11 November 2015

Air Chathams' Commuter

When Air New Zealand withdrew from Whakatane in late April it was Air Chathams' that stepped in to fill the gap. Initially two flights a day were offered which were to be flown by either their Metroliner or Convair aircraft. Right from the beginning Air Chathams got the schedule right with their plane overnighting in Whakatane and then doing a return service to Auckland in the mornings and late afternoon/evening. 

As it transpired the Metroliner has mainly been used though if loads are high enough the Convair does operate the service. Craig Emeny, CEO of Air Chathams, says "the Metroliner is a perfect fit for Whakatane and the service has been building steadily. We have been getting a lot of support from Whakatane people." At the same time my reading of public opinion is that Whakatane people are very happy about the Air Chathams service. 

The increase in traffic lead to Air Chathams adding a third weekday flight from the 27th of July and from the 24th of October a weekly DC-3 service has been added to boost Whakatane's tourist traffic. All in all Air Chathams has established a good commuter service for people wanting to travel to or from Whakatane. The following is my experience of their Whakatane commuter service. 

Checking in for Air Chathams

Air Chathams' owner Craig Emeny waiting to greet the passengers on Air Chathams flight 810 to Whakatane on 8 November 2015
Note the parking line for a DC-3... bet there are not many international airports marked with that

I must admit I had forgotten how small the Metroliner cabin was... Nonetheless the Metroliner is a great aircraft and I was delighted to fly on one again along with 18 other passengers!
Airborne over the Manakau Harbour departing downwind

and climbing abeam South Auckland
and the Hunua Ranges.
Interesting cloud formations as we passed the Firth of Thames

Thames and the Waihou River

Waihi and the Martha Mine
The Katikati Entrance to Tauranga Harbour
Mount Maunganui
Motiti Island
Moutohora Island as we were on final approach to Whakatane
The front office of Air Chathams' Metroliner III ZK-CIC 
On the ground at Whakatane, Air Chathams' Metroliner ZK-CIC. And if you are like me and find the white scheme too bland Craig told me, "Watch this space... It is Whakatane's plane and we want people to know this." So keep your eyes open over the next few weeks!


  1. Now I just have to get up north so I can get flights on all three of their great aircraft, DC-3, Convair and the Metroliner. I must say, the Convair has been in my sights for a while, but a flight to the Chats from NZCH wasnt really viable as I had nothiong to do on the Islands and knew nobody over there. The few days spent on the ground would have been wasted on me. But now that its flying domestic, the game has changed :) Onya Air Chats !!!

  2. You are really missing something deciding not to go to the Chathams. Take a look at www.discoverthechathamislands.co.nz - there is no more friendly place. The Croons at the hotel (or the other hosts offering accommodation) will pick you up at the airport, take you round, feed you memorably well, and put you on whatever outgoing plane you wish. Even if that does not appeal, you can fly in one day from Wellington or Christchurch, and out the next to the other, but you would be missing a lot! In addition, I am sure Air Chathams would let you take a look at their Convair simulator in their head office at Te One - you won't see that anywhere else this side of Canada...

  3. Well that has certainly changed my view. I had never thought of flying out the next day to Wellington. about 2 years ago when I checked it out, it seemed that I would have to be there for a week or there abouts before a return flight. The simulator sounds awesome. I didn't know that one even existed. Thanks for the heads up :)

  4. I wonder if Air Chats are in the process of designing a new livery for the Convair? I know they are working on a Whakatane theme for the Metro. It's a pity Air Chats aren't flying more back door routes like KRA. I'd love to ride in the Convair.

  5. The simulator is a very interesting thing indeed - besides the fact that it is as large as a three bedroom house and a 1950's valve-driven monstrosity, it has an interesting history too :- The Convair nose section in the Air Chathams simulator is is s/n 59, a Convair 340-31. It was built on 4 March 1953 and delivered new to United Airlines as “Mainliner Cheyenne” registered as N73130 and delivered on 25 March 1953. It was acquired by Frontier Airlines in June 1959 and renamed “Sunliner Navajo”. It crashed at Grand Island in Nebraska in fog (it landed 4061 feet short of the runway and burnt out) on Friday 21 December 1962 and was a total loss with the exception of the cockpit section. Five people including the two pilots were injured. It had flown just 19 454 hours since new.
    The simulator itself was built in its existing form in 1963 for Frontier Airlines as a Convair 440 simulator from an existing earlier Convair 340 simulator and the nose section is from the actual aircraft N73130 (referred to above). The salvaged cockpit section, salvaged over Christmas 1962, was incorporated into the simulator during 1963 - of which most parts date back to as early as 1953. It was converted in 1966 to Convair 580 standard at the vast (for 1966) cost of US $ 200 000(!)
    The registration N73130 proved a very unlucky one – sometime later another Convair 340 (this time s/n 23) was registered with the same registration – N73130. This aircraft had been converted to a Convair Jet-Prop (the so-called “Convair 580”). This aircraft was lost on 5 March 1967 near Marseilles in Ohio with the loss of all 38 persons aboard. All four blades of the right hand Aeroproducts propeller had separated in flight and the resulting trauma caused the fuselage to fail.