08 February 2015

Try an All Action Weekend - Air Tours Kaikoura

Air Tours Kaikoura was established by the Kaikoura Aero Club in 1993 primarily as a whale watching operation using their Piper Pa28 Cherokee 180 ZK-DGM and Cessna U206G Stationair ZK-KAI.

Local businessman Rodney Harmon soon took over the operation and Chris Thompson was appointed as the operations manager and chief pilot. While core business was whale watching flights, charter services, remote strip operations and supply dropping were also offered. A small office was established on the Kaikoura airfield.

Early days... Piper Cherokee 180 ZK-DGM, the Whale Explorer at Kaikoura on 21 December 1993 

Cessna 206 ZK-KAI with its registration reflecting its home base. Photo taken at Kaikoura on 9 January 1998

Kaikoura Star, 20 December 1995

In 1996 Piper Pa32-260 Cherokee 6 ZK-NOW was used to inaugurate a Kaikoura to Wellington air service that operated on Fridays and Sundays. Air Direct were also offering Wellington to Kaikoura flights at this time. In 1996 Rodney Harmon took over Straits Air Charter which operated Air Marlborough. Towards the end of 1996 GAF N24A Nomad ZK-NAD was added to the Air Tours Kaikoura fleet and this was used for whale watching, on the air service between Kaikoura and Wellington as well as providing extra capacity for Air Marlborough’s service between Blenheim and Wellington. In addition to the Wellington service a connecting, on-demand service was operated between Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs using either the Cessna or Piper.

Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-NOW inaugurated the air service to Wellington. It was photographed on 8 February 1997 at Ashburton

An undated winter timetable

Off on another whale watching flight, GAF N24 Nomad Zk-NAD at Kaikoura on 9 January 1998. Note the Royal Flying Doctor Service wings below the front passenger window

On the 5th of January 1997 the Nomad was flying a charter from Blenheim to Wellington. When the crew selected the landing gear down on approach to Runway 16 at Wellington, there was no response from the system. The crew decided to return to Blenheim where they burnt off fuel to reduce the aircraft landing weight. A safe wheels-up landing was made on grass runway 07. There were no injuries. Damage was relatively minor considering and was repaired by the insurance company and returned to Air Tour Kaikoura.

Ouch! Nomad ZK-NAD making a wheels up landing at Woodbourne of 5 January 1997. Kaikoura Star, 8 January 1997
And some local humour a week later... Kaikoura Star, 15 January 1997

In early 1997 Whale Watch Air and Air Tours Kaikoura built a new terminal building at Kaikoura with the local District Council being the guarantor for the project. The small but modern facility was provided primarily for passengers on whale watching flights operated by Air Tours Kaikoura and Whale Watch Air but was also used for the regular air services to Christchurch and Wellington operated by Air Tours Kaikoura. In 2009 the local District Council purchased the airport terminal building. 

An undated Air Tours Kaikoura summer timetable

Whale Watch Air merged with Air Tours Kaikoura in December 1997 with the resultant company being named Wings Over Whales.

Kaikoura Star, 10 December 1997

Air Tours Kaikoura continued to operate the Kaikoura to Wellington service and the day to day operations of Air Marlborough. Cessna 172N ZK-SBJ was registered to Air Tours Kaikoura for a time in 1998.

Scheduled air services ceased during 1999 with the Nomad going to Great Barrier Airlines the following year.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post Steve,as always appreciate the the time you give to your site