29 July 2012

Avcorp Commuter - Experience the Difference

In 1980 Aviation Corporation Ltd bought Nelson based James Air. The airline continued to operate as James Air until it was rebranded as Avcorp Commuter on the 1st of August 1983. Earlier that year the Beechcraft agency was advertised as being held by the Aviation Corporation, and in mid-1983 Aviation Corporation Ltd introduced an air charter service out of Wellington using a a pressurised Beechcraft B60 Duke, ZK-SIH (c/n P-525). The aircraft was also available to be used as a back-up aircraft for James Air/Avcorp Commuter scheduled services.

The Beech Duke, ZK-SIH, which was used primarily for charter, at Nelson on 26 November 1983.

At the time of the rebranding Avcorp Commuter were operating services between Nelson, Blenheim, Wellington and Palmerston North using Cessna 404 Titan ZK-TAT (c/n 404-0080), Aero Commander 500A ZK-DCF (c/n 500-A-1274-97) and leased Cessna 402 ZK-DSG (c/n 402B-0559).

Aero Commander ZK-DCF at the Nelson air show on 15 April 1984. 

The company was interested in developing new routes and so in late August 1983 Nelson-New Plymouth and return air service was launched. It initially operated as an air-taxi service while permission was sought to add it to its scheduled licences. The trice weekly northbound service left Nelson for New Plymouth at 9.10am Monday to Friday, arriving about 10.20am. The return service would leave New Plymouth at 10.40am to arrive in Nelson about 11.50am. The New Plymouth flights proved popular and additional Friday and Sunday services were added from the 5th of December 1983. The company also offered discount fares to stimulate business.

December 1983 also saw the arrival of Air Albatross’ 18-seater Metroliner on Cook Strait services. The new competition was too much for Avcorp Commuter and, after discussions with Air Albatross, the airline came to the conclusion that the two airlines should  complement each other’s’ services rather than competing against each other in a highly competitive market. Avcorp made the decision was made to cut its Nelson and Blenheim services to Wellington from the 5th of March 1984 and at the same time to expand its services from Nelson to include Wanganui and Rotorua.

Nelson Evening Mail, 1 March 1984

The new services saw introduction of a thrice-weekly service between Nelson and Wanganui. The Nelson-Palmerston North service increased from nine to ten flights a week, with three of these continuing on to Rotorua. Avcorp’s manager, Ivor Bissell, told the Nelson Evening Mail that, “As well as regular commuters there is great potential for the development of more inter-district tourist traffic and overseas visitors. Our new service to Rotorua, for example, is pitched toward the tourist market. We are hoping to draw more visitors to the Nelson-West Coast regions.”

The Cessna 404 Titan at Palmerston North whiilst on a scheduled service from Nelson 21 August 1983.

Just a few months later, in September 1984, Avcorp Commuter was put up for sale as the Aviation Corporation Limited rationalised its interests. Dudley Harris from the Aviation Corporation told the Nelson Evening Mail, “Loadings from Nelson to Palmerston North, Wanganui, and New Plymouth were encouraging and charter work was busy. Aviation Corporation has a wide range of engineering activities and represents various overseas firms’ aviation hardware in New Zealand. Avcorp Commuter is based in Nelson and operates to three centres only. “While it is a very promising business, well patronised, we have now questioned whether it really fits into the central company's overall setup. he The main thrust of that company was not an airline operation.”

Leased Cessna 402, ZK-DSG, at Nelson on 26 November 1983. 

Air Albatross quickly announced that it would fly from Nelson to Palmerston North and New Plymouth from the 1st of October, Air Albatross’ Murray Turley noting that “What Avcorp is having to face up to is that nobody has to buy licences any more to fly a particular route. With the much easier air licensing you aren't forced to buy somebody's licence Avcorp is perhaps is having to face the reality that its licence as such has no value… apart from the actual cost of applying to the authority to get one.”

Nelson Evening Mail, 10 October 1984

Avcorp Commuter ceased its airline service on the 24th of October 1984.

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