29 June 2011

Glenorchy Air


Glenorchy Air Services & Tourist Company Limited was established as a family business by Janet and Robert Rutherford on the 29th of September 1992. Named after the historic township of Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu the company began operations from Glenorchy with Cessna 185C Skywagon, ZK- CHK (c/n 185-0755). Trading as Glenorchy Air the company later expanded operations to Queenstown and began operating regular on demand tourist flights to Milford Sound. As the business grew a second aircraft was needed and Piper Pa32- 300 Cherokee Six, ZK-DOJ (c/n 32S-40638), was purchased in 1996.

The first aircraft in the fleet was Cessna 185 ZK-CHK seen here at Milford Sound on 14 September 1997
In 1999 Glenorchy Air was used extensively to transport members of the cast, crew and equipment for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy around the southern half of the South Island of New Zealand. This included flying producer Barrie Osbourne on reconnaissance trips to Paradise, Poolburn and Ben Ohau.

Glenorchy Air's Piper Pa32 Cherokee 6 ZK-DOJ at Milford Sound on 10 January 2014.
The Cessna 185, ZK-CHK, was sold in 2003 and was replaced by a Gippsland Aeronautics GA8 Airvan ZK-LOR (c/n GA8-03-034). The Airvan was so registered ZK-LOR to reflect the company’s involvement during the making of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the fact the company continue to provide air tours to some of the locations used in the filming of Lord of the Rings.

Given the company's connection to the Lord of the Rings as reflected in the Gippsland Airvan's registration, ZK-LOR, one wonders whether the company name should be rewritten as GlenORChy Air. The Airvan on a trip to the Glaciers, seen here at Franz Josef on 26th of November 2007.
The company website says Glenorchy Air provides scenic flights from Queenstown and Glenorchy to many destinations around the South Island including Milford Sound, Mount Cook, the Glaciers, the penguin and albatross colonies of Otago's east coast and to New Line Cinemas, Lord of the Rings movies location sites in the southern part of the south Island of New Zealand.

During the 2010/11 summer season the website also showed a Queenstown and Wanaka shuttle air service being offered on demand. In 2013 the company offered a scenic airlink to Treble Cone skifield meaning skiers and snowboarders could be on the mountain in only 20 minutes from Queenstown Airport.

A second Airvan, ZK-JRR, was added to the fleet in 2013.

The second Airvan, ZK-JRR at Milford Sound on 10 January 2014

On the 5th of Augsut 2014 the Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-DOJ was involved in accident near Poolburn killing the pilot and injuring two American tourists. The aircraft was written off and was replaced in 2015 by a third Airvan ZK-ZEA. A fourth Airvan, ZK-ORC, was bought from FlyStark, who operated it as ZK-FSS,  in September 2017.

On the 22nd of October 2018 Glenorchy Air chief pilot and co-owner Robert Rutherford, who with his wife Janet founded Glenorchy Air Services and Tourist Company in 1992 passed away.

The company was bought by Queenstown based company Stokes Aviation on the 1st of July 2019. Stokes Aviation Ltd is owned by James, Richard and Shelley Stokes. James flies for Genorchy Air and is the company's training captain, helps with maintenance planning and is also our CAA flight examiner.

Glenorchy Air's James Stokes

With the new ownership several changes occurred. The first was the rebranding of the aircraft with a smart new "kea livery." GippsAero GA8 Airvans ZK-LOR and ZK-JRR were repainted in new Kea livery for the 2029/20 summer by Daniel Frew at Mercer. Another Airvan will go for a similar refurbishment in winter 2020.

Airvan ZK-LOR at Omaka on 10 December 2019 after being repainted in the sharp new Glenorchy Air colour scheme 

The two repainted Airvans, ZK-JRR and ZK-LOR at Wanaka on 12 December 2019 

Cessna 172 ZK-RNX was sold in August 2019 and a factory new Cessna 206 Stationair HD ZK-JTK joined the fleet in December 2019.

Glenorchy Air's new Cessna 206 Stationair HD ZK-JTK at Queenstown on 12 December 2019. The 206 has been purchased brand new from the Cessna factory in Wichita, Kansas and features the latest Garmin G1000 NXI glass cockpit avionics, comfortable leather seats, noise-cancelling headsets and many safety features, including airbags in the seat belts. The 206 has a 6-cylinder turbo-charged Lycoming engine, producing 310 horsepower at all altitudes, giving it an excellent rate of climb and a cruise speed of around 150 knots, making it ideal for our longer trips.
...and with Airvan ZK-LOR at Wanaka

In 2019 Glenorchy Air placed an order for a new Cessna Grand Caravan EX which was supposed to join the in April 2020, replacing one of the Airvans.

Glenorchy Air’s factory new Grand Caravan EX will be equipped with the G1000 NXI, the latest in integrated glass cockpit avionics. Our passengers will enjoy a 10-seater Executive interior with comfortable leather seats and window seats all around. The Grand Caravan EX has a Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6-140 Turboprop engine which produces 867 shaft horsepower, driving a 4-blade constant speed propeller, which will make it one of the quietest aeroplanes operating in Fiordland.

Glenorchy Air have also expanded their Mount Cook options which was the main reason for purchasing the faster Cessna 206, allowing the Airvans to focus on Milford Sound traffic.

Airvan ZK-JRR at Mount Cook early in 2019 

With the Covid pandemic the arrival of the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX was delayed. It finally arrived in New Zealand in September 2020 and was registered ZK-MMZ. Meanwhile the Airvan it was replacing, ZK-ORC, had  left the fleet in June 2020. A new feature Glenorchy Air now offers are charter flights from Queenstown to Stewart Island. The Covid pandemic continued to interrupt tourist numbers to Queenstown in 2021 and Airvan ZK-ZEA left the fleet in early August 2021. In March 2022 a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX, ZK-PPR was added to the fleet while Airvan ZK-JRR was sold.

Over the years the company has operated a number of aircraft. The current fleet is indicated in bold;

Cessna 172:
ZK-CSU (1999-2000)
ZK-DHV (2003-2006)
ZK-DMH (2002-2003)
ZK-DNS (2010-2014)
ZK-EOI (1998-1999)
ZK-ERK (2003-2005)
ZK-FIG (2004-2010)
ZK-MDR (2010-2013)
ZK-RNX (2014-2019)
ZK-VCT (2001-2003)

Cessna 172 ZK-DNS carries small "Operated by Glenorchy Air" titles. Photo taken at Milford on 10 January 2014
Cessna 177 Cardinal:
ZK-DDK (1999-2004)
ZK-SPA (1999)

Cessna 185 Skywagon:
ZK-CGH (1994-1995)
ZK-CHK (1993-2003)

Cessna 206 Stationair:
ZK-JCS (2004-2005)
ZK-JTK (2019-current)
ZK-MIF (2012-2013)

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX
ZK-MMZ (2020-current)
ZK-PPR (2021-current)

Gippsland Airvan:
ZK-JRR (2013-2021)
ZK-LOR (2003-current)
ZK-ORC (2017-2020)
ZK-ZEA (2015-2021)

Piper PA32 Cherokee 6:
ZK-DOJ (1996-2014)
ZK-MAN (2003)
ZK-WGO (1997-2001)

Being operated into Milford Sound on the 14th of September 1997 was untitled Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-WGO


  1. also c172 zk-fig in 2004 and again 2007 till 2010

  2. Thanks for that... had it on my list and somehow omitted it.

  3. Also ZK-MIF short term 2012-2013, and ZK-JRR as of a few months ago (newest addition)

  4. DNS (C172) left the company last year and was replaced with ZK-RNX. Also new addition of ZK-ZEA as of this year

  5. Thanks...
    Would be nice to get a photo of ZEA sometime

  6. I will email you a photo

  7. New Airvan has just been purchased for 2017/18 summer season and will be on the books shortly. currently ZK-FSS (formerly flystark) but will be Changed to ZK-ORC

  8. GY Air has been purchased by Queenstown based company Stokes Aviation as of 1 July 2019. The 172 (RNX) is being sold and a Factory new C206HD will be joining the fleet in December.

  9. JRR is no longer current, has been sold and has flown to Australia.