21 June 2010

NAC Apache

James Aviation’s second foray into offering a scheduled service was brought about by two reasons. The first was the unsuitability of Rotorua’s airfield at Whakarewarewa for larger aircraft. Following the Second World War NAC operated Lockheed L10 Electras and De Havilland 89 Dominies through Rotorura. In the 1950s NAC introduced De Havilland 114 Herons to the Rotorua route, and although the Duke of Edinburgh flew into Rotorua in a Heron during his visit, NAC decided, shortly afterwards that the Rotorua field presented hazards to large-plane passenger services.

James Aviation (Rotorua) Ltd had been formed in January 1958 as a subsidiary company of James Aviation Ltd and it was charged with managing James Aviation’s Rotorua scenic and charter operation. 

Following the withdrawal of NAC from Rotorua Bay of Plenty Airways introduced their own service to Wellington. However this service came to a tragic end when their Aero Commander, ZK-BWA, crashed on Mt Ruapehu on 21 November 1961 with the loss of six lives. With Rotorua without an air service James Aviation were chartered to fill the gap and offer a light-plane daily service between Rotorua and Hamilton and Rotorua and Tauranga on a twice-daily basis. This commenced on the 8th of January 1962 and continued until 9 November 1963 just before the present day Rotorua Airport was opened.

James Aviation's Piper Pa23 Apache, ZK-BYB at the old Rotorua airfield at Whakarewarewa.

While the Apache service never appeared in the main NAC timetable it did appear in the Waikato Times of 5 January 1962

James Aviation used Piper Pa23-160 Apache, ZK-BYB (23-1828), configured for four passengers with one seat being removed to make room for luggage. In addition Cessnas 182 ZK-BRI (c/n 33690) and BUK (c/n 34416) and Cessna 180A ZK-BVG (c/n 50068) were used on these and flights between Tauranga and Whakatane which were introduced at the same time. All these services provided connections to the corporation’s network.

These two classic photos give a good glimpse of the old Rotorua airfield at Fenton Street. Above Cessna 182A ZK-BUK and below Cessna 180A ZK-BVG.

In 1964 James Aviation (Rotorua) Ltd was purchased by Bill Evans who moved the operation to the in a hangar and office he had built. The name James Aviation Rotorua Limited was retained under his ownership. Ewan Smith, who went on to establish Air Rarotonga recounts, I was a school kid hanging around the airport then and used to help refuel and clean aircraft just to get near them. He had BRI, BVG, BUF and the new 172 CHN which was joined a bit later by BWN. BUF was sold. James Aviation Rotorua Limited offered scenic flights, charter and did photography and other aerial work for Forest Products. He didn't operate it for long before selling to the Aero Club in 1965. I believe he went to Bermuda for many years running a boat charter business before retiring back to Nelson. 

When the operation was sold to the Rotorua Aero Club  on the 31st of August 1965 the time assets included three Cessnas - Cessna 182 ZK-BRI, Cessna 180 ZK-BVG and Cessna 172 ZK-CHN, a confirmed order for a Cessna 206 floatplane, due for delivery the following month, a hangar and office. The combined Aero Club and James Aviation scenic and charter operations was operated under the name Rotorua Aerial Charter.

Aircraft Operated

Auster J/5B Autocar
ZK-AYQ - c/n 2944 (1959-1960)

Auster J/1B Aiglet
ZK-AZT - c/n 2751 (1957-1959)

Cessna 180
ZK-BQI - c/n 32373 (1960)
ZK-BUF - c/n 32935 (1963-1965)
ZK-BVG  - c/n 50068 (1958-1965)
Cessna 172
ZK-BUZ - c/n 28138 (1963)
ZK-BWN - c/n 47304 (1964-1965)
ZK-CHN  - c/n 17251986 (1965)

Cessna 182
ZK-BRI - c/n 33690 (1962-1965)
ZK-BUK - c/n 34416 (1958-1964)

Piper PA-23-160 Apache
ZK-BYB - c/n 23-1828 (1960-1963)

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