01 March 2019

Air Vanning to Golden Bay

From a single workhorse to an expanding fleet of light aircraft, local scheduled air service provider Golden Bay Air has recently increased capacity to meet growing demand. Their brand new $1.2 million eight-seat single-engine GA8 Airvan, which had its maiden flight just a few weeks ago, is already clocking up the hours flying passengers on all the routes. "We bought this larger plane primarily for our local services between Nelson, Takaka and Karamea, as well as our scenic flights over Golden Bay," says co-founder Lisa Sheppard. "Our aim was to schedulise the routes and use the plane to full capacity rather than making multiple trips in smaller aircraft. But we've also been using it to fly passengers in from Wellington as well." With adventure tourism on the rise and many great walks booked up months in advance, interest in other walks like the Heaphy Track and the Old Ghost Road is growing. Mountain bikers are also interested in these tracks and the company can carry up to six bikes into Karamea. "We're attracting tourists who want to get off the beaten track and discover the real New Zealand, and Golden Bay has exceptional scenery that few people get to experience," says Lisa. It is fitting that GB Air has partnered with local not-for-profit organisations Ekos and the Rameka Forest Carbon Project to enable passengers to offset their emissions and help reforest and protect Golden Bay's 91 Ha indigenous forest. "In our view, climate change is a local problem and should be solved locally," Lisa says. Lisa and partner Richard Molloy started their unique operation in 2006 flying passengers between Wellington and Takaka with their six-seat single-engine Saratoga. Since then, they've added a four-seat Piper Archer and a six-seat twin-engine Piper Seneca that can fly in tougher weather using the GNSS instrument approach procedure they invested in for Takaka Aerodrome. The pair have been working hard with the Nelson Regional Development Agency as well as attending TRENZ in an effort to bring people into Golden Bay; particularly those who are time poor but have money to spend on day trips and personalised tours. Their aim, says Lisa, is to boost this high-value tourism market in Golden Bay. "We've put together some fly-cruise day and multiday tours where we bring people across from Nelson or Wellington, fly them on our morning scenic flights, then take them to Te WaikoropupÅ« Springs and into Takaka for lunch. If overnight, they can take one of our rental cars. We then shuttle them to Totaranui to catch a scenic cruise to Nelson. We've been doing quite a few of these already through the inbound tourism operators," she says. "The demand is there, and we are poised for growth. But there is a lot to do to take the business to the next size up. Attracting specialist aviation operations management staff to Golden Bay is one of our challenges, and we're working hard with an international aviation agency to help us find the staff we need for the next stage of development. "You have to be extremely dogged to run an aviation service in NZ," she laughs. "We're into our 14th year and we love it. It's fantastic to provide something that people need." 

To see the photos see : http://www.gbweekly.co.nz/the-gb-weekly-news-archives/1-march-2019/#1-march-19/page6-page7

Golden Bay Air's Airvan at Wellington on 25 February 2019

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