This Sunday I have updated previous posts on Akarana Air in the light of more recent research.
|Basking in the sun, Piper Aztec, ZK-DGT, at Gisborne|
|Piper Pa30 Twin Commanche, ZK-DOM, at Auckland on 15 December 1973. ZK-DOM met a watery end in Vanuatu at the end of last year... see http://rnzaf.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=civil&action=display&thread=11295 for more details and photos of this aircraft. Photo : B Gavin|
|NZ Herald, undated|
|NZ Herald, 27 July 1974|
With the both the Aztec and Twin Comanche getting increasing work, an application was made in January 1974 to add a Ted Smith Aerostar 600 to the fleet. The Aerostar, while having the same capacity as the Aztec, had the advantage of comfort and speed. The company proposed that the aircraft would be purchased by Sir William Stevenson, one of their regular clients, who had a requirement for an aircraft for private and business usage. In turn he agreed to make the aircraft available to Akarana Air for charter and air taxi operations. The entire operation of the aircraft was to be the responsibility of Akarana Air Ltd who would pay to the owner an annual fee of $7,200 as hire for the aircraft. The owner paid for his share of the direct operating costs, excluding pilot costs, which were provided by Akarana. Permission was granted to add the Aerostar on the 4th of March 1974 and the aircraft arrived in the country in November 1974.
The first Aerostar, ZK-DYW, at Invercargill on 26 July 1976.
|Piper Pa23 Aztec, ZK-DGT, at Tauranga carrying Mercury Air Courier titles.|
|Aerostar ZK-EHR at Christchurch on 2 December 1977.|
Meanwhile, in July 1975 an additional weekly Auckland-Wellington-Auckland courier flight was added to the Mercury Air Couriers service to cater for increasing demand. On the 1st of September 1976 this was increased to five times weekly making a 10 flight schedule. At the launch of the Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch courier service Mercury Air Couriers had pressed Akarana to provide a larger aircraft but final agreement for the increased capacity was not arrived at and the introduction of the Queenair was postponed to a later date. Later depressed economic conditions precluded the addition of the Queenair but by mid-1976 the company was in desperate need of additional capacity. In September 1976 the company was granted approval to operate a third Aerostar or a Cessna 340. A Cessna 340 was initially used in the form of ZK-DSD (c/n 340-0251) until June 1978 when Sir William A Stevenson took delivery of Ted Smith Aerostar 600A, ZK-WAS (c/n 60-0506-164), which was used by the company as needs necessitated.
|Cessna 340 ZK-DSD at Masterton in November 1975|
|Aerostar ZK-WAS at Ardmore on 25 August 1979|
By 1977 the concept of a night courier freight services was well established and the flights were running close to capacity. In February 1977 a successful application was made to the Air Services Licensing Authority to add a 15-passenger Beech 99 to its fleet. The company told the Authority that it required a bigger capacity aircraft to cope with the increase in demand for its main trunk courier service. The Licensing Authority, while granting the licence, restricted the use of the Beech 99 to charter and scheduled services originating from Auckland. As it transpired the company never added the Beech but later, in mid-1977, an Aero Commander 680FL Grand Commander, ZK-DBQ (c/n 1330-15), was added to its fleet as an interim aircraft for night courier services.