27 March 2011

Au Revoir Air National - 5. Dash 8s and the Whisper Jet

In August 2001 Air National upsized in the form of ex Ansett New Zealand De Havilland Canada DHC-8-102 Dash 8 ZK-NEZ (c/n 60). A second Dash 8, Bombardier DHC-8-202 Dash 8 ZK-ECR (c/n 475) was added to the fleet in April 2003. Both these aircraft were used on charter work and on support of Air Nelson and Mount Cook Airlines services.

Dash 8 ZK-NEZ at Tauranga on an Air Nelson service on 8 October 2002

ZK-ECR also did a stint in Tonga flying for Flyniu Airlines. This airline was established after the demise of the Royal Tongan Airlines by Venisi Taufa, Samuela Folaumoetu'i, Micheal Fa'asolo and 'Atu Finau (CEO) as an airline run by people of Tonga for the people of Tonga and the traveling public. Receiving their trading licence the company decided Air National’s Dash8-200 was the most efficient and suitable aircraft available. The aircraft arrived in Tonga on the 7th of June 2004, the flight taking just 3hrs 40mins from Auckland! A proving flight was carried out the following day to both Vava'u and Ha'apai with scheduled services starting on the 16th of June 2004. The airline operated a twice daily Monday to Saturday service from Tongatapu to Vava’u, with the exception of Wednesdays when there was only one flight and a daily Monday to Saturday service from Tongatapu to Ha’apai.

FlyNiu timetable
ZK-ECR while in service in Tonga. Photo : http://www.flyniu.com/
 Just a couple of months after starting the Tongan government decided that there would only one carrier licensed to fly domestically in Tonga and this was awarded to Peau Vava'u. Flyniu won an injunction to allow them to keep flying, however, on the 10th of September 2004 the announced they had ceased trading in accordance with the Court decision of 8 September 2004 when the Court lifted the injunction against the revocation of their operating licence. A notice on the website said, “Unfortunately, we the people's airline are the ones to be put out of business.”

ZK-ECR at Auckland on 2 November 2003.

There was never a great deal of charter work for the Dash 8s and in 2005 the decision was made to withdraw them from the fleet. ZK-NEZ went to Vincent Aviation while ZK-ECR returned to the lessors.

Air National’s final addition to its fleet came with the arrival of a British Aerospace 146 Series 200 ‘Whisper Jet’ in Auckland on the 15th December 2008. Registered ZK-ECO (c/n E2130) on the 14th of January 2009 the aircraft and it undertook a 'proving flight' between Auckland and Palmerston North on the 17th of February 2009 as part of its process for Civil Aviation Authority approvals. Charter operations saw the aircraft flying into numerous New Zealand airports from Kaitaia in the north to Invercargill in the south including, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Napier, Palmerston North, Wellington, Blenheim, Nelson Christchurch and Queenstown. Charters included flights for the Exclusive Brethren, the band Pearl Jam, Tauck Tours and two golf charters into Kaitaia.

On the second golfing charter to Kaitaia, ZK-ECO on 1 December 2010.

The Whisper Jet has also had five sorties into Australia being used for among things for the band Pearl Jam and in supporting Julia Gillard’s election campaign in the lead up to the 2010 Australian elections.

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