27 May 2012

Westland Air and its Air Taxi Services

In August 1969 the Alpine Flying School was established in Greymouth using a Cessna 150, ZK-BVY, for training. From this, in October 1969, Nash Taurau established Westland Air Ltd with his wife Elizabeth Taurau. Cessna 172F, ZK-CKN, was acquired and Nash became the company manager and chief pilot. In March 1970, expanding from its training origins, Westland Air applied for an air charter and air ambulance licence that would allow it to operate from Hokitika and Greymouth. The initial application was turned down, but late that year, on the 10th of December 1970, an air charter and air ambulance licence was granted for operations from Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika. Late in 1972 the company was also permitted to conduct operations from Reefton’s Cronadun airstrip.

Westland Air's Cessna 172 ZK-CKN taken at Greymouth on 10 April 1971

On the 30th of July 1971, Westland Air announced its intention to inaugurate an air taxi service between Greymouth, Hokitika and the glaciers. Mount Cook Air Services had earlier that year terminated its skiplane service from Fox Glacier and Franz Josef to Hokitika. The company planned to fly southbound along the Alps and northbound along the coastline using the Cessna 172 for the service, which he envisaged would operate on Wednesdays and Saturdays. A second Cessna 172, ZK-CFD, was added to its licence in November 1971.

A few months before it became part of the Westland Air fleet, Rex Flying School's Cessna 172 ZK-CFD was photographed at Greymouth on 13 March 1971.

On the 31st of January 1972 Paraparaumu based Rex Air Charter Ltd and Westland Air Ltd started a new air service Paraparaumu and Wellington with Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika. Initially, the service operated from Paraparaumu south to Hokitika three times a week with the southbound flights leaving on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The aircraft overnighted at Hokitika and flew the northbound flights on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. Harry Jenkins, manager and chief pilot of Rex Air Charter, told the Greymouth Evening Star on the 31st of January 1972 that "the timetable would remain flexible until a pattern was established according to demand... If required stops will be made at Greymouth and Westport before going on to Wellington Airport where the scheduled arrival time is 9.50am. Mr Jenkins said the aircraft would bypass Greymouth or Westport if there were no passengers or freight to collect. ‘The whole thing is quite flexible.’” He also suggested in the Hokitika Guardian that “the service would also fill the gap left by NAC when it cuts its connection between Hokitika and Westport on May 30 1972.”

Greymouth Evening Star, 2 February 1972

The Civil Aviation Division of the Ministry of Transport acknowledged that theoretically the service could be conducted under the two air taxi licences. But they felt that if there was to be a regular service then it should be classified as non-scheduled service and appropriate licences needed to be sought. This fact was made known to both companies.

Meanwhile, the service was not proving particularly successful. Only 24 people used it in the first month, with Westland Air completing one return flight between the Wellington-West Coast and Rex Flying School flying five such flights. The companies made the decision to reduce the service to two flights a week, on Mondays and Fridays southbound and Tuesdays and Saturdays northbound.

Westland Air subsequently withdrew from the partnership with Rex Air Charter. With Rex not being able to operate from Wellington it was dropped as a destination, as was Hokitika. Rex continued to operate the service for a number of years using its air taxi licence and an on a seat charge basis.

When NAC withdrew its flights between Hokitika and Westport on 6 June 1972, Hokitika lost an air link to Nelson. Westland Air felt there was enough interest to offer an air taxi service to Nelson from Hokitika and Greymouth and duly announced their intention to offer a daily service along with a Friday and on demand Greymouth-Christchurch and return air taxi service commencing on the 19th of June 1972. It was given approval to operate Cessna 185 ZK-CCB on these flights and for its general charter and ambulance work. The service was very short lived, however, as Nash Taurau and the Cessna 185 were subsequently involved in an accident at Te Anau on the 25th of June 1972.

Greymouth Evening Star, 14 June 1972

The Cessna 185, ZK-CCB, which was to be used on the Nelson and Christchurch air taxi services.
Photo taken at Ardmore

Westland Air continued to offer training, charter and air taxi services until mid-1973 when it was taken over by Coast Air Charter.

Aircraft Operated

AESL Airtourer T4
ZK-DDP (c/n A568)

Beech A23-24 Musketeer
ZK-DAD (c/n MA-181)

Cessna 150
ZK-BVY (c/n 17865)

Still with Auckland Flying School titles but at Greymouth with Westland Air, Cessna 150 ZK-BVY in 1970-71

Cessna 172
ZK-CFD (c/n 17250279)
ZK-CKN (c/n 17252194)

Cessna 177B Cardinal
ZK-DIH (c/n 17701900)

Cessna 185A
ZK-CCB (c/n 185-0481)

Piper PA-18-90 Super Cub
ZK-BQN  (c/n c/n 18-5252)

Piper PA-22-108 Colt
ZK-BYQ (c/n 22-8159)

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