06 December 2015


On Monday the 30th of November I was given the opportunity to check out Barrier Air's Cessna Caravan operation.

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan N988BA arrived in the country on the 14th of July 2015. At the same time the airline adopted a new name, Barrier Air. The Caravan was given the New Zealand registration ZK-SDB and entered service on the 11th of August 2015.

Since then the company has been busy overhauling its systems, introducing new personnel and developing its future strategies.

Key to this was the arrival of the Caravan which is equipped with all the bells and whistles. On the outside it has high speed refuelling capability (see below) meaning the plane can be tanked up and ready to go again in 2 minutes!

Also on the outside the aircraft is fitted with TKS deicing equipment

The cockpit features the latest navigational equipment including a fully integrated G1000 glass cockpit. With full CAA approval now been granted for IFR operations Barrier Air are more than happy with how the Caravan is performing. The Caravan is proving to be economically superior to the Chieftains and Islanders that Great Barrier Island is used to seeing. Normal scheduling see it operating the Kaitaia overnight service and on Great Barrier Island flights during the day allowing maximum productivity.

The Caravan offers comfortable seating and a spacious cabin. The superior reliability the Caravan offers has been a key focus for Barrier Air who have been using Hawker Pacific at Ardmore to ensure a high maintenance standard. With Hawker Pacific's decision to close their Ardmore base Barrier Air is changing its maintenance provider to Air Chathams which also prides itself for its excellent maintenance standards. This move strengthens the relationship between Barrier Air and Air Chathams with Barrier Air doing Air Chathams' check in and loading at Auckland International. It also has the advantage the airline won't have to position its aircraft to Ardmore for maintenance.

There is no air bridge for Barrier Air... instead passengers are whisked across the tarmac and the new Auckland Airport golf carts...
to be welcomed my the smiling crew Darren Fletcher (left) and Garry Walker (right)...  Another change Barrier Air is soon to make is a move to new uniforms!
Boarding Flight GB 3 for Great Barrier Island
Another development Barrier Air's new management has been working on is fares and timetables. Passengers to and from Great Barrier Island have a choice of airlines and so the Islanders have been used to varying degrees of fare discounting - Barrier Air now offers fares as low as $59. The big change is to the Kaitaia service. Barrier Air acknowledges its initial schedule wasn't ideal for travel to and from Kaitaia. This has now been rectified and the Caravan is now being operated on the overnight service to Kaitaia while the Chieftain does the early morning service to Kaitaia and late afternoon back to Auckland. The economics of the Caravan on the Kaitaia run will be enhanced later this month when Barrier Air sets up its own fuel supply in Kaitaia. At present only 10 seats can be sold on the Auckland-Kaitaia flight because of the weight of fuel it has to carry for the return trip. Once the Caravan can refuel in Kaitaia it will be able to take 12 each way. Barrier Air has also started offering $99 earlybird fares to encourage passengers back to the local service. Far North Holdings have entered into an agreement with Barrier Air to subsidise the Kaitaia flights but the airline has reported increasing loadings and the future for the Kaitaia service looks more positive.

Check all clear before starting
No getting lost as we taxi for the runway
A good look at the glass cockpit
"After the landing Beech, line up Runway 05 Right"

Shooting across the cabin through the opposite window looking towards the city centre and Rangitoto

Manukau City Centr
Goodbye Auckland International
Middlemore Hospital...
...and the Royal Auckland Golf Club

Manakau harbour and the Onehunga bridge

Looking towards Hobson Bay and the Orakei Basin as the cloud shrouds the CBD
A great view of Mount Wellington
the Eastern suburbs disappearing into the cloud

New technology - the RNAV approach for Great Barrier Island on the screen 
Old technology - the same RNAV approach on our pilot's lap
That's Waiheke Island down there
A look at the de-icing gear as nothing else was to be seen...
And this was the view straight down at the missed approach point... Weather can still be a barrier to getting to the Barrier!  A couple of laps in the holding pattern but the weather wasn't improving so sadly back to Auckland. This was my first ever missed approach and diversion! I must say how impressed I was with Darren and Garry - they were totally professional!
Coming up on Auckland's west coast 
Bethels Beach and Lake Kawaupaka

The cliffs south of the Manakau Harbour entrance as we position for the ILS approach for Auckland's Runway 05

Despite the weather that caused havoc not only for us but also for services into Whangarei and Kerikeri I had a great day with Barrier Air. The Caravan is an ideal machine for Barrier Air and I look forward to how the airline develops in the years to come.

A big thanks to Nick Peason and all the Barrier Air crew.


  1. Nice write up. It just shows that with the correct aircraft selection then the future is promising. It will be nice to see the eventual exit of piston engine twin operations from the New Zealand scene.

  2. Very nice write up. Looked like a good day out even with the diversion!

  3. A very nice write up indeed. As much as I admire "Barrier Air" for at least stepping in the right direction, away from their shonky past, they still LOOK like a shonky airline. Seriously, do they have any two aeroplanes the same ? Or even look the same ? Do they have any form of livery, or image ? With a multi coloured fleet of banged up aeroplanes they remind me of a 3rd world taxi company moving people about in clapped out 40 year old Toyota crowns. How can you portray yourself as a safe, professional airline if you look like that ?

  4. I wonder if its a matter of wait and see...