30 May 2010

NZ's Southern Most Airline: Part 3 - Stewart Island Flights

UPDATED : March 2017

South East Air was established by Raymond Hector and Bill Moffatt in 1993 using Cessna 185E ZK-JEM for beach operations to Stewart Island's west coast beaches, Codfish Island for the Department of Conservation and general New Zealand wide charter flights. 

South East Air Ltd's Cessna 185, ZK-JEM on beach work.

On the 4th June 1996 South East Air started an IFR courier flight for NZ Post from Invercargill to Dunedin and return. Piper PA32 Cherokee 6 ZK-DBC was used for the first nine months of the service. In January 1996 the company bought a Piper PA32-300 Cherokee 6 in Australia, this becoming ZK-RTS and which was used to replace ZK-DBC. The courier service was flown for 13 years. The last flight was operated from Invercargill to Dunedin and return on the 9th October 2009 and it was flown by George Cuthill in ZK-RTS. After that NZ Post vans took over the mail delivery. Until that time South East Air was only one of two New Zealand operators who operated at night in a single engine piston aircraft, the other being Air Napier on their Napier-Wairoa-Gisborne courier service.

Piper PA32 Cherokee 6 ZK-RTS was used for the NZ Post service until 2009.
It is seen at Invercargill on 15 April 2011.   

South East Air Ltd bought Southern Air 1997 Ltd in April 2000, and the airline continues to operate as Stewart Island Flights using two Britten Norman Islanders, ZK-FWZ and ZK-FXE to maintain the daily three return scheduled flights to and from Stewart Island.

Above, my one and only photo of one of Stewart Island Flights' aircraft... BN Islander ZK-FWZ on a very wet Invercargill day, 26 July 2006...
BN Islander ZK-FXE at Stewart Island's Ryan Creek airfield on 13 April 2011.
Stewart Island Flights' schedule. Downloaded 8 March 2017

In addition to the two Britten Norman Islanders South East Air continued to operate the Cessna 185, ZK-JEM and two Piper Cherokee 6's, ZK-RTS and a second one ZK-DIV.  and the west coast beaches. The company also continues to be available for air ambulance work to Stewart Island. South East Air Ltd is the parent company and holder of the Air Operator Certificate, under which Stewart Island Flights and Invercargill Aircraft Maintenance are operated.

Ryan Creek Airfield, 13 April 2011
Unolading BN Islander ZK-FWZ at Ryan Creek Airfield, 13 April 2011
Stewart Island Flight's Depot in downtown Oban on 15 April 2011
On the 9th of August 2011 the Piper Cherokee Six ZK-DIV failed to take off from the beach at Doughboy Bay. It crashed in two metres of water and sank. The pilot and one passenger were unhurt and swam ashore and the aircraft was subsequently written off.

South East Air's Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-DIV at Ryan Creek on 13 April 2011

Stewart Island Flights and South East Air quietly continue to operate its flights from Invercargill and retain the total commitment to provide a friendly, efficient air service to Stewart Island that was first seen in Stewart Island Air Services operation and carried on by Southern Air. For 39 years these companies have been always been there for the Stewart Island community as well as providing easy tourist access to one of New Zealand’s most beautiful locations. Long may the service continue.

Above, BN Islander ZK-FXE overflies Stewart Island and below one of the company's Islanders on a Stewart Island beach. Photos : Raymond Hector Collection

A big thanks to Raymond Hector for his help on this post and for the great photos from his collection.

A Photo Essay on Stewart Island Flights’ operation by Bruce Gavin;

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