28 March 2017

Air Milford - Tried Scheduled Services

Air Milford was established by David and Philip Bunn in 1993. In 1996 Hank Sproull joined the company after 30 years working for Mount Cook Airline and in 1998 he took over the business. He continued to maintain a close involvement with the day to day management of the company as well as filling the role of chief pilot and as a qualified aircraft engineer.

Air Milford has always seen itself as a tour company that focuses on sightseeing tours of the Queenstown, Fiordland and South Island regions. Mainstay of the sightseeing flights are those from Queenstown to Milford Sound but scenic flights are also offered over the Queenstown area, Doubtful Sound and to Mount Cook.

The initial aircraft used by Air Milford were Cessna A185F ZK-ENW Skywagon (c/n 18503133) and Cessna U206F Stationair ZK-DWX (c/n U20602641). 

On the taxi at Queenstown, Cessna 185 ZK-ENW on 20 November 2010
Air Milford's Cessna 206, ZK-DWX at Milford Sound on 10 January 2014

In 2005 the company introduced Cessna 208 Caravan, ZK-SKB (c/n 20800244) to its fleet and it made its first flight to Milford Sound on the 6th of May 2005. 

The Caravan was used to operate a new air service between Queenstown and Mount Cook. Air Milford was contracted by The Hermitage Hotel at Mount Cook to fly a daily Monday to Thursday service, starting on the 1st of January 2007 on a three month trial basis.  This service was the first scheduled service between the two destinations since 2001. A flight time of 40 minutes was allowed for the service. Tee service, however, did not last.

In late 2011 Air Milford built a new $250,000 hangar and revamped its existing offices. The 19m-wide, 24m-long hangar was built to also accommodate the company’s Cessna Caravan and the two smaller Cessnas. 

Air Milford at Milford... Cessna Caravan ZK-SKB arrives at Milford Sound on 10 January 2014

With the demand for its services increasing Air Milford looked to purchase a second Cessna Caravan. Delays in its delivery led the company to lease Salt Air's Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-MJL during the 2013/14 summer. In January 2014 Antony Sproull, Air Milford's operations manager, along with two other ferry pilots, flew Cessna 208 Caravan SX-SKV from Greece to Queenstown via the Greek Islands, Egypt, Oman, the Maldives, the Cocos Islands and Australia to Queenstown where it was registered ZK-SKA (c/n 20800524).

Air Milford's Cessna Caravan ZK-SKA. Photo : Air Milford Facebook page

A third brand new Cessna Caravan ZK-SKM (c/n 20800581) arrived from the United States in February 2016. The ferry flight took was piloted by Air Milford's chief pilot Matt Cameron and professional ferry pilot John Smith across the Pacific from California to Hawaii, Pago Pago, Auckland & Queenstown.

In December 2016 Air Milford announced it would begin its first scheduled service between Te Anau and Queenstown in early 2017 to test the appetite for a regular commuter service. Operations Manager Antony Sproull said "the trial service would begin on Saturday January 14, and will run every Saturday for 12 weeks through the peak tourist season for a special trial price of $99 per person. We believe the timing is ripe to re-launch this service — the first since Mt Cook Airlines cut the link over 16 years ago."  

The first scheduled flight to Te Anau's Manapouri Airport was flown on 21 January using Cessna Caravan ZK-SKA flown by Antony Sproull. A second Caravan, ZK-SKB, was also needed for the return flight. The flight carried two paying passengers - Eleanor Pearson and her 8-year-old grandson Kayden Pei. It was Kayden's first time on a plane. The 25-minute flight that showcased views of Mt Nicholas, Mavora Lakes, Von Valley and Lord of the Rings scenery. Antony Sproull said. "If the service was a success, a permanent service would be run through the summer time as fog and weather conditions in winter would be a hinderance." 

Cessna Caravans ZK-SKM and ZK-SKA at Manapouri. Photo : Air Milford

A fourth Cessna Caravan, ZK-SKY, was added to the fleet in December 2017.

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