06 November 2016

FlyStark - a little boutique airline operating in paradise

Described on its website as a little boutique airline operating in paradise FlyStark was formed as Stark Airlines Ltd on the 12th of March 2014 by Waikato businessman Ray Stark. He had previously purchased the Mercury Bay Aero Club's Cessna 172 ZK-CWD. In 2015 he started the process to obtain Part 135 certification authorising him to fly paying passengers. This was granted in October 2015 and FlyStark was born.

FlyStark's Cessna 172 ZK-CWD at Ardmore on 15 February 2016

In October 2015 Ray Stark told The Mercury Bay Informer, “We’ll be available seven days a week at the Whitianga Airport for people to come out and go for scenic flights. We have a vehicle available at Ardmore Airport, which passengers going to Auckland can use themselves or they can be dropped off at wherever they have to be. We’ll be happy to fly anywhere our passengers want to go, including the west coast of the North Island. We’ll be targeting cruise ship passengers in Tauranga, bringing them to Whitianga for the day. We’ll also be targeting people living on Great Barrier Island to come to Whitianga for a day or a weekend and we hope to take people from Whitianga to the Barrier for a cup of coffee too. We’re also talking with local businesses like The Lost Spring about packages we can offer passengers from outside the area. Our big advantage is that we can fly whenever to wherever people want and we can do so at genuinely competitive rates.” Wally Pendray and David Terpend were employed as pilots for the new company. 

The Mercury Bay Informer, 28 October 2015
By December 2015 the company was advertising flights between Whitianga and Ardmore with a shuttle available to take passengers to Auckland International Airport or elsewhere in the city. A second Cessna 172, ZK-NPJ, was soon added to the fleet.

The Mercury Bay Informer, 9 December 2015

In September 2016 a Gippsland GA8 Airvan, ZK-FSR, was purchased and from October 2016 a schedule of sorts was advertised with departures leaving Whitianga at 7.00am and departing Ardmore at 5.00pm.

Prior to departure, FlyStark's Airvan ZK-FSR at Ardmore on 3 November 2016

The Mercury Bay Informer , 19 October 2016

From 1 November 2016 FlyStark introduced scheduled daily early morning flights from Great Barrier Island to the mainland, returning to the Barrier every evening. The company also announced that it was looking to code-share with Barrier Air enabling passengers to connect with each airline's flights. One of the features of the FlyStark service is that flights call in at Okiwi at no additional charge.

Barrier Bulletin, 20 October 2016

Barrier Bulletin, 3 November 2016

In December 2016 FlyStark added a second Gippsland GA8 Airvan, ZK-FSS, to its fleet. The aircraft was previously owned by Tekapo-based Air Safaris as ZK-SAF. 

FlyStark had also been involved in the relief work following the  magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake on the 14th of November 2016. Airvan ZK-FSR and pilot Mark Hedley arrived in Kaikoura on the 1st of December 2016.  Mark recounts, “I flew to Christchurch from Kaikoura pretty much twice every day and every now and again I had to fly to Blenheim or Wellington as well. Wings Over Whales was one of several local businesses who got involved in the relief effort and needed extra capacity. Because they also have an Airvan, it made sense for them to contact us to see if we could help out as their pilots would be able to fly FSR without any hassle if I wasn’t available for whatever reason. I mostly flew Civil Defence staff members, people from the District Health Board and the Salvation Army, members of the Police and volunteers. Daily newspapers and water samples were among the cargo I carried. All in all I certainly got the idea that the relief effort was well coordinated and that everything possible was being done to make sure the people of Kaikoura was as best looked after as was possible under the circumstances.” Mark and FSR returned to Whitianga on the 16th of December. 

Over the 2016-17 summer scheduled flights were flights were offered between Whitianga and both Ardmore and Great Barrier Island and Ardmore and Great Barrier Island. As well these regular services charter and scenic flights were offered. One passenger's review on Tripadvisor sums up most reviews, "The company exudes professionalism - the plane, the uniform, the website - it's just all the next level up from the other airlines that service the Barrier!" 

FlyStark schedule as at February 2017 - Daily flights were offered on demand

Gippsland Airvan ZK-FSS at Ardmore on 17 September 2017

In May 2017 a post on the company's Facebook page announced, "that during the winter season commencing immediately FlyStark has suspended its scheduled flights. This is mainly due around daylight hours and winter conditions. To provide a 100 % schedule service FlyStark believes it has to have the appropriate aircraft, while our existing aircraft are the latest available they do not have the capabilities to fly in adverse weather. We are taking time to review our current fleet for the coming season. The plan at this stage is to recommence our schedule flights as of 1st September."

Behind the scenes there is a story that has two sides. It appears that FlyStark was grounded following an incident when one of the Airvans came into contact with a hanger while taxiing. Neither the aircraft or hanger were damaged but nonetheless the aircraft was checked by an aircraft engineer and given clearance to fly. 

The other side of the story is CAA's answer to the question why it was necessary to suspend FlyStark's operations for three months from May to July 2017. The Tauranga news agency Sunlive reported CAA as saying, "The aircraft in question was a Gippsland GA-8. Wingtip damage requires a maintenance inspection before the next flight, yet FlyStark flew. The maintenance manual for that aircraft requires that any damage to the outboard wing area, regardless of how minor it may appear, must be inspected by a maintenance engineer before the next flight (see section 17 of the Civil Aviation Act). "For this reason The Director of Civil Aviation decided to suspend the aircraft certificate of airworthiness until such time as an inspection had been completed and to suspend the Air Operator's Certificate while the root causes were being investigated. Although this CAA investigation was completed within a couple of weeks, FlyStark management elected to extend their operational suspension until they were fully satisfied that they were ready to recommence safe air transport operations." The owner of FlyStark felt the company was under such scrutiny that he decided to wind down and end operations.

As a result in September 2017 the second of the two Airvans, ZK-FSS, was sold. Scheduled summer services did resume in December 2017 with a daily service offered leaving Ardmore at 11.00am for Great Barrier Island and then Whitianga. The return service departs Whitianga at 2.00pm.

Summer Schedule, 2017/18

These services operated infrequently and did not last beyond the summer. The company continued to operate occassional charters until their remaining Airvan ZK-FSR was sold in August 2018. 


  1. I wondered what had happened to NPJ after the demise of NPAC. I did my PPL flight test in her in 2007.

  2. It's still in New Plymouth with Skywest Aviation