Phoenix Airways holds the place of being the first airline to operate a trans-Alpine air service. In March 1961 Merv Dunn, trading as Phoenix Airways, was granted a licence to operate an air charter and air taxi service from Greymouth to all licensed aerodromes in New Zealand excluding the area south of Hokitika and bounded to the east by the Southern Alps using a leased Piper Pa23-160 Apache, ZK-BLP (c/n 23-1089).
|Company advertising - 1961|
|Piper Pa23-160 Apache ZK-BLP at Greymouth in 1961 prior to departing to Christchurch on a charter.|
On the 4th of September 1963 the Air Services Licensing Authority granted an application by Phoenix Airways Ltd to extend its charter operations by allowing a thrice weekly Greymouth-Christchurch trans-alpine service. Company Manager and chief pilot, Merv Dunn, announced that day in the Greymouth Evening Star that he intended the new service to start on the 9th of September with the Apache leaving Greymouth at 8.15 a.m. to arrive in Christchurch by 9.00 a.m. and returning from Christchurch at 4.15 p.m. to reach Greymouth at 5.00 p.m.
The service had to operate under visual flight rules and the inaugural flight, on the 9th of September was thwarted by unfavourable weather conditions on the Canterbury side of the Alps. The Apache left Greymouth with a full load but was informed by radio that Christchurch was closed to all visual flight traffic, thus, the flight returned to Greymouth. The next attempt, two days later, on the Wednesday also had to turn back due to weather conditions over the Southern Alps. The first successful flights took place on Wednesday the 18th of September 1963 with a full load being carried in both directions.
|Greymouth Evening Star - 7 September 1963|
|Piper Apache ZK-BLP while being operated by Phoenix Airways. Photo taken at Hamilton on 29 January 1962|
|Greymouth Evening Star 5 November 1963|
|Cessna 180 ZK-BVQ at Wellington sometime before April 1964. Presumably it operated for Phoenix Airways with Golden Coast Airways titles.|