31 July 2011

Economic and Efficient Travel - Northern Air


Northern Air was the trading name of North Island Air Services Ltd a private company established by Keith Madden and Dave McAlister and incorporated on the 4th of April 1995. Northern Air started life as a charter operator, flying school and aircraft sales centre but with a particular focus in offering scenic tours for international travellers who only had a few days break in New Zealand and in training pilots from the start to being ready to enter directly into a commercial operation. 

Cessna 177B Cardinal, ZK-DJK, at Auckland on 10 November 1996.

The company commenced operating from Auckland to Great Barrier Island in competition with Great Barrier Airlines and Air National’s Great Barrier Express during winter 1996. Initially the service operated five days a week, with a single return flight offered on Mondays and Fridays and two return flights offered on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. By the end of the 1996 the timetable had been increased to two daily return flights offered from Auckland early in the morning and late in the afternoon. 

Northern Air timetable, 6 October 1996

Cessna U206C Stationair ZK-JCB at Auckland on 8 March 1997.

airline which branded its timetables with “fly the friendly airline” or “for economic or efficient travel” told the Barrier Bulletin that it “aims to offer standard economical fares with no strings attached.” Northern Air operated a variety of single-engined and twin-engined aircraft in its fleet and each day the aircraft to be used for that day was selected in response to the passengers offering. The company sought to offer the cheapest fares possible to the island and as a launch incentive offered flights for $78 for Great Barrier Island residents. A flight centre was built at Claris airfield with building materials being transported to the island in the company’s Nomad.

Barrier Bulletin, December 1996
The friendly airline expected friendly passengers - check out the condition marked!

In addition to the Great Barrier run Northern Air took over The Air Charter Company’s courier service in October 1997. The courier run saw an early morning flight from depart from Auckland for Tauranga, Rotorua and Taupo. In the evening the aircraft returned to Auckland from Taupo via Rotorua, and Hamilton.

The Partenavias were often used for the courier run. Above, ZK-DMA taken at Auckland on 10 August 1996 by M Beaven and below, ZK-LAL taken at Tauranga on 8 October 1998
There was a real dogfight on the Auckland-Claris service during the years Northern Air operated. During this time Air National’s Great Barrier Express service ceased and Trans Island Air’s Cessna Grand Caravan service started and ended. The competition it experienced from Great Barrier Airlines and later Mountain Air, however, was too much. This and in-house fighting forced Northern Air to cease operating its air services in November 1998. At that time the directors, Keith Madden and Dave McAlister, described events leading up to their decision as "an untenable working relationship" between them. With the closure of the airline an interim Statement of Affairs showed Northern Air to have had a deficiency of almost $100,000 from its estimated asset realisation. The courier run and some of Northern Air’s aircraft were subsequently taken over by Great Barrier Airlines.

GAF N22 Nomad out at Parakai on 28 November 1996.
Barrier Bulletin, September 1998

Northern Air’s Fleet included:

Cessna 152 Aerobat
ZK-ETW (c/n 15285059)

Cessna 172N Skyhawk
ZK-JMB (c/n 17270039)

Cessna 177B Cardinal
ZK-DJK (c/n 17701862)
ZK-DFV (c/n 17701662)

Cessna U206C Stationair
ZK-JCB (c/n U206-0922)

Cessna 210 Centurion
ZK-NPD (c/n 21060331)

Cessna 421 Golden Eagle
ZK-ZAQ (c/n 421C0060)

GAF N22 Nomad
ZK-SNZ (c/n N22C-104)

Partenavia P68
ZK-DMA (c/n 68)
ZK-ERA (c/n 123)
ZK-FUZ (c/n 327)
ZK-LAL (c/n 70)

Piper Pa31 Navajo
ZK-VNA (c/n 31--8212003)

Piper Pa32-260 Cherokee 6
ZK-NOW (c/n 32-402)

Piper Pa32R 300 Lance
ZK-FMO (c/n 32R-7780023)

Piper Pa39 Twin Commanche
ZK-ERH (c/n 39-140)

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