06 April 2015
Sounds Air Getting ready for Westport Service
Sounds Air confirmed today its Westport service would start on Tuesday April 28, the day Air New Zealand exits. Managing director Andrew Crawford said Air New Zealand would fly out of Westport for the last time that morning and Sound’s Air’s first flight would leave for Wellington at 4.50pm. The Picton-based company has bought two former Royal Australian Flying Doctor Service planes, each costing about $3 million. Development West Coast has assisted with a commercial loan. The PC12 nine-seaters fly higher and faster than Air New Zealand’s 19-seater Beech 1900s, cutting the flying time to Wellington by 10 minutes to 40 minutes. Mr Crawford said Sounds Air would tomorrow pick up the first PC12 from a Pilatus Fielding workshop, where the plane had been refitted. It had a new interior, avionics, engine and propellor, and had been repainted. The second aircraft was in Brisbane being painted. Six pilots had done a PC12 ground course and two of them had completed their pre-line training, which required at least 10 hours flying in a PC12. All the pilots had thousands of flying hours in other aircraft, he said. Sounds Air would be flying with two pilots on each Westport flight for the first couple of months. They had found the PC12 “fantastic” to fly, he said. It was a step up from Sounds Air’s Cessna Caravan fleet. “It’s an airliner.” Sounds Air was still awaiting Civil Aviation Authority approval for the new planes, but he could see no problems. Passenger bookings were a little sluggish in February, but had picked up last month. “Business-people don’t generally book two months out, they book a day or a week out. In our other services 21 percent of our bookings are made within 24 hours.” Sounds Air will offer 26 flights a week, six more than Air New Zealand, with earlier morning departures and later evening return flights to suit the business community. The flight will have a fixed one-way price of $199, regardless of when people book. Other proposals Sounds Air also hopes to provide an air ambulance service. Mr Crawford said he had spoken to local St John Ambulance and the Canterbury District Health Board but nothing had been confirmed to date. “We’ve got lots of balls in the air. We’re looking at other services to other parts of the country.” These included possibly taking over the Wellington-Taupo service, which Air New Zealand also exits on April 28. Sounds Air would need to buy another PC12 for the route, he said. It was also looking at a Blenheim-Napier service and a Greymouth-Wellington service. However, he promised Westport’s new service would not suffer if any of the other proposals went ahead. “Westport is a guarantee. We’ve got an agreement with the council and we’ve got an agreement to provide a service there for six years minimum - assuming there’s people flying. We’re not going to be flying if it’s empty. But there’s no reason to assume there wouldn’t be people flying. “What we’re looking for is something to add to that, to help each service. It creates a bigger picture.” He said passenger and baggage transfers from Sounds Air to other airlines had never been a problem. He had never had a Sounds Air passenger complain that Air New Zealand had cancelled their flight because they were late making a connection. “It’s a non-event… 65,000 people a year and no one ever rings me and says ‘I’ve missed my Air New Zealand flight’.” The Buller District Council is contributing $1000 to research by councils nationwide on an interline agreement between Air New Zealand and secondary operators. Buller Mayor Garry Howard told councillors this week that security and insurance were a concern for Air New Zealand when it received baggage checked in by small airlines.
Source : Westport News - 2 April 2015
Posted by Steve L at 8:46 AM