30 September 2012

Nationwide Aviation - Taranaki's Own Commuter Airline

Charles Haywood learnt to fly with the Southland Aero Club in 1952, becoming the Chief Flying Instructor with the Southern Districts and New Plymouth Aero Clubs. He established the Taranaki Flying School Ltd at New Plymouth airport in 1968 which operated Airtourers ZK-CDO, ZK-CGM, ZK-CRG and ZK-CXT. In 1973 he gained another air service licence for air charter and air taxi services from New Plymouth. The air charter and air taxi service operated under the name Nationwide Air Taxis while the company, Nationwide Aviation (NP) Ltd, was registered in July 1974 with Charles J Haywood and his son Charles E Haywood being the directors, though the father was the main figure in the company. The licence remained held in the name of C J Haywood until the 24th of August 1981 when it too was changed to Nationwide Aviation (NP). He continued to operate both the air charter and flying school businesses but in 1977 the flying school was abandoned and only the commercial services continued.

Daily News, 26 May 1977

Initially Nationwide Air Taxis offered air charter work using only single-engined aircraft including a Cessna 172 and Piper Pa32-260 Cherokee 6 ZK-DQY (c/n 32-7400038). Piper Pa23 Aztec ZK-CUS was used to assess the need for a light twin. As a result of this trial Piper Pa23-250 Aztec E ZK-DGS (c/n 27-7304959) was purchased and registered on the 10th of May 1977 and a few weeks later Nationwide Air Taxis introduced a morning New Plymouth-Auckland return air taxi service on the 30th of May 1977. The Aztec service to Auckland left New Plymouth about 7.30 am and returned to New Plymouth about 9.30 am. The aircraft was then available for charter and air taxi work as required. The air taxi service changed to a scheduled, Monday to Friday service in 1979.

Nationwide Aviation (NP)'s Piper Cherokee 6 was registered to C J Haywood on the 28th of June 1974. It is seen here at New Plymouth on 23 June 1984.

By early 1981 Nationwide Aviation was experiencing increasing demands for air charter work. A major contract was with a large poultry breeding firm, Ross Poultry N.Z. Ltd. This involved flying day old chicks from New Plymouth to various destinations throughout the North and South Islands including Tokoroa, Palmerston North, Otaki, Foxton, Rangiora and Christchurch with two to three flights a week.

On a chicken flight, Nationwide Aviation's Piper Aztec at Christchurch in August 1979.

The company was also experiencing increased demand on the New Plymouth-Auckland scheduled air service, especially on the northbound service. The company was also keen to be able to operate two aircraft on the morning service, when demand warranted, and to introduce an afternoon New Plymouth to Auckland and return scheduled service. To cater for this increased demand the company added a Ted Smith Aerostar 600, ZK-DYW (c/n 60-0184-081), to its fleet in May 1981 and an afternoon service to Auckland was introduced later in the year. With the introduction of the Aerostar the Nationwide Air Taxis branding disappeared in favour of Nationwide Aviation (NP) Ltd titles.

In June 1982 the company turned its attention to the capital and applied to the Air Services Licensing Authority to operate the Piper Aztec on a three times a week service from New Plymouth to Wellington and back. The company proposed that the aircraft would leave New Plymouth at 4.45 in the afternoon, this saving Wellington business travellers the wait until Air New Zealand's 6.20pm flight. The return flight would save passengers an hours wait for the Air New Zealand flight. Air New Zealand objected to the application saying that any erosion of its traffic would result in higher fares.  The Licensing Authority, however, felt commuter services should offer complementary rather than competing services to Air New Zealand and the application was refused.

By the end of 1982 the company was experiencing increasing success on its twice daily weekday service to Auckland and with a 20% rejection rate it was felt there was room for expansion. For the year ended 31 March 1982, 2726 passengers were carried Nationwide Aviation’s services, but 545 passengers were turned away because their required flights were fully booked. Additional special flights using the Company’s second 5-seat twin-engined aircraft on the Auckland scheduled service became a regular occurrence every week, the company often carrying up to ten passengers each way. This effected the charter business and so to counter this the company successfully applied to add a 10-seat Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain to the fleet. ZK-SDH (c/n 31-8052172) commenced operations on the Nationwide Aviation’s Auckland service on the 4th of May 1983.

Nationwide Aviation's flagship, Piper Chieftain ZK-SDH taken at New Plymouth on 21 February 1985. 

Nationwide Aviation was still keen to start a New Plymouth-Wellington service and applied unsuccessfully to the Air Services Licensing Appeal Authority. In upholding the refusal, Judge Rothwell said the airline was hoping to pick up traffic on its northbound flight from Wellington, and the southbound flight was really only a positioning exercise. The company subsequently decided to commence an air taxi service to Wellington and this started on the 1st of August 1983. However, the Wellington air taxi service was suspended some six weeks after starting following complaints to the Air Services Licensing Authority by Air New Zealand and a New Plymouth accountancy firm. They alleged that Nationwide was publishing a timetable which was a breach of the conditions for operating an air taxi service.

The timetable that caused all the problem... Air Taxi services were not allowed to have a published timetable. Nationwide Aviation's New Plymouth - Wellington timetable, 1 August 1983

Repainted Piper Aztec ZK-DGS at New Plymouth on 21 February 1985.

The company’s single-engined operations ended in December 1984 when ZK-DQY, the Piper Cherokee 6, was sold. Meanwhile the various aircraft in the fleet kept busy with the Auckland service and charter work.

Ted Smith Aerostar ZK-DYW at Auckland after the morning flight from New Plymouth on 6 August 1984. 

Nationwide Aviation timetable, effective July 1986

In 1987 the company was experiencing increasing costs and a general downturn of passenger loadings making the viability of the company more difficult. The company was struck a final death blow when the Chief Pilot got a job with Air New Zealand and the company was unable to recruit a suitable replacement with the necessary qualifications and experience. On the 23rd of June 1987 Kevin Donaghue operated Nationwide Aviation’s final flight in Piper Chieftain ZK-SDH so ending the services of Taranaki’s own commuter airline.

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