08 November 2015

Motueka’s First Air Service – Motueka Air Services

In 1976 Robert Inglis and Nicki Smith helped Harry Jenkins establish Associated Aviation in Paraparaumu. Two years later they established their own Motueka-based flying school, Associated Aviation (Motueka),  In 1980 they, along with Harry Jenkins, bought Nairn Aviation and changed the flying school and air charter operator's name to Associated Aviation (Nelson). This Nelson-based company was later sold to Martin Butler who gave it the name Air Nelson before he sold the company back to Associated Aviation (Motueka).

Meanwhile, in 1984 Associated Aviation (Motueka) leased Piper PA23-250 Aztec, ZK-ERM (c/n 27-7405435) from Harry Jenkin's Associated Aviation. On the 12th of November 1984, with assistance from Associated Aviation of Paraparaumu, the aircraft was used to establish a new air service between Motueka and Wellington. The service traded under the name of Motueka Air Services and operated twice-daily, three days a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Flights departed from Motueka at 7.30am and 3.30pm and from Wellington at 9am and 5pm. 

Motueka Air Services' first flight with the Piper Aztec, ZK-ERM still carrying Associated Air Charter titles.
Being photographed is the pilot, John Morris and Motueka mayor, Claude Teece.
Source : Air Nelson Link Dec 1994

The timetable was designed to allow Motueka people a full business day in Wellington and the company hoped the new service would gain popularity with growing numbers of people travelling from Wellington for recreation in the Motueka or Golden Bay areas. The $56 one-way fare compared favourably with Air New Zealand’s Nelson-Wellington fare of $57 and Air Albatross’ fare of $44 to $55, especially given the saving in time and costs in driving between Motueka and Nelson. 

Timetable # 1, 12 November 1984

The first flight was flown by John Morris, with Associated Aviation’s Harry Jenkins acting as a training captain. The first fare-paying passengers were Beverley and William Tibbs with the Mayor of Motueka Claude Teece and Robert Inglis making up the passenger manifest. Other early pilots included Bob Schmuke and Tania Woodbury. 

Piper Aztec ZK-ERM at Greymouth on a charter on 19 November 1985

On the 21st of November the Nelson Evening Mail reported, “The first week of business has been extremely encouraging, according to the managing director of Motueka Air Services, Mr Robert Inglis. The two flights each way between Motueka and Wellington three days a week have had good loads. On Monday the four flights carried maximum loads of a total of 20 people… Mr Inglis said the firm expected to run daily before long which had always been the intention. It had been thought better to start carefully at first with flights only on the three days per week. There were quite heavy forward bookings for the Christmas period.” After the first month the company reported a load factor of 55% with this supplemented by asparagus that was flown to the capital for sale on the Wellington market. 

Mixing it with the big boys... Motueka Air Services Piper Aztec ZK-ERM at Wellington
Source : Dominion 12 December 1984

From the 28th of December 1984 Motueka Air Services launched a trial two month 'summertime trampers service' from Motueka to Takaka and Karamea air service on three days a week. The morning flight from Wellington connected to another service onwards to Takaka and Karamea, arriving there by 11.45am. The return service departed Karamea at 12.15pm and with passengers for Takaka and Motueka, arriving there at 1.30pm enabling them to connect with the 3.30pm flight to Wellington, arriving there at 4.15pm. Both the Cessna 172 and Piper Aztec were used as demand dictated.

The trampers service over the summer of 1984 and 1985

In August 1985 the company was contracted to fly the Nelson Evening Mail from Motueka to Takaka six days a week. A passenger could be carried to Takaka when space was available and the return service offered passengers from Takaka a connection to the afternoon Motueka to Wellington service. Mainstay of this service was Cessna 172N Skyhawk ZK-EOX (c/n 17272561).

The Takaka paper plane, Cessna 172 ZK-EOX at Takaka on 21 June 1991

In 1985 Robert and Nicki decided to concentrate on developing the airline and Associated Aviation (Motueka)’s airline operation was split from the flying school which passed over to what is now the Nelson Aviation College. The airline was formed into a new company, Motueka Air Ltd. In late 1985 a Piper Navajo, ZK-NSN, was purchased and scheduled services between Nelson and Wellington commenced on the 16th of December 1985 under the name of Air Nelson.

A few days later, the summertime tramper service to Karamea was resumed but for the 1985/86 summer the flights started at Nelson and picked up and dropped off passengers at Motueka and Takaka as required. This was the last summer this operated as a formal service. In subsequent years flights were offered on a charter basis.   

The trampers service over the summer of 1985/86

Timetable effective 1 May 1986 showing the newspaper service between Motueka and Takaka

While Air Nelson was quickly to become the dominant airline the Motueka service continued in its own right. In the first year of operation 2100 passengers used the service giving an average loading of 67 per cent. From the 9th of December 1985 the company moved to a seven day a week service. Twice daily return flights operated on weekdays with a return service flown on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. To facilitate the daily service two Piper Aztecs, ZK-PIX (c/n 27-4738) and ZK-DIO (c/n 27-7305073), were added to Air Nelson's fleet in May and August 1986 respectively. These were used occasionally on the Wellington service but ZK-ERM remained Motueka Air's flagship until it was sold in June 1988.

The other two Aztecs used occasionally on the Motueka-Wellington service... Above, ZK-PIX taken at Nelson on 4 February 1989 and below ZK-DIO taken on 5 February 1989

Until Christmas 1986 Motueka airport had a grass runway but at that time $12,000 was spent on digging up the grass runway and hardening it with a shingle base. By the April 1987 the company was looking for a larger aircraft to service the Motueka to Wellington service and looked at the possibility of using the seven-seater Piper Navajo aircraft used by Air Nelson, however, this needed a sealed runway rather than the hardened grass runway. The Motueka runway continued to be problematic over the next few years.

Motueka Golden Bay News, 1 July 1987

From the 5th of January 1988 a third weekday flight was added between Motueka and Wellington. At this stage the company had an interline agreement with Ansett New Zealand and this enabled Motueka Air to offer passengers through fares to and from Auckland and Christchurch.

Motueka Air timetable effective 5 January 1988

On the 1st of August 1988 Air Nelson and Motueka Air were merged under the Air Nelson name. Air Nelson continued to operate the Motueka to Wellington service with Piper Aztecs and Navajos until the service was sold to Paraparaumu's Associated Airlines in December 1996.

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