21 April 2013

Air Gisborne - 40 years old


In October 1972 the Gisborne Aero Club and its commercial operation, Eastern Airlines collapsed leaving Gisborne without an air charter service - see http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/gisborne-aero-clubs-airline-eastern.html. The February 1973 issue of NZ Wings reported that after the collapse of the aero club there was a move from an organisation which named itself the Gisborne Pilots Association. This association had nothing to do with the executive of the old aero club and went to some pains to point this out. Initial thought from the group leaned towards the possibility of buying one or even two of the Gisborne Aero Club aircraft to re-establish a pilot training service. But, lack of suitable funds forced an early re-think and negotiations were begun with a number of flying organisations and flying schools with the view to a co-operative effort. In the end suitable agreement was made with Mr Bob Maisey of Taupo. Now, his three aircraft, a push-pull Cessna 336 Skymaster, a Cherokee 160, and a Bolkow trainer have been transferred to Gisborne from Christchurch where they had been leased.

He was not the only one interested in offering a charter service from Gisborne. Gisborne Charter Service wanted to establish its own operation with a Piper Cherokee 6. As an interim measure the Air Services Licensing Authority granted temporary licences to Bob Maisey who traded as Air Gisborne and Gisborne Charter Service prior to a public hearing to determine which company would be given a permanent licence.

In April 1973, NZ Wings carried the news that Air Gisborne had been awarded the licence to replace the Gisborne Aero Club's air charter and air taxi services from Gisborne with an authorised fleet of one Piper Pa28 Cherokee 160 and one Cessna 336 Skymaster. The Licensing Authority said that because Air Gisborne proposed to use two aircraft and to operate a flying school as well its proposals were attractive from a service point of view. Cessna Cessna 336 Skymaster (c/n 336-0168) was licenced to the Gisborne Flying School on the 14th of April 1973  and to Air Gisborne on the 25th of January 1974. On the 24th of April 1978 the Cessna 336 was damaged at Gisborne Airport when its take-off was aborted after the rear engine failed. The pilot and three passengers on board were uninjured. The damage to the aircraft was enough that it was not repaired.

Air Gisborne's first twin, Cessna 336 ZK-CGF taken at Taupo in July 1977 by Allan Wooller

In its forty years in business Air Gisborne never operated a scheduled service, but it was involved with Air Central in offering an air taxi service on a timetable basis between Gisborne and Hamilton. In September 1976 Air Gisborne was given the right to add a Cessna 402 to its licence. While Air Gisborne held the licence the aircraft was operated by Air Central and these services began in October 1976. The Air Central and Air Gisborne timetable offered two return services on the route Napier-Gisborne-Hamilton on week days and one return service on Saturday and Sundays. This service put Air Gisborne and Air Central in competition with Air North who was the licenced scheduled operator on the route, though their service operated via Rotorua. As a result of the air taxi service, from October 1976 Air North's loadings experienced a sharp downturn and so in April 1977 Air North successfully applied to operate a scheduled service between Hamilton and Gisborne.

Air Central and Air Gisborne's air taxi timetable, effective 18 April 1977

The Air Central/Air Gisborne air taxi service continued to be the more popular service and in August 1977 Air North announced its decision that it wished to withdraw the Hamilton-Gisborne route. In the event agreement was reached that the Air Central/Air Gisborne air taxi service would be withdrawn while Air North removed all its services south of Gisborne. So ended Air Gisborne's only "airline service."

Since that time Air Gisborne has remained focused on air charter and flight  training while also offering scenic flights, aerial photography flights, survey flights and air ambulance work. The mainstay of Air Gisborne's twin engine fleet has been Piper Pa34 Senecas and they continue to constitute an important part of the Air Gisborne fleet.

Mixing it with the big boys... After being purchased from the Ministry of Transport in May 1981 Piper Pa34-200 Seneca ZK-DCL on the ramp at Auckland. Photographer unknown. 

Repainted, Piper Seneca ZK-DCL at Rotorua on 5 November 1986.

Piper Pa34T-200 Seneca ZK-TLC at Gisborne on 28 Spetember 1998
Long time fleet member - Cessna 172M ZK-DXF at Gisborne on 18 May 1988

On the 1st of April 2006 Andrew and Bronwyn Reid bought Air Gisborne from long term owners John and Margaret Reid, Andrew's parents. 

On the 23rd of August 2012 Air Gisborne added Piper Pa31-235 Navajo Panther ZK-SRC to its fleet, primarily for air ambulance work. However, on the 7th of April 2013 the NZ Herald reported that the flying medical service, which was expected to save $200,000, was under review after nose-diving into debt and being some $700,000 over budget and having provided 40% fewer flights than expected. Gisborne-based health authorities had launched the aerial operation with fanfare but official word on the service has been muted since. The Gisborne Herald reported that "the service failed to reduce costs because of an increase in demand for pressurised flights — almost half of patients now required them compared to just 10 percent when the service went for tender last year."

Air Gisborne worked throough these difficulties and in May 2015 Air Gisborne added turboprop Beech C90A King Air King Air to its fleet and then in February 2015 the two Piper Senecas, ZK-DCP and ZK-SFC, were sold. This left the Piper Navajo Panther and Beech King Air to do the air ambulance and charter work. 

Arriving home, Piper Seneca ZK-DCP taxis to the hangars on 25 November 2011
A lot of Air Gisborne's work is flying down to Napier for various customers. Piper Seneca ZK-SFC was sitting out the day at Napier on 23 November 2011

Today Air Gisborne continues to offer Gisborne and the surrounding area a solid and dependable air service as it has done for the last forty three years.

 The current Air Gisborne fleet includes

Beech C90A King Air ZK-SKL
Beech King Air ZK-SKL arrives at Gisborne on 10 August 2015 on an air ambulance mission

Cessna 172M ZK-DXF
Lining up for take off, ZK-DXF at Gisborne on 25 November 2011

ZK-JER  Grumman American AA-5A Cheetah
Enjoying the East Coast sun, ZK-JER at Gisborne on 25 November 2011

ZK-MRR Grumman American AA-5A
The other trainer, ZK-MRR at Gisborne 1 December 2009

ZK-SRC Piper Pa31-235 Navajo Panther
Doing some engine run ups before going out on an air ambulance flight, the new Piper Navajo Panther at Gisborne on 15 November 2012


  1. Wonder did the late Bob Maisey have a involvment with air Gisborne at any time ?

  2. You were right... I did a little more digging and I have updated the post

  3. What affiliation, if any, did the airline have with Air NZ? Would a strategy involving matching schedules played a part in the decision to paint the Senecas with a teal tail?