21 October 2012

Last Flight to Gore - Rexair

In March 1972 Andy Padgett took over Rexair Flying School’s Dunedin operation. Reflecting its previous owner the new venture was called Rexair and offered flight training with a Cessna 172. An application for an air charter and air taxi service from Dunedin in December 1973 was declined but the following year, in November 1974, the company was granted such a licence for air charter, air taxi and sightseeing from Dunedin’s Momona Airport using a Cessna 172 and Cessna 177 Cardinal.

The most unusual of Rexair's fleet, De Havilland Tiger Moth ZK-BLI at Wigram in September 1978.
By late 1978 the company was experiencing a steady call for charters to Invercargill and Central Otago. At that time the air services to Invercargill and Alexandra and Queenstown operated in the middle of the day while the company’s clients sought a morning and evening service. As the air transport side of the business expanded the company hired Cessna 206 ZK-DWV to meet the growing demand.

By April 1979 the company was operating an air taxi service from Dunedin to Invercargill for passengers and freight. The nature of the licence required that all Rexair’s passengers originated in Dunedin and that no additional passengers were carried from Invercargill. This meant that a passenger could fly from Dunedin to Invercargill and back on the one day but no one could fly one way from Invercargill or do a return day trip from Invercargill. This meant passenger numbers did not meet their full potential but nonetheless the numbers were encouraging. In addition the amount of freight the service carried was growing and by the end of 1979 over 5 tonnes of freight was being flown each month.

The Ensign, 26 Match 1980

With this level of support the company applied for a non-scheduled licence between from Dunedin to Gore and Invercargill in early 1980. The company envisaged a morning Dunedin–Invercargill–Dunedin service between 8.00am and 10.00am followed by another round trip in the afternoon, between 3.00pm and 5.00pm in winter and 4.00pm and 6.00pm in the summer using the company’s Cessna 206, ZK-DXH, or Cessna 172s, ZK-DXL, ZK-ELT and ZK-EHO. The application was successful and Rexair commenced its non-scheduled services between Dunedin, Gore and Invercargill on the 1st of April 1980.

Two of the Cessnas used on Rexair's air service, Above, Cessna 172 ZK-DXL at Dunedin on 31 January 1979 and below ZK-EHO at Dunedin on 30 January 1979.

Unfortunately for Rexair two other events were to conspire against the new service. The first was that on the same day that they began their service Stewart Island Air Services took over Air New Zealand’s services between the southern cities and also introduced a return morning and return evening weekday return service between Invercargill and Dunedin using a Cessna 402 and Piper Aztec. This service, while it did not call at Gore offered direct competition.

Rexair's Cessna 206 ZK-DXH, still showing signs of its previous owner, Geyserland Airways. Photo taken at Dunedin on 1 April 1979

Nonetheless Andy Padgett told the Southland Times he was happy with the first day of the service. “It was very good and will get even better,” he said. “The morning flight took a full load of freight and there was a passenger on the afternoon flight.” Despite the competition from Stewart Island Air Services the company was pleased with the response to the twice daily, Monday to Friday service. There was a good patronage from Gore passengers who could connect with Air New Zealand services at Dunedin.

Below, pilot Graham Guy of Rexair at the controls of ZK-EHO one of the three seater planes that the company has in operation for its it flights. Mataura Ensign, 8 June 1980

But any hope of the service being successful was dashed on the 7th of June 1980 when the Taieri River burst its banks and flooded and closed Dunedin’s Momona Airport for 53 days. During this time the Rexair service operated from Taieri airfield but with the flooding stopping all Air New Zealand services to Dunedin the impact on Rexair’s business was severe and the company ceased operating the non-scheduled service in August 1980.

A sodden Dunedin Airport, June 1980
Looking ahead to spring, but by the end of August 1980 Rexair had suspended its regular air service. The Ensign, 22 August 1980.

Later in 1980 a Cessna 207 was used by the company when a larger aircraft was needed but by early 1981 the company, like others in the aviation scene, was experiencing a downturn in operations. The activities were mainly business charters to places such as Invercargill, Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington, with local joy rides in the weekends. The staff was reduced to two full time pilots with several part-time pilots and by May 1981 Andy Padgett was negotiating to sell company. On the 17th of August 1981 the Air Services Licensing Authority approved the transfer of Rexair’s licence to John Raymond Gray and Graeme Frederick Tikey whose operation was to be known as Skyways. 

People involved in the air service included:
Dianne Guy (pilot)
Graham Guy (pilot)
Andy Padgett (owner and pilot)
Roger Sim (pilot)

Aircraft Operated by Rexair Included:
ZK-BLI            De Havilland 82 Tiger Moth
ZK-DAW        Cessna 172L
ZK-DFE         Cessna A150L
ZK-DJV          Cessna 172M
ZK-DNW        Cessna 177B Cardinal
ZK-DNX         Cessna 177B Cardinal
ZK-DPZ         Cessna 177B Cardinal
ZK-DWH        Cessna U206F Stationair
ZK-DXH         Cessna U206F Stationair
ZK-DXL          Cessna 172M
ZK-EFH         Cessna 177B Cardinal
ZK-EHO         Cessna 172N
ZK-ELT          Cessna 172N

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