06 May 2011

Looking Back - Air New Zealand Link launch May 1991.

The rebranding of the Virgin Group of airlines (Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue, V Australia) to just one brand "Virgin Australia" drew my attention to the introduction 20 years ago this month of the Air New Zealand Link concept and the first aircraft the livery was applied to.

During the phasing out of the Air NZ Fokker F27 fleet, Air NZ enhanced their stake holdings in the major regional airline's made up of Mt Cook, Eagle Air and Air Nelson.  Air Nelson, who until the late 80's only operated Metroliners and a light piston twin aircraft, was selected to take over most of the Air NZ F27 routes with Saab 340 aircraft and has been previously blogged the first of this type, ZK-FXB, was introduced to service in November 1990 in full Air Nelson livery. 

The corporates concluded in early 1991 that an overarching brand needed to be applied to the airlines providing passenger services on behalf of Air New Zealand therefore in May 1991 the Air New Zealand Link concept was launched with all three carriers moving from their own airline IATA codes (Mt Cook was NM, Eagle Air EX and Air Nelson PG), to NZ with Mt Cook flight numbers in the 5000 series, Eagle Air 2000 series and Air Nelson 8000 series.  This system remains in place today, the flight number callsign used for ATC purposes does not use the leading digit i.e. NZ8376 for the ATC system is RLK376, RLK is "Link", a slightly revised form of the original "Airlink" callsign used in the start of operations and a significant change from "Motair" previously used by Air Nelson linking its history back to Motueka days!

The first aircraft to receive initial Air New Zealand Link livery was Saab 340 ZK-NSM.  This aircraft was delivered to Nelson as SE-KRT on 30 April 1991 arriving from Sydney in full Air Bremen, Germany colours.  It ferried later the same day to Christchurch where it was painted by Air New Zealand and furtively flown back to Nelson under the cover of darkness on 16 May 1991 where it was then hangered, under covers (!!) until its entry to service and the unveiling of the 'product' launch on 23 May 1991.  Its first service still used the PG airline designator when it flew as PG768 from Nelson to Wellington flown by Captains Ian Pirie and John Morris.    The NZ designator was adopted a couple of months later when reservation systems etc were updated.

The Air Nelson Saab fleet temporarily wore the decal is shown below celebrating Nelson's 150th birthday.

Mike Condon photos

No comments:

Post a Comment