29 November 2010


Since the Pike River mine disaster Air New Zealand has been offering $90 fares between Hokitika and Christchurch, $120 between Hokitika and Wellington, $150 between Hokitika and Auckland as well as offering numerous additional services enabling people to get to and from the memorial service. What a fantastic effort which no one seems to have picked up on!

ATR sparks Wellington alert

Emergency services were called to Wellington airport this afternoon after smoke was smelt in the cockpit of a plane which had just taken off. The pilot on Air New Zealand flight NZ5043 from Wellington to Dunedin reported a smell of smoke in the cockpit shortly after taking off. The 66-seat ATR twin-propeller plane, carrying 59 passengers, returned to Wellington airport, which was put on alert. Nine fire engines were called to the airport during the incident and ambulance staff assessed three passengers. Air New Zealand spokeswoman Tracy Mills said the aircraft is operated by Mount Cook Airline, which is wholly owned by Air New Zealand. Engineers will check the aircraft and passengers will be transferred onto the next available service.

28 November 2010

Why Wairoa? - Eastern Air Services

This is the second post of the many the operators that have operated through Wairoa. So why fly a service to Wairoa? For most of the operators that have operated through Wairoa have served it primarily for the cartage of freight, especially the Dominion newspaper contract, or courier items. For later operators this has made my research very difficult as there was often nothing I could find in the Wairoa Star to indicate the beginning or end of the courier services.  Eastern Air Services is different in that it looked primarily to the provision of a passenger service to Wairoa.

On the 31st of January 1963 Eastern Air Services, the commercial wing of the Napier Aero Club, inaugurated a new passenger and freight service between Napier and Wairoa. According to the Wairoa Star the move which prompted the introduction of the service was that aero clubs had been subsidised by the Government in the training of pilots, but this had ceased in March 1962. Another reason cited elsewhere was that the aero club wanted greater use made of its Cessna 170 aircraft, which was an economic burden on the club. This aircraft was the air ambulance for the region and the club decided to investigate the need for an air service between Napier and Wairoa and, “after consideration, it was decided to go ahead with the venture in the hope that the service would subsidise the club’s cost to the extent of about 50 per cent” Mr R Kenah, the president of the Napier Aero Club, told the Wairoa Star.  

It was considered an historic moment by local body leaders of Hastings, Napier and Wairoa when the inaugural flight of Eastern Air Services was made between Napier and Wairoa last Thursday. The Mayors of Hastings and Napier were guests on the flight and they are shown arriving at Wairoa with other members of the party. They are Messrs R. Kenah (president of the Napier Aero Club), Jim Tait (chief pilot), R. V. Giorgi (Mayor of Hastings), Mr R. F. Shortt (Mayor of Wairoa ) and Mr Peter Tait (Mayor of Napier). Wairoa Star, 4 February 1963

To mark the inauguration of the new service Eastern Air Services flew the mayors of Napier (Mr P Tait) and Hastings (Mr R Giorgi) along with the president of the Napier Aero Club (Mr R Kenah) to Wairoa where they were received by the mayor (Mr R E Shortt) and 50 businessmen and local body officials at a special function at the Municipal Chambers. The six day a week air service commenced for the public on the following day, Friday, the 1st of February 1963. Mainstay for the air service was Cessna 170B ZK-BLT (c/n 26831) with a Piper Pa22-108 Colt, ZK-BYQ (c/n 22-8159), being used as the backup aircraft. The chief pilot was Jim Tait, the Napier Aero Club’s club chief instructor. In welcoming the service the Wairoa mayor, Mr Shortt, said “the inaugural flight, coupled with the development being carried out at Wairoa aerodrome, marked a new era in commercial aviation between the town and other centres of the province.” 

Mainstay of the service, Cessna 170B ZK-BLT at Napier. Photographer Unknown

Wairoa Star, 23 February 1963

The chief pilot, Jim Tait said the extension of the service to Gisborne was a natural and a must. “People should be enabled to continue their business in Napier, Wairoa and Gisborne in the one day,” he said.

The backup aircraft, the Napier Aero Club Piper Colt, ZK-BYQ.

Despite an increasing amount of freight being carried the air service did not meet Eastern Air Services expectations and petered out sometime in 1963. Max, Crarer, a Wairoa Borough Councillor, writing a public opinion piece in the Wairoa Star of the 6th of January 1964, questioned the expense of developing the Wairoa Aerodrome. He wrote, “Some months ago, with much fanfare, Eastern Air Services commenced a daily passengers and parcel service. Prominent members of the Airport Committee spoke of the great help they would be to the town and of fulfilling a very necessary service. Just how necessary that service was is demonstrated by the fact that Eastern Air Services could not even average two passengers a day. That they persevered longer than six months give truth to the old proverb, ‘Hope springs eternal’.”

People Included:

Jim Tait- chief flying instructor/ chief pilot
Tom Gavin- commercial pilot

Thanks again to Bruce Gavin for his help with this post. The next post in this series will be on long-time Wairoa operator Cookson Airspread/Cookson Air. If you have any information on services to Wairoa or were a pilot who has flown a regular service to Wairoa I would love to hear from you by emailing westland831@gmail.com

27 November 2010

Air Chathams at Auckland

During the peak summer season Air Chathams is flying a direct return Chathams-Auckland service on Saturdays in addition to the Chathams-Auckland-Napier-Chathams service on a Thursday. Convair 580 ZK-CIE was flying the service today, the 27th of November 2010. Photo : S Lowe

24 November 2010

More Flying through New Plymouth

Record passenger numbers do not mean New Plymouth airport terminal is likely to be extended anytime soon, says New Plymouth Mayor Harry Duynhoven. Last month 27,736 passengers arrived or departed from the airport, the highest ever in one month. This came hard on the heels of a record July to September quarter when 78,408 people began or ended their journey at New Plymouth's airport. With December traditionally a busy month the facility is on track to reach 300,000 passengers, the number used in the past as a trigger point for increasing the size of the terminal building.

23 November 2010

High Flying Execujet

ExecuJet Aviation Group awarded New Zealand AOC

Eighth Air Operating Certificate for the international group

The ExecuJet Aviation Group has been issued with a New Zealand Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, paving the way for the company to commence base aircraft operations in the country. The first to be managed in the region is a Gulfstream G550, privately owned, which will be available for third party charter effective immediately. “We are really delighted to add the New Zealand AOC to our business,” said Darren McGoldrick, Managing Director ExecuJet Australasia. “This region is an especially buoyant one with a high proportion of ultra high net worth individuals who recognise the time-saving benefits and ease of aircraft charter. We look forward to introducing our international experience in aircraft sourcing, maintenance, charter services and technical assistance into the New Zealand market.” ExecuJet holds an Australian AOC and sees the addition of a New Zealand AOC as an ideal complement as business aviation steadily expands in the region. New Zealand becomes the eighth country in which ExecuJet now holds an AOC, awarded under Part 119 in accordance with Civil Aviation Rule 125. In addition to the AOC, ExecuJet Australia has been awarded Part 145 approval by NZCAA to carry out maintenance on the G550 aircraft. With an initial staff of one engineer and three crew (for the G550) the intention is to expand the team at its Wellington Airport base in due course. ExecuJet looks after a managed fleet of 150 aircraft around the world and is one of the most recognised and established names in the international business aviation industry. The New Zealand operation will operate under the management of ExecuJet Australasia.

Source : http://www.execujet.net/en/news/d69d7037-47fe-4e84-bb24-371668818071.aspx

22 November 2010

Grabaseat Queenstown

One of the beauties of Air New Zealand's Grabaseat for me is the possibility of flying to all Air New Zealand's ports... On Saturday it was Queenstown's turn. It was great getting a cheap fare; it would have been nice if the weather was right as well! Did get a few photos but the Milford operators were grounded for most of the day...

The instrument approach down the Kawerau Gorge from ZK-NGD... have flown on all the 737 fleet now! ATR flights and a Jetstar flight were diverting meaning a long bus ride to Christchurch for many people. 

The wet runway made some great photos - albeit through the terminal windows... Air New Zealand's ZK-NGH arrives from Auckland.

...and Qantas' Boeing 737-800 VH-VXF arrives from Sydney.

Departing for Sydney Air New Zealand's Airbus 320 ZK-OJG - you would think they could move the trollies!

 ...while Pacific Blue's Boeing 737-800 ZK-PBJ arrives from Sydney.

Meanwhile Milford Sound Scenic Flights' Cessna 207 ZK-anything but -DRY stayed put all day.

 Glenorchy Air's Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-DOJ took off into the murk but obviously clearing weather and I wasn't quick enough to get a better shot than this desparation one...

while their Airvan ZK-LOR taxied out to much clearing weather.

Air Milford's Cessna 185 ZK-ENW also headed for Milford, which had much better weather than Queenstown...

and this was later followed by their Cessna 208 Caravan ZK-SKB.

On the rotary side, I only took a couple... High Country Helicopter's Hughes 500D ZK-HZK

and the Helicopter Line's ZK-IAV.

I've only got four airports to fly into now... Kerikeri, Wanaka, Whakatane and Gisborne though the latter two I have flown into!

18 November 2010

Saab back on the New Zealand register

Vincent Aviation's Saab SF340B, VH-UYN, that arrived on the 18th of October was placed on the New Zealand register as ZK-VAA (c/n 340B-301) on the 15th of November 2010.

So what happens now???

16 November 2010

Geyserland Commanders...

Following up on Bruce Gavin's piece about Geyserland Airways (http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2010/04/new-zealand-civil-aircraft-blog.html) Ewan Smith, the Managing Direcctor of Air Rarotonga sent in the photos below of Geyserland's Aero Commanders via Mike Condon. He writes... I worked for Air North for the three years prior to moving to Rarotonga and have a couple of old photographs of the Commanders I used to fly. These were taken in 1972 I think. There was one other - VH-EXZ which we had on lease from Australia for a period while ZK-DBQ was being rebuilt following an incident at Kataia. Anyway, you might find the pictures interesting. Cheers/Ewan

Aero Commander 500, ZK-CWP at Rotorua ca. 1972. Photo : E Smith

Aero Commander 680FL Grand Commander, ZK-DBQ at Rotorua ca. 1972. Photo : E Smith

Aero Commander 680FL Grand Commander, ZK-DHF at Rotorua ca. 1972. Photo : E Smith
The leased Aero Commander 680FL Grand Commander, VH-EXZ. Photo : E R Killick

14 November 2010

Air Wairarapa and Air Kapiti

In December 2001, Guy Hingston, a specialist at Masterton Hospital, announced the establishment of a new airline, Air Wairarapa. The company planned to start with flights from Masterton to Auckland on Fridays and Sundays for people wanting "weekend getaways." Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain (c/n 31-7405407), ZK-KIM, arrived in Masterton on the 15th of January 2002. ZK-KIM had previously operated in New Zealand with Eagle Air as ZK-FIB. Guy Hingston envisaged eventually having two Chieftains and he told the Wairarapa Times Age that, “ideally we would like to end up making two flights to Auckland seven days a week, one flight to Christchurch seven days a week, and night freight flights.” The Chieftain was repainted and Civil Aviation Authority approval to start flights was sought. The company was officially launched by Wairarapa’s Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer, on the 22nd of March 2002 with the company operating its scheduled Masterton-Auckland flights on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Wairarapa Times-Age, 19 March 2002

Guy Hingston and Georgina Beyer at the launch of Air Wairarapa at Masterton on the 22nd of March 2002. Photo : Air Wairarapa

By May 2002, however, the company was experiencing difficulties and on the 22nd of May 2002 Guy Hingston announced the company was cutting the scheduled flights in favour of concentrating on charter flights to special events such as. The Wairarapa Times-Age reported him saying, “it was not economic to make regular flights to and from Auckland. But he said the plane was full with passengers travelling to the Warbirds Over Wanaka air show. Bookings were also looking good for daily flights to Mystery Creek next month. The Ellerslie Flower Show later in the year is another we will likely schedule in. We are also hoping to make regular ski trip flights to the South Island. Mr Hingston said. A regular commuter service to Auckland could not be ruled out in the future. Mr Hingston said a return flight on Wednesdays and a weekend flight every month were being looked at.”

Piper Pa31 Navajo Chieftain, ZK-KIM, at Wanaka on 30 March 2002

This Wednesday service came in the form of Air Wairarapa spreading its wings and taking on another name – Air Kapiti. The Chieftain was reregistered ZK-KAP and wore Air Wairarapa titles on one side and Air Kapiti titles on the other. Masterton-Paraparaumu-Auckland flights started each Wednesday on the 26th of June 2002. NZ Aviation News reported that “the first scheduled flight on 19 June was cancelled as no passengers had booked a flight. The flight on 26 June carried two passengers from Masterton and picked up a further two from Paraparaumu. On the 22nd of July the company announced plans to increase flights between Wairarapa and Auckland via Paraparaumu to four days a week from September 9. This did not come to pass, as Air New Zealand, in the face of fierce competition, slashed its fares by up to 50%. This put Air Wairarapa under the same pressure that had led to the demise of Wairarapa Airlines. Guy Hingston told the Wairarapa Times Age, “This new development by Air New Zealand poses a serious economic threat to the viability of a local scheduled airline. Air Wairarapa has no choice but to consider withdrawing its schedule service.” The final services were operated on 21 August 2002 from Masterton to Paraparaumu and Auckland in the morning before returning direct to Masterton that evening. 

Air Wairarapa did stay in business for a time focussing on the charter market. The company website did announce that Air Wairarapa hoped to start a regular Masterton-Wellington service but nothing came of this and the Chieftain was sold to Sunair in late June 2003.

Guy Hingston, local MP, Judy Keal, and Kapiti Mayor, Alan Milne, at the  launch of Air Kapiti at Paraparaumu on the 17th of June 2002. Photo : Air Wairarapa

12 November 2010

Whakatane Winter Flights to be Pruned

WINTER 2011 will be a winter of discontent for regular commuters between Whakatane and Wellington. “Low demand” for Air New Zealand’s direct service between the Eastern Bay and the nation’s capital has prompted the national airline to can the service for five months from May. It is a move that has been met with dismay by Mary Hermanson, the marketing manager for Eastern Bay economic development agency Toi-EDA, who told the BEACON she suspected Air New Zealand had set the service up to fail by pricing flights from Rotorua to Wellington much cheaper than from Whakatane. In a statement, Air New Zealand Link Eagle Air general manager Carrie Hurihanganui said the direct service would now only operate during the higher demand summer months. “During the winter season passengers travelling between Whakatane and Wellington will be accommodated via an Auckland connection.” The service was introduced with much fanfare in 2008, initially with six services per week which were later scaled back to five.  “Demand on this route is highly seasonal. Passenger numbers this past winter have unfortunately fallen below winter 2009, despite considerable local promotional efforts,” Ms Hurihanganui said. “There continues to be good demand for our Whakatane-Auckland service and we will focus on building patronage on this service as well as working closely with the local mayor and council to support future regional growth opportunities.” Mrs Hermanson was unaware of Air New Zealand’s decision when the BEACON contacted her. “I’m very suspicious – you can manipulate demand through pricing and at times it was $100 to $150 cheaper to fly to Wellington out of Rotorua than Whakatane. That must have been deliberate. “I’m really disappointed – it’s frustrating. We worked hard and did a lot of marketing and put a good case forward to get the service here. “It’s really important for the regions to have these connections to the main centres. “I guess Air New Zealand wants to fill its planes up before they fly them, and that’s one way of achieving it.” Eastern Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Gerard Casey said he believed the service’s wintertime hiatus was logical, however he and others would work hard to ensure it would not be repeated in 2012. “From the chamber’s perspective, we can understand it. If it is not economical, it is simply not economical.” He had spoken to Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe about the issue and what could be done to increase the number of passengers travelling the route during the colder months. “As I keep telling people, we have really got only three seasons here – spring, summer and autumn. “It is hard to say we have a winter here, yet in terms of passenger numbers we traditionally go quiet over that period. That’s what we need to address.” In the Air New Zealand statement, Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne said he and his council were “keen to work on  projects that will assist the sort of growth that would support the reinstatement of this service, including current initiatives such as the Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi expansion, aqua culture project, and the industrial hub”.The small number of passengers already booked on the Whakatane-Wellington service next winter will be automatically rebooked to fly via Auckland.

10 November 2010

Recent Spotting at Auckland...

Great Barrier Airlines' Trislander, ZK-LGC on 25 October 2010 and ZK-LGF on 7 November 2010. Photos : S Lowe 

 The 25th of October 2010 was a good day for bizjets... Above Cessna 501 Citation ZK-NBR...
Cessna 510 Mustang, ZK-PGA... 
 and Gulfstream G200, N533GA

 Qantas was also sporting a couple of interesting aircraft on the 7th of November 2010. Atlas Air's Boeing 747-47UF/SCD was on the Qantas round the world freight flight while below Boeing 737-800, ZK-VH-VXB was sporting its distinctive artwork.

08 November 2010

King Air ZK-SNM joins Air Wanganui

Air Wanganui, who operate medical transfers and charter flights from Wanganui across NZ, have been operating King Air C90 ZK-MKG alongside Piper PA31T Mojave ZK-WTH.  The King Air ZK-MKG is on a planned period of maintenance while the Mojave is nearing completion of rework following a landing incident in May this year.

To allow for ZK-MKG's removal from service, the operator has leased NZ's second King Air C90 ZK-SNM from nearby Air Manawatu for the duration as from early October. It is seen here arriving at Wellington on a medical transfer flight on 27Oct.
Phil Craig photo

Go North

Mike Condon caught Go North's Cessna U206C (c/n U206-0922) at North Shore on the 7th of November 2010. Recently there was an article on Go North in the Kaipara Lifestyler...

Be it an urgent trip to Auckland for an international flight connection, a wide leisurely circuit of the huge Kaipara harbour coastline, or a trip to see Cape Reinga from the air - Kaipara has a little airline that can. Former Kaiwaka farmer, Murray Hargreaves, is the owner and operator of Go North Ltd, based on State Highway 12 just west of Maungaturoto, a flight operation that has grown from an agricultural role into an air charter business that can have accommodation added. Murray and his wife Kathy, who grew up in Marahemo, also operate Wings Bed and Breakfast in conjunction with their flying activity, and can offer a bed, breakfast and flight package. Self-contained accommodation is provided on the 52-hectare property, with a meal service available. Overseas guests have arrived after a pickup at Auckland Airport to enjoy an airborne holiday in the north. “I learnt to fly at the old Otamatea Aero Club field in Bickerstaff Road and went on to complete my commercial licences in Auckland,” said Murray. “I worked with James Aviation topdressing and spraying before going out on my own.” With capital borrowed against the beef cattle operation he runs on the property, Murray bought a Fletcher top dressing plane. “Then the price of beef went up, we paid off the loan a year early, and we are away,” he added.

Later the business operated under the Super Air brand, with Murray as pilot and manager, before the association ended in redundancy. “So we decided to form Air North, and we operate with a Cessna 206, capable of taking five passengers and their freight over a two to three hour flight time. “Our routes are usually from Maungaturoto to Auckland — either North Shore or the international airport. We do Maungaturoto to Great Barrier Island and all around Northland as well.” When not flying charters, Murray can still be found in his old role, topdressing and spraying with his Australian-built ‘Fat Man’ GA299C. Go North also retains a sense of aviation adventure as it offers a little ‘extra’ in its brochure. “On the west coast of New Zealand you can experience a dramatically different view of a wild, virtually untouched wilderness where we land — when conditions allow — to take in the atmosphere.”

07 November 2010

Wairarapa Airlines Revisited

During a recent visit to Masterton I was able to do some more research on Wairarapa Airlines. This is an extended post of this interesting operator

In August 1980 plans were announced for a new third level air service for Masterton. The yet to be formed Wairarapa Airlines Ltd announced their intention to offer flights from Masterton to both Auckland and Christchurch using Mitsubishi Mu2B ZK-WAL (c/n MU2-037). The new venture was initially to be financed by two Fielding based men, Tony Millen and Peter Christie. The Mitsubishi was also going to be made available to the commercial division of the Wairarapa and Ruahine Aero Club (Inc.) for its air taxi requirements when it was not being used on airline services. Partenavia P68B ZK-LAL (c/n 70), which was owned the Aero Club’s Chief Flying Instructor, Warren Hamilton, was to be used by the company as a backup for the Mitsubishi and also for charter work. An application to the Air Services Licencing Authority was successful. The company also applied for a non-scheduled service between Masterton and Wellington but this route was never operated.

 The airliners that weren't... Mitsubishi MU2B ZK-WAL was considered unsuitable for Masterton's unsealed Hood airfield. Photographed at Christchurch on 19 January 1985...
Partenavia ZK-LAL was to be the backup aircraft and carried Wairarapa Airlines titles. It is shown at Masterton on 8 January 1981.
All printed but in the end the wrong aircraft on the ticket... The Mitsubishi never entered service

The company, while having obtained the licence, had more difficulty obtaining the aeroplane. Delays were experienced getting the Mitsubishi ready for service and it finally emerged that the aircraft was unsuitable for operation from Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome. After months of delay the company applied to the Air Services Licencing Authority in May 1981 to substitute the Mitsubishi with a Piper Pa31-350 Navajo Chieftain. Permission was duly granted and ZK-PKC (c/n 31-7405207) arrived in Masterton on the 12th of August 1981 having been flown from the United States by Harry Jenkins who became to chief pilot. By this stage Peter Christie had bought out Tony Millen's shares and was the sole owner.

Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain ZK-PKC at Christchurch on 26 December 1988

Weekday flights from Masterton to Auckland and Christchurch began on 17 August 1981. The Chieftain had an early morning departure for Auckland before returning to Masterton. The aircraft then headed south to Christchurch, returning to Masterton by mid-afternoon. The schedule was later changed so that on a Wednesday the Chieftain would spend the whole day in Auckland offering Masterton business people a same day return service. From November 1983 the company introduced a late Friday afternoon Masterton-Auckland service which returned in the early evening.

The condition of Hood Aerodrome was, from the beginning, a concern to the company. Pressure was brought to bear on the local authorities for runway lights and these were installed in January 1982. The appeals for a sealed runway fell on deaf ears for many years though, undoubtedly, the pressure brought to bear by Wairarapa Airlines had a major influence on the runway eventually being sealed. In May 1982 the Partenavia was dropped from the company’s approved fleet and replaced with Piper Pa32-300 Cherokee 6 ZK-ERL (c/n 32-7540184) which was used for charter work.

Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-ERL was used for charter. It is seen at Masterton on the 12th of July 1982.

In October 1982 the company applied for a Temporary Air Service Licence to operate a Swearingen Metroliner II aircraft on its routes for a period of three months. The company was also looking at a merger with Auckland-based United Pacific Airlines. In its application the company said it had carried over 8,000 passengers since commencing services and that the passenger demand in December and January was already heavy and unlikely to be met without supplementary aircraft. The merger with United Pacific Airlines would have seen Peter Christie with a 50 per cent shareholding in a new company with the Metroliner flying out of Masterton to Auckland and Christchurch while the Chieftain would have been used on United Pacific’s Auckland-Kaikohe and Auckland-Kaitaia services. These plans came to nothing, however, as Hood’s unsealed runways made Metroliner operations impractical.

In April 1983 another change was made to the licence, this time the Cherokee 6 being replaced by Beechcraft 58 Baron, ZK-STG (c/n TH-1103). This aircraft was owned by Stewart Dawson Jewellers and it was made available for the company for hire for when the Chieftain was out of service and for smaller charters.

On the 4th of October 1983 it was announced that Hansells (NZ) Ltd, the Masterton-based drink and food concentrate manufacturer, had bought Wairarapa Airlines Limited. Peter Christie was retained as a pilot and office employee. The chairman of directors and managing director of Hansells, Mr John Maunsell, became managing director and he wasted no time in applying pressure for the sealing of Hood Aerodrome’s runway and looking for expansion. The following month the company announced it was considering extending its service to include Taupo, Rotorua and Nelson.

In December 1983 approval was given for flights to begin to Rotorua and Nelson and notification was given to the ASLA that Masterton-owned Piper Pa23-250 Aztec D, ZK-CUS (c/n 27-4499), was to replace the Baron as the backup aircraft and to operate the new routes. The company also advised the ASLA that Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain ZK-EVD (c/n 31-7405241) would be used when the company’s own Chieftain was being serviced. The new Masterton-Nelson and Masterton-Rotorua routes began in January 1984.

Piper Pa23 Aztec ZK-CUS (above) was normally used for flights to Nelson, Hamilton, Rotorua or Tauranga but it is seen here arriving at Auckland on 11 May 1984 after a flight from Masterton.  The Aztec was being used after ZK-PKC aquaplaned at Masterton.

Disaster struck the company on the 9th of May 1984. After a scheduled flight from Auckland the Chieftain, ZK-PKC, was coming in to land at Masterton in darkness and heavy rain. After touching down the plane aquaplaned on the grass runway. The pilot, David Atkinson, attempted to slow the plane down by ground looping it as it neared the northern end of the runway. The aircraft, however, slid for about 100 metres before hitting a wire fence and coming to rest with its left wheel in a roadside ditch damaging the port wing and undercarriage. None of the eight passengers or the pilot were injured in the incident. With ZK-PKC out of the air the Piper Aztec was used to maintain the Auckland and Christchurch flights while Mount Cook Airlines’ Chieftain ZK-MCM was chartered when loads necessitated a larger aircraft until such time as a new Chieftain arrived.

A rather forlorn looking ZK-PKC after running off the runway on the 9th of May 1984. Photo : Wairarapa Times Age 

The company had initially experienced big losses but by 1984 was breaking even on its Christchurch and Auckland routes with an average of five passengers per flight. PKC was out of the air for longer than expected, needing a new wing, so a second Piper Chieftain, ZK-WAI (c/n 31-7405185), was obtained. This flew its first charter on the 15th of June 1984 and then operated the normal scheduled from the 18th of June. ZK-WAI had modified which enabled it to land at a lower speed making it more suitable for operations into Hood. Similar modifications were also done to ZK-PKC which returned to service late in July.

The second Chieftain, ZK-WAI, displaying the company's Hansell's ownership at Masterton on 16 January 1986

With ZK-PKC back on line the company inaugurated a third weekly Masterton-Nelson flight on Wednesday mornings with the aircraft then continuing on to Christchurch. The flight returned in the late afternoon/early evening meaning Masterton people could have a full day in Christchurch or Nelson. These flights commenced on the 5th of September 1984. At that time the company said loadings on the Nelson-Masterton services varied from full to one passenger which was “marginally economic.” The hope was that the Nelson-Christchurch service would put the Nelson flights comfortably in the black.

Christmas 1984 presented Wairarapa Airlines with an unexpected Christmas bonus. Air New Zealand was affected by strike action with flights galore cancelled in the days before Christmas. Along with many other commuter airlines and aero clubs Wairarapa Airlines was quick to step in and offer extra flights for the desperate Christmas travellers stranded by the strike action.

In August 1985 the company advised the ASLA that a third Chieftain, ZK-PAI (c/n 31-7852118), had been added to their fleet and that from the 12th of August 1985 the company was adding Tauranga to its Rotorua flights in favour of Hamilton. However, the Tauranga flights were short-lived. The following month the company announced that with continuing substantial losses the directors had decided to concentrate on the major routes and to curtail those that were unprofitable. The timetable from the 1st of October 1985 saw the cutting of services to Rotorua, Tauranga and Nelson leaving the company concentrating on the core Auckland and Christchurch routes.

ZK-PAI was only operated by Wairarapa Airlines for a relatively short time. It is seen here at Christchurch on the 24th of November 1985.

With the collapse of Air Albatross in December 1985 Wairarapa Airlines returned to Nelson. Starting on the 24th of December 1985 the company introduced a daily Masterton-Nelson-Christchurch service from Monday to Friday departing Masterton at 7am and returning in the evening at 8prn. The service was not successful, however, and on the 21st of April 1986 the company cut the Nelson-Christchurch service and the Masterton-Nelson service was reduced to two flights a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Eventually these flights were also cut with the timetable of 16 March 1987 showing flights to and from Auckland and Christchurch only.

The airline had been at a break-even point for some time and previous losses had caused problems in funding capital repayments. In early 1987 the Wairarapa business community was asked to invest $200,000 to keep it flying. This did not eventuate, despite good support from local businesses. On the 3rd of April 1987 the Dominion reported the airline had been bought from Hansells NZ Ltd by a consortium of Auckland travel companies, later revealed as Worldwide Air Travel Ltd managing director Lindy Christian and Gulliver's Travel Ltd managing director Andrew Bagnall.

At some point in 1987 the Nelson service was dropped. With once again the need for only one Chieftain ZK-WAI stopped flying in 1988 and was used as a source of spares for ZK-PKC.

The advent of the Ansett NZ and Air New Zealand air wars and cheap fares greatly affected the airline. Cheap fares on the main trunk enticed passengers to drive to Wellington to pick up these fares to Christchurch and Auckland. In particular this impacted on flights to the South Island. In July 1989 the Christchurch service was reduced to two flights a week on Mondays and Fridays and then in mid-1990 the Christchurch service was cut completely. Despite these cuts the airline still did not make a profit. On the 9th of September 1991 the airline announced it was going into a three month recess. Secretary manager Alan Stewart told the Wairarapa Times-Age, “There is always a danger we will not be able to get started again, but we are hopeful."

The company was relaunched late in February 1992, with one Wednesday flight between Masterton and Auckland each week. This was later extended to a second flight on Fridays. During the rest of the week the Chieftain was used for other work, including night time courier work for United Aviation of Palmerston North. On the 8th of March 1994, on one these courier flights to Christchurch, ZK-PKC had a gear up landing at Christchurch. Neither of the two pilots were hurt. Despite this additional charter work the resurrected air service was still beset with the same lack of loadings and the scheduled service finally ended in early January 1997.

ZK-PKC looking rather bland at Palmerston North on the 20th of December 1993...
...and rather sad at Christchurch on the 8th of March 1994 (Photo : The Press).

People Included

David Atkinson - Pilot
Andrew Bagnall - Owner
Mike Bamford - Pilot
Lindy Christian - Owner
Peter Christie - Owner/Pilot
Stuart Hetherington - General Manager
Guy Houlbrooke - Pilot
Harry Jenkins - Pilot
Russell Jenkins - Pilot
Colin Kelly - Pilot
John Mahoney - Managing Director
John Maunsell - Managing Director
Kim McKay - Pilot
Guy McWilliams - Pilot
Jeff Sayer - Pilot
Alan Stewart - Secretary-Manager
Robert Thurston - Pilot
Chris Wright - Pilot

A big thanks to the staff of Archive Wairarapa for helping with my research at Masterton!

Have you got any corrections or additions to what's written above??? Please e-mail me with them to westland831@gmail.com