25 March 2012

Tyrrell Aviation - Flying between New Plymouth, Hamilton and Gisborne

Dan Tyrell, who had been a pilot since 1972, and was the founder of a successful Taranaki engineering company with strong links to the oil industry, formed Tyrell Aviation Limited on the 26th of April 1994, offering aircraft maintenance, helicopter flight training and aerial spraying, and general charter and aerial work from New Plymouth. Registered to Tyrrell Aviation were Hughes 269C ZK-HEL (c/n 300896) and Cessna 337A Skymaster ZK-KLB (c/n 337-0320).

Cessna 337 ZK-KLB at Ardmore.

On the 22nd of June 1995 the company announced that it had bought the assets of the defunct Kiwi West Aviation, including Beechcraft
Beech 65-B80 Excalibur Queen Air ZK-TAK (c/n LD-384), and that it hoped to reinstate a New Plymouth-Hamilton service the following week. The initial plans for the proposed service, which was aimed at business people, envisaged that the plane would be based at New Plymouth with an early morning and late afternoon New-Plymouth-Hamilton-New Plymouth service being offered on weekdays. Dan Tyrrell told the Taranaki Daily News, “Later the company would introduce a service between Hamilton and Gisborne, and later still one between New Plymouth and Palmerston North. Before that happened a second Excalibur would be bought and six more pilots employed.”

Beech Queen Air ZK-TAL on departure from Hamilton on 27 September 1995.

In preparation for the service the aircraft was repainted and reregistered as ZK-TAL. Delays in completing the paperwork, however, meant the air service did not begin until the 4th of September 1995. By this stage the company had revisited its plans and the aircraft was based in Hamilton. The first flight each day left Hamilton at 7.00am for New Plymouth, returning at 8.40am. The aircraft then departed for Gisborne at 9.00am, leaving there for Hamilton at 10.20am. The afternoon services started at 3.30pm with a Hamilton-New Plymouth return service being offered followed by a Hamilton-Gisborne return service. To meet CAA requirements the company, the aircraft was flown with two pilots, the company engaging three teams of two pilots.

Tyrrell Aviation timetable

Loadings, however, did not meet expectations. The service, which was primarily for business people, was suspended over the traditionally quiet Christmas period. On the 10th of January 1996 the Gisborne Herald announced that the company would not be resuming the service and that passengers were being rebooked on Air New Zealand Link flights via Auckland and Wellington. The aircraft was subsequently sold to Yellow Fin Holdings Ltd, was reregistered as ZK-PHA, and operated Port Hutt Air’s air freight service between the Chatham Islands and the mainland.

Beech Queen Air ZK-TAL at Hamilton on 16 December 1995.


  1. Didn't Kiwi West Aviation have a Beech Queen that crashed in 1995 on a scheduled Eagle Air flight from HLZ-NPL?

  2. Exactly right... ZK-TIK crashed on 29 March 1995 just after take off from Hamilton. All six people on board died. Their other Queen Air ZK-TAK went to Tyrrell Aviation. Watch for a post on Kiwi West in the future