean, Anne Rowley, Keith Smith, Kerry Smith, Michelle, Tony Stewart, Robin Andrews and Murray Donald|
|The 1996 team - Steve Philips, Robin Andrews, Craig Miller, Jeff Slater, Nathan Helms, Philip Kean, Bill Moffat|
|Cessna 172 ZK-DNP (above) at Ryans Creek and Cessna 177RG ZK-DXS at Doughboy with long time manager of Southern Air, Phil Kean|
|Southern Air's schedule with the reintroduced Dunedin service|
On the 19th of August 1998 ZK-VAC had a double engine failure on a flight from Stewart Island to Invercargill. A mayday call was made just before five o'clock that evening. The pilot, Robin Andrews, successfully managed to ditch the plane in Foveaux Strait 2.5 nm west of Bluff and he and the nine passengers successfully escaped the aircraft. The aircraft stayed afloat for some minutes after the landing. The pilot, realising that he and three passengers did not have life jackets entered the aircraft to find some to no avail. Due to some confusion as to the exact crash site, it took over an hour for rescuers to reach the spot and in that time five people, including the pilot, died from hypothermia in the wintery cold waters of Foveaux Strait. The aircraft was recovered and while the accident report suggested the cause may have been fuel exhaustion no conclusive cause was ever established.
|The Southern Air fleet in 1998 including the ill-fated Cessna 402, ZK-VAC. It was repainted subsequent to this photo into full Southern Air colours but I have never seen a colout photo of this.|