16 September 2019

Challenges and Opportunities for Saab Services to Northern Cook Islands

Engineers have inspected the Cooks’ most remote runways as the local airline talks with government about upgrading the Northern Group’s coral runways. It comes after the airline announced it was adding a second Saab 340BPlus 34 passenger turbo-prop to its fleet, later this year. The new aircraft was previously operated by Japan Airlines subsidiary JAC and is presently undergoing maintenance in the USA in preparation for its delivery flight to Rarotonga and induction into the airline’s fleet in October. The second Saab will add capacity initially to the Rarotonga-Aitutaki route with the potential for regional charter flights to Tahiti and Niue. The new aircraft has been the catalyst for Air Rarotonga entering discussions with government about upgrading the runways on Manihiki, Penrhyn and potentially Pukapuka – to allow regular scheduled flights there. Saab flights into the Northern Group would substantially reduce the cost of travel for local people on the back of specialised small-scale tourism to the North, Air Rarotonga chief executive Ewan Smith said. “By operating a larger aircraft it means we can carry almost a full load up there, so if we can supplement local needs with a little bit of tourism it means we can carry 20 to 25 passengers per flight and then we can reduce prices significantly.” At the moment a flight to the Northern Group is around $1300 each way. If the new service eventuates this would reduce by more than half, Smith envisages. Smith says there is a lot of “commentary” about the cost of flying to the Cooks’ outer reaches – but the facts are that it is 1300 kilometres up there to coral runways that can accommodate small aircraft only. “The consequences of that is we are very limited in the payload we can carry – a 15-seat Bandeirante can carry only seven or eight passengers. That’s why it so expensive along with logistical expenses such as shipping fuel up there. Initially the new aircraft will supplement capacity to Aitutaki at peak times. We are also preparing for some regional charter flying to Niue and Tahiti as required.” But Smith said he’s most excited about the positive discussions he’s having with government to open up air travel to the northern islands. “If we can find a commercial solution to open up air access to the Northern Group, without relying on taxpayer subsidies, then it will be a great achievement,” he said. “These new aircraft require a paved runway and we’ve made a commitment to government that if those runways are upgraded then we will offer a weekly scheduled service to the north.” Just a couple of weeks ago the director of Civil Aviation, Dennis Hoskin, and an engineer from the New Zealand company that upgraded the Aitutaki runway back in 2003, visited Manihiki and Penryhn to evaluate the airstrips and to come up with a proposal to upgrade them to accommodate the new Saabs. Final upgrade plans would need to go out for tender if the government decides to pursue the idea. “It’s quite a substantial project and our discussions with government are in the preliminary stages but essentially our position is, we are the air operator here and we’ve said, ‘look, if the infrastructure can be upgraded up there, then we’ll make the commitment to schedule services at much improved economics’.” Smith believes there are seasoned world travellers who are looking for experiential holidays in the world’s remotest places and with a specific Northern Group marketing plan there could be enough custom to essentially subsidise scheduled weekly flights to the north. “These are people that want an authentic experience, they don’t want to stay in hotels. They want to meet the people that live in those places and do what they do. “We’ll develop product around the experience we’ve gained with our atoll excursion with our jet. It’s given us experience and exposure to a boutique market we’ve not seen before. “It’s different to what we see here on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, it’s a different demographic altogether. It’s people who seek places that are very, very different, and very unique.” Founded in 1978, Air Rarotonga celebrated 40 years of inter-island air service in 2018.

15 September 2019

The Air Hamilton Advantage

Air Hamilton was established in August 1981 by Kevin, Lochore, Roderick McAdam, Russell Sharpe, and Grant and Carol Wilkinson. Grant was the manager and chief pilot/instructor while his wife Carol was in charge of the office and reception as well as being a commercial pilot and instructor.. The company offered twin or single-engined pilot training, hire, air charter, scenic flights, aerial inspection and photography and air freight using two Cessna 172s, ZK-WFS and WFT, a four-seat Gulfstream Cougar ZK-SSS, and a six-seat Beechcraft Baron ZK-UPB. Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II ZK-EQA was added to the fleet in October 1981.

Waikato Times, 8 October 1981

With the acquisition of the Seneca the company started an air taxi service between Hamilton and New Plymouth. In November 1982 the company applied to the Air Services Licensing Authority make this a scheduled service with return services operated on weekday mornings and late afternoons. As the company was already operating an air taxi service to New Plymouth and the Licensing Authority agreed that this demonstrated that the service was desirable. Objections by Eagle Airways, which flew the same route in middle of the day, were over-ruled as Air Hamilton proposed to operate its flights in the early morning and late afternoon and this was more convenient for business passengers. Approval was given for the service in late December 1982 and the scheduled service started in January 1983.

Air Hamilton's Piper Seneca ZK-EQA at Hokitika in May 1982
Waikato Times, 5 January 1983

Also in January 1983 the company operated a newspaper service for the Waikato Times to summer holiday makers on the Coromandel Peninsula. From Hamilton the service landed at Pauanui before doing newspaper drops at Tairua, Hot Water Beach and Hahei. After landing at Whitianga newspaper drops were made at Whangapoua and Papa Aroha before that last stop at Coromandel. 

Waikato Times, 5 January 1983

From the 1st of April 1983 competition came on the Hamilton-New Plymouth route with Eagle Air increasing their frequency to three flights each weekday. To counter this and to find additional passengers, from the 15th of May 1983 an extension was made to the Hamilton-New Plymouth service in the form of a connecting Hamilton-Tauranga air taxi service.

Air Hamilton's timetable effective 15 May 1983

Also in May 1983 Air Hamilton took delivery of a Piper Pa28 Arrow IV, ZK-FKJ.
Air Hamilton's Piper Arrow IV ZK-FKJ at Nelson on 15 April 1985

In September 1983 Air Hamilton applied to the Air Services Licensing Authority to reduce the minimum number of flights to New Plymouth from 10 to a minimum of 6 flights per week offering it the flexibility to not operate if there were no passengers.

Air Hamilton's Beech Baron ZK-UPB at Hokitika in January 1982. It was the only twin operated by the company that did not carry Air Hamilton titles.

In November 1983 the company was sold to Chris and Gloria Bowden. Chris had learnt to fly with the Waikato Aero Club in 1973. He later did his commercial pilot's licence with the Canterbury Aero Club in 1979, and instructor's rating the Waikato Aero Club in 1980. He had been chief flying instructor for the Matamata Flying Club for eighteen months prior to taking over Air Hamilton. 

About this time Air Hamilton moved its base to the main Hamilton airport terminal. By this stage the fleet comprised of the Seneca, ZK-EQA, the Turbo Arrow, ZK-FKJ, the Cougar ZK-SSS and Cessna 172 ZK-WFT. Air Hamilton operated from an office inside the main foyer of the Hamilton Airport terminal. The company also carried out multi-engine and single-engine air charter, and advanced training up to single-pilot, multi-engine instrument ratings with students staying in the Bowden's own home. Eagle Air often used Air Hamilton's Cougar (with Chris often flying himself) to do recovery flights/charters when they had an issue on their network. 

Despite the competition with Eagle Air, Air Hamilton continued to operate the scheduled service to New Plymouth twice a day during the week and once a day during the weekend. The service presumably ended sometime in 1984 and that charter and flight training sometime after that.

If you have any information on the final phase of the Air Hamilton story I would be delighted to hear from you - Steve, westland831@gmail.com 

Grumman American Cougar ZK-SSS at Palmerston North on 19 January 1986

Aircraft operated
ZK-DXY - Cessna 172M Skyhawk II (c/n 17265781)
ZK-EQA - Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II (c/n 34-7970134)
ZK-FJB - Cessna 172M (c/n 17265126)
ZK-FKJ - Piper PA-28RT-201 Arrow IV (c/n 28R-7918026)
ZK-SSS - Gulfstream American GA-7 Cougar (c/n GA7-0084)
ZK-UPB - Beech 95 C55 Baron (c/n TE-29)
ZK-WFS - Cessna 172M Skyhawk (c/n 17261457)
ZK-WFT - Cessna 172N Skyhawk II (c/n 17267712)

13 September 2019

Heading for Kaitaia or Auckland for the weekend?

Barrier Air is continuing to experience increasing passenger numbers on its Auckland-Kaitaia service. Due to the demand the airline is adding an additional Friday evening service to and from Kaitaia as required. Whenever the 1815 departure is full the airline will add an 1830 departure from Auckland. The expanded service will start from 27 September 2019.

The Friday evening schedule will be:

1815 AA-KT
1830 AA-KT*

1935- KT-AA
2000- KT-AA*

*As the first flight gets full, we will put on the second flight on a as required basis.

12 September 2019

Second Saab for Air Rarotonga

A second Saab 340B Plus 34 passenger turbo-prop will be added to the Air Rarotonga fleet by mid-October 2019. The aircraft was previously operated by Japan Airlines subsidiary JAC and is presently undergoing maintenance in the USA in preparation for its delivery flight to Rarotonga and induction into the Airline’s fleet. The new aircraft will add capacity initially to the Rarotonga-Aitutaki route with plans underway for the operation of some regional flights to Tahiti and Niue. Discussions are also being held with the Cook Islands Government regarding a future upgrade of Northern Group runways to facilitate scheduled operation of the larger aircraft there. Saab operations into the Northern Group will substantially reduce the cost of travel and provide access for specialized small-scale tourism to the North. Founded in 1978, Air Rarotonga celebrated 40 years of inter-island air service in 2018.

Air Rarotonga's first B model Saab 340, E5-SMW. Photos Air Rarotonga

10 September 2019

Colourful ATRs

A BIG thanks to Terry Hodges for these magnificent pics of visiting ATRs in Nelson... and Terry, sorry it has taken so long to post them... I have been on the road a lot

On 27 August 2019 Air Caledonie ATR TPC7202 F-OZNO arrived direct into Nelson from Noumea .

A great view of the new Nelson terminal... it looks like a larger version of Hokitika!

On 3 September 2019 Virgin Australia ATR 72-600 VH-VPI arrived into Nelson direct from Canberra as VOZ9946

09 September 2019

INFLITE Acquires Skydive Fox Glacer

INFLITE, one of New Zealand’s leading aviation tourism companies, has continued its expansion in the adventure tourism market with the acquisition of Skydive Fox Glacier. The new businesses complements existing skydive operations Skydive Abel Tasman, Skydive Mt Cook and Skydive Franz Josef. The acquisition of Skydive Fox Glacier adds a dedicated and experienced team of skydive professionals to the existing INFLITE team, along with a Fletcher PC-24 to the fleet, which includes helicopters and fixed wing aircraft nationwide. INFLITE prides itself on people, and like all previous acquisitions, all Skydive Fox staff will be welcomed into the INFLITE Family. INFLITE has merged Skydive Fox Glacier with their existing West Coast skydive operation, Skydive Franz Josef. The new company will operate as Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier, retaining drop zones in both locations. Customer experience will be improved with customers checking in from a central location on the main road of Franz Josef and they’ll also benefit from an expanded product offering, including NZ’s highest skydive – 20,000ft. INFLITE acquired Skydive Franz Josef in 2018 and the business has performed strongly since then leading to INFLITE expanding skydive operations – initially with the purchase of Skydive Abel Tasman, then the announcement of Skydive Mt. Cook and now the acquisition of Skydive Fox Glacier. Skydive Mt. Cook will open in October 2019 in a brand-new purpose-built facility at Pukaki Airport. INFLITE has operated Mount Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters since 2015. INFLITE CEO Adam Joyce says, “We’re thrilled to welcome the team at Skydive Fox into the INFLITE family. The merging of the Skydive Fox and Skydive Franz teams is an exciting development for everyone involved in our West Coast business. This acquisition reinforces our commitment to the region which we plan to further develop over the coming 12 months. Skydive Fox brings with it an extremely successful, customer focused strategy, which fits perfectly with our drive to maintain NPS scores in excess of 90 across our operations. INFLITE has been through a period of considerable growth, so it’s very important we acknowledge the efforts of our people who continue to work tirelessly in providing our customers with unforgettable experiences.” This exciting development is the latest in a string of announcements for INFLITE and comes on the back of INFLITE’s selection as a finalist in the NZ Tourism Awards in the Sustainable Business Excellence Award and a finalist in the Westpac Champion Canterbury Business Awards as a finalist in the Champion Service Delivery category. INFLITE are proudly Qualmark Gold.

Source : INFLITE News Release

Spring Flights

Air Chathams have announced special flights for Whanganui and Kāpiti residents wanting to attend the U2 and Metalica concerts later in the year.

In addition extra spring flights are being added between Whanganui and Auckland. On selected dates in September and October an additional return flight will be offered on Fridays. From the 1st of November until the 20th of December an additional return flight will be offered on Fridays.

These extra flights will depart Auckland at noon and arrive in Whanganui at 1.00pm with the northbound flight departing at 1:25pm and in Auckland arriving at 2:25pm. The additional flights will be operated by Saab 340s with the ATR 72 being redeployed on the Tauck Tour flights.

08 September 2019

Saab Plans for Whakatāne

With the completion of Whakatāne Airport's RESA (runway end safety area, that is, "the surface surrounding the runway prepared or suitable for reducing the risk of damage to airplanes in the event of an undershoot, overshoot, or excursion from the runway.") Air Chathams is in the process of preparing for peak time Saab services to the eastern Bay of Plenty town. This was noted in the Air Chathams' September Update where a report was given on Air Chathams' attendance at Whakatāne's  Beacon Business and Lifestyle Show... 

Gray Tinley, our Customer Service Manager and Lyn Cheyne, our Marketing Manager both represented Air Chathams in Whakatāne.  It was great to see people who use the service regularly and receive a number of compliments about the airline....  

The questions we were asked the most were - when will Air Chathams fly to Wellington from Whakatāne? and when is the "big plane" coming?  Gray and Lyn could only say there were no plans for flights to Wellington and that plans were being put into place currently to introduce the Saab 340 before the end of the year.

The Saab 340 will be used only on the flights with the highest levels of demand (late Friday and early Saturday morning are a couple scheduled already) and seats double the number of passengers at 36.  It is a turbo-prop aircraft crewed by two pilots and one flight attendant and travels a little faster than the current Metroliner at 470km per hour.  (And it has a toilet on board).

Keep an eye out as it won't be long until you see our bigger aircraft over the Bay of the Plenty as we fly in to Whakatāne's heritage airport.

Not a Saab - but at last a decent full sun photo of Metro 23 ZK-POF at Whakatāne on 7 September 2019.

07 September 2019

Whakatāne Yesterday

Departing east from Whakatāne on 6 September 2019 was a very smart looking Cessna 206 ZK-JCS

Vans RV-3 ZK-WCO on the taxi to the hangar at Whakatāne on 6 September 2019 after some aerobatics

Vans RV-7A ZK-RFX about to do an engine run up at Whakatāne on 6 September 2019

Operating the Air Chathams late afternoon flight from and to Auckland was Fairchild Metro 23 ZK-POF.
Photos taken at Whakatāne on 6 September 2019 

06 September 2019

New Zealand's Newest International Airline

Air Chathams commences its first international service today as it begins flights between Auckland and Norfolk Island. The new route will be serviced by Air Chathams' Convair 580 aircraft. The weekly service is being operated on Fridays with the flights scheduled to take 2 hours 20 minutes. The flight to Norfolk Island, 3C 401, will depart Auckland at 9am and arriving at 10.20am Norfolk Island time. The return flight, 3C 402, will leave Norfolk Island at 11.20am and arrive back into Auckland at 2.40pm. 

The first flight was flown under the command of founder and owner Craig Emeny and his son, Duane Emeny, Air Chathams' General Manager in Convair ZK-CIB.

Auckland Airport congratulates Air Chathams on first international flight
Auckland Airport has welcomed Air Chatham’s first international flight to Norfolk Island today. With the service to operate once a week, the first flight was piloted by founder and owner Craig Emeny and his son, Duane Emeny, General Manager of Air Chathams. “We are really excited to re-establish the direct link between Auckland and Norfolk Island and we are really encouraged by the early interest we’ve had from passengers, with forward bookings indicating it’s going to be another successful route for our family airline,” says Duane Emeny, General Manager, Air Chathams. Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport’s General Manager Aeronautical Commercial, says the new service is great news for travellers, adding more choice and capacity. “With a flight time of just over two hours, the direct flight will enable travellers to experience a pristine tourism destination and provide freight opportunities for locals, with the new year-round service offering over 5,000 seats on the route per year. “Since Air Chathams began regular mainland New Zealand services in 2015, it has seen rapid growth, now flying to eight destinations and carrying over 100,000 people per year. We look forward to seeing Air Chathams continue to grow and provide the much-valued service of linking New Zealand communities, and now Norfolk Island, together,” adds Mr Tasker.

Source : Press Release: Auckland Airport

On the Auckland Airport website departures board for this morning