12 November 2019

Gisborne last week...

The construction of the new airport terminal at Gisborne has made it a plane spotter's nightmare at present. The only shots I could get were through the window of Sunair's Aztecs

Air Napier's Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-ELK back tracks for departure on the courier run to Napier at Gisborne on 6 November 2019

Farmer's Air's Pacific Aerospace 750XL ZK-JBC had landed on the grass and was crossing the main runway to its base at Gisborne on 6 November 2019

Cessna 206 ZK-MAF taxis in at Gisborne on 7 November 2019

Air Nelson Bombardier Q300 ZK-NER taxis out at Gisborne on 7 November 2019

Air Nelson Bombardier Q300 ZK-NET taxis in at Gisborne on 7 November 2019

11 November 2019

Saab Services for Whakatāne

Air Chathams has announced the introduction of a SAAB 340 for its flights between Auckland and Whakatāne. The regional airline says demand is continuing to grow for air travel to and from the eastern Bay of Plenty town. The new SAAB can carry up to 34 more passengers than the aircraft that is currently being used on the route, which is a Fairchild Metroliner. Air Chathams will also have a flight attendant onboard serving tea, coffee and Tim Tams. "We're really excited to begin bringing the SAAB to Whakatāne," says Duane Emeny, Air Chathams' general manager.  "We know our regular fliers will appreciate the extra comforts provided and this will give us some flexibility across the service, where other flights exceed the Metroliner capacity. We hope to be able to offer the SAAB service more permanently in the future." Whakatāne District Mayor Judy Turner says the SAAB service will help to boost visitor numbers to the Whakatāne District, just in time for the busy summer season. "This is great news for our District, and will be beneficial for locals and visitors alike," says Mayor Turner. "We're grateful that our investment into the airport is being supported by Air Chathams, and the SAAB service is a great example of the airline's commitment to the Whakatāne District." The first flights begin on the November 29.

The Saab will operate the Friday afternoon flights from Auckland to Whakatāne at 3.15pm and 6.35pm and the Whakatāne to Auckland Friday afternoon service at 4.45pm. It will also operate the Saturday morning 8.00am flight from Whakatāne to Auckland. On Sundays the Saab will operate from Auckland to Whakatāne at 11.00am and 6.15pm, and from Whakatāne to Auckland at 4.45pm. On Mondays the Saab will operate the morning flight from Whakatāne to Auckland at 6.45am. 

Sunair 41 and 22

Last week I had my first opportunity to use the Sunair service between Hamilton and Gisborne since it was reinstated. The service is offered twice a day on weekdays... Unfortunately it was a couple of gray dreary days and not for photography until the latter part of the return flight...

SAV 41 from Hamilton to Gisborne

My ride to Gisborne - Piper Aztec ZK-PIW at Hamilton on 6 November 2019

Goodbye Hamilton...

Left turn for Gisborne and goodbye to the sunshine

The sun comes out again, just as we approach Gisborne

On finals at Gisborne...

SAV 22 from Gisborne to Hamilton

The lakes as we approached Rotorua

Coming up on Lake Rotorua

Note to self - when it is hazy weather the views forward aren't necessarily the best - looking behind

Being artistic - Rotorua airport 

The line of the Mamaku and Kaimai ranges

Coming up on Lake Karapiro

The lush Waikato

Karapiro Hydro Power Station... completed in 1947


Hauptapu Dairy factory

Joining right base south of Ohaupo

Back in Hamilton - and a nice shot of Sunair's Piper Aztec ZK-EVP on 7 November 2019
Sunair have recently published their summer schedule with daily flights from Tauranga and Whitianga to Great Barrier Island

10 November 2019

Wanganui's Eagle Replacement - Air River City

On the 3rd of July 1987 Eagle Air withdrew their air service through Wanganui. Eagle Air has been operating the service to Hamilton since the mid-1970s with the extension to Auckland added in 1980 with the purchase of its first Embraer Bandeirante.

Within five days Noel Oxnam, the owner of Foxpine Air Charter, announced that a new, unnamed airline, would use a leased Eagle Air 10-seater Piper Chieftain to make two return flights between Auckland and Wanganui on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with flights departing Wanganui at 7.30am and 4.00pm and Auckland at 9.00am and 5.30pm. The airline also planned to operate two return trips between Wanganui and Hamilton on Tuesdays and Thursdays with flights departing Wanganui at 7.30am and 4.00pm and Hamilton at 8.40am and 5.15pm.

Air River City timetable, effective 3 August 1987
The timetable features a Cessna 402 which the company had initially thought it would use before selecting a Piper Chieftain

The new Wanganui commuter-based air service was subsequently called Air River City. Noel Oxnam told the Wanganui Chronicle that the chosen name clearly advertised Wanganui. The airline was acquiring its own Piper Chieftain which "is being refurbished and painted,” he said, but this never eventuated.

Waikato Times, 10 October 1987

Services started on the 3rd of August 1987 with the first flight being by Graeme Atchinson and owner and co-pilot Noel Oxnam in Piper Chieftain ZK-FIA. The passengers  included Wanganui Mayor Chas Poynter, City council transport committee chairman Barry Pull and Hospitality Wanganui promotional officer Evert van Reenan. Graeme Atchinson recounts, 
I flew Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain ZK-FIA from Wanganui to Auckland and  returning directly to Wanganui. There was no Hamilton service that morning. On the same day in the afternoon I delivered ZK-FIA back to Hamilton and Eagle Air transported me to Auckland. Noel Oxnam flew ZK-EQA from Wanganui to Auckland that same afternoon and I returned to Wanganui as a passenger. On the 5th August 1987, I flew the full published route Wanganui-Auckland-Hamilton-Wanganui.

The company’s initial plans to use a Piper Chieftain ran into problems as this required a Category B air transport licence while Foxpine Air Charter only had a Category C licence and so the Chieftain was substituted with Piper Seneca ZK-EQA.

The inaugural Air River City service was flown in Eagle Air's Piper Chieftain ZK-FIA.
It is seen here at Palmerston North on 24 February 1985.
Foxpine Air Charter's Piper Seneca ZK-EQA was the mainstay of the Air River City service. It was photographed at Wanganui on 28 November 1987.

The air services from Wanganui did not prove profitable and by early May 1988 the decision had been made to withdraw from the routes and negotiations had been held with another operator to “buy the licence.” The formal scheduled services ended on the 6th of May 1988.

Foxpine Air Charter's Piper Twin Comanche ZK-ECS at Matamata on 14 February 1987

On the evening of the 12th of May 1988 the Seneca ZK-EQA was being used to operate some of the last flights for pre-booked passengers. Having completed an Auckland to Hamilton sector it left just on dark, in fine weather, from Hamilton bound for Wanganui. On board were the pilot, Noel Oxnam, and eight passengers. However, on the flightpath ahead a line of thunderstorms was rolling over Wanganui, bringing strong winds and turbulence across inland ridges. As the plane headed south air traffic controllers at Ohakea warned the pilot that he was wandering off course.

Piper Seneca ZK-EQA at Hamilton on an Air River City service on 29 September 1987

The plane never arrived in Wanganui. The aircraft was found in the Ahu Ahu Valley the following day with its undercarriage down, and with one "notch" of flaps deployed. There were no survivors.

The accident investigation, drawing on eye and ear witness accounts, developed a theory that the plane was on a flight path almost identical to the NDB approach into Wanganui. Due to the winds the plane was over the valley at the time it should have been over Wanganui. The theory suggested that the pilot may have received a false signal from the Wanganui NDB, some 40 kilometres south disorientating the pilot. The Wanganui NDB was weak towards the north, its prescribed range was only 15 miles. Radar coverage at the altitude flown in the area faded around the valley as the signal was blocked by higher terrain. The pilot had been told he was fading from the air traffic controllers' radar.

This initial conclusion raised many questions and so a Commission of Inquiry was established. This brought out new conclusions. No fault was found with the Wanganui NDB and the report stated that it was safe and reliable provided the published warnings and limitations were observed. It was clear that some maintenance work on the Seneca had been done by non-approved engineers. The Air Transport Division was found to have failed to monitor the airline to the necessary standards and serious systematic problems within the Division. The pilot’s licence, instrument rating and medical had all expired and his logbook showed his last night flight was five months before the crash. The aircraft’s instrument check was overdue and its automatic pilot was not fully functioning its maintenance release was only for VFR flights.

Evidence was presented that the plane had impacted in a very steep right hand spiral dive. It was at least 136 kilograms over its maximum permissible weight and its centre of gravity would have been several centimetres behind its maximum limit. It was reported at the time of departure the pilot was forcing baggage into the lockers and there were nine people in a six seater. It was concluded that that the plane would have become increasingly unstable as fuel was used, and given the turbulence it became uncontrollable The aircraft manufacturer was reported as saying a stall and spin were probable if the centre of gravity was behind the limit.

The court of inquiry reported back within two weeks of hearing the final submissions. It said it could not conclude the exact cause of the accident. But it said it was highly probable the tragedy was a combination of the plane being over-laden and with its load too far to the rear, resulting in a loss of stability. This was worsened by severe turbulence that could have disoriented Oxnam and resulted in distress and confusion in the crowded cabin that would have placed him under considerable stress. The Seneca may have gone out of control but upon recovery in the valley, the plane stalled and spiralled into the hillside as Oxnam tried to climb away. The landing gear was down and the flaps deployed in a vain attempt to control its rapidly fluctuating speed, caused by its instability.

07 November 2019

Flying to the Shire

Fly My Sky have announced package deals from Auckland to Hobbiton using their BN Islanders to fly passengers from Auckland to Matamata whereupon they are met by a shuttle and taken to Hobbiton for the tour before being returned to Matamata airport for the return flight to Auckland. The return package costs $399 for the return fare including flight, shuttle and tour. 

Fly My Sky's website describe as follows; 

Your magical and classic aircraft flight across the beautiful natural New Zealand landscape will take you to Hobbiton in just over 30 minutes from Auckland Airport. Your flight is in a UK built Britten Norman Islander, it has two engines and has continued to be built over 60 years to fly to country and island areas around the world. Upon arriving at Matamata airport, you will be taken on a private shuttle to Hobbiton™ where your guided tour will start. At the conclusion of your tour, you will be taken by private shuttle to Matamata airport and flown back to Auckland.

From Matamata, you’ll travel through a landscape of lush farms and then take a guided tour of the 12-acre (4.8-ha.) Hobbiton™ Movie Set, exploring everything from hobbit holes to gardens and the Green Dragon Inn. With free time to shop and explore, this tour includes all transport between Auckland Airport and Hobbiton™ and is limited to 10 people per flight to ensure personalized service.

Our safe aircraft will fly you to and from Hobbiton™, comfortably low to see the sights of natural New Zealand, beating the traffic and lengthy bus rides, meaning you will be back in Auckland in time to enjoy the rest of your day, rather than confined on a bus all afternoon!

Our package tours run twice daily departing from Auckland airport. Please note: pre-booking your tour is essential. Our tours can sell-out well in advance so please pre-book to avoid disappointment.

Fly Hobbiton Morning
Adult $399 per person
Check-in closes at Auckland Airport: 7:00am
Depart Auckland  Airport: 7:30am
Hobbiton Tour start time: 9:10am
Depart Hobbiton: 11:30am
Depart Matamata Airport: 12:10pm

Arrive Auckland Airport: 12:55pm

Fly Hobbiton Afternoon
Adult $399 per person
Check-in closes at Auckland Airport: 1:15pm
Depart Auckland Airport: 1:45pm
Hobbiton Tour start time: 3:30pm
Depart Hobbiton: 5:50pm
Depart Matamata Airport: 6:30pm

Arrive Auckland Airport: 7:15pm

Rising Demand

A year on from reopening air links between Gisborne and Napier, airline Air Napier is looking to buy a new, bigger aircraft to expand the service and maybe also “fill the gaps” left by the exit of Jetstar from the regions. The route was opened in March this year, following a four-week soft launch with an initial six flights a week. Air Napier chief executive Shah Aslam said strong demand meant the airline had now increased flights between the two centres from six a week to 16. “It’s been hugely positive and hugely successful — we’ve ended with a bang. Our flying time over the last month has been up by 35 percent. “We’ve picked up a lot more charters — we’ve been doing a lot more for DHBs around the regions. The scheduled service is strong at 80 percent occupancy and because of that we’ve had to up our flights. “We’ve managed to create a good relationship with the regulator (CAA) and that’s helped us a lot.” The airline had retained five aircraft and now employed 13 full-time staff. “That impacts Tairawhiti as well and Hawke’s Bay, in general.” Mr Aslam pointed out Jetstar’s recent abandonment of its regional routes showed how important pricing was in the industry. “It is not realistic for people to expect seats from under $150 to $200 — long-term you are just not going to have that service available to you.” It was expected flight frequency would again rise over the coming year, with other plans being worked on behind the scenes. “They include scheduled services to other parts, and we are waiting for a couple of councils to sit down with us and have a conversation.” Chief operating officer Mike Brown said achieving a first year in the aviation industry was a major milestone. “We are aiming to get a bigger turbo-prop in. We’ve been speaking to investors and I think this is where local government and central government need to realise how we are contributing to the region positively — not only (with) job creation but overall productivity between the Gisborne and Napier region. “We’ve added people to Gisborne and we’ve added people to Napier. We’ve had people email us to say they have taken a job in Napier just because Air Napier has those routes. “The number of people we’ve shifted around the North island, be it for funerals and family gatherings, has been amazing to be a part of.” Over the year the airline had also carried out charter flights to 14 regional airports. “That’s huge — those were regions you couldn’t go to directly.” It was now the responsibility of airport management and regional councils to ask Air Napier to fly there. Regions needed to wake up to the fact that smaller players could fill the gap left by Jetstar. “We’ve proven with Gisborne to Hawke’s Bay we can fill in those gaps and the little guys have been doing it for a while.”

28 October 2019

Labour Weekend Flights

Originair has used Air Wanganui to operate flights over Labour Weekend. 

On Friday 25 October Beech Super King Air ZK-MDC positioned from Wanganui to Palmerston North before flying a Palmerston North-Nelson sector followed by a Nelson to New Plymouth sector. It then positioned back to Wanganui. 

On Monday ZK-MDC positioned from Wanganui to New Plymouth before flying a New Plymouth to Nelson sector and then a Nelson to Palmerston North sector. It then positioned back to Wanganui.

Originair's website shows Jetstream services resuming 15 November, however, the website has promised the resumption of regular services for the past almost 12 months with just the occasional services operated by Air Wanganui  

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 ZK-NZR delivered and enters service

Air New Zealand's 14th and final Rolls Royce powered Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with the arrival of ZK-NZR at Auckland just after sunset 23 October 2019. Dubbed a "code 2" within the airline, ZK-NZR is configured to carry 275 passengers with 27 business, 21 premium and 216 economy seats joining ZK-NZL, NZM, NZN and NZQ. 
Arriving Auckland at the conclusion of its delivery flight 23 October 2019. 
The aircraft was pressed into service on the evening of 26 October 2019 operating as NZ24 from Auckland to Vancouver.