30 September 2020

A look at the ATR's Chatham Island ops


Earlier this week Air Chathams announced that they were going to commence ATR-72 operations from the Chatham Islands to New Zealand as they move towards the Convair 580 leaving the fleet in 2021.

Thanks to Air Chathams for filling out some more information on the forthcoming ATR operations from the Chatham Islands.

At present Air Chathams has one ATR 72-500, ZK-MCO. The airline took delivery of it on the 24th of January 2019 and it commenced operations flying tourists for Tauck Tours on the 8th of February 2019.

The Chathams will not be the ATR's first scheduled service. On the 14th of June 2019 Air Chathams commenced scheduled ATR 72 operations into Whanganui with ZK-MCO operating the Friday late afternoon return flights from Auckland to Whanganui followed by the evening service back to Whanganui. The aircraft then overnighted and operated the Saturday 8.00am flight to Auckland. It then operated all the Sunday flights between the two centres and the early 6.45am flight from Whanganui to Auckland. These flights continued until the airline resumed the Tauck tours in Spring 2019.

Air Chathams' sole ATR 72 ZK-MCO at Auckland on 20 February 2020. Will there be more? And will they fly to Norfolk or the Chathams? 

What modifications were needed for ATR operations to the Chathams?

We had to fit a HF radio to the ATR, and we’ve also had to get seat bags to enable us to carry more freight and we’ve made modifications to the galley to enable life rafts to be carried.

The Chathams' Convair (CIB) operated in a combi configuration? Will the ATR operated in the same way?

It’ll be a passenger aircraft first and foremost, with some modifications to carry a small amount of freight in the aircraft cabin

The ATR is substantially bigger than Convair. Will there be a drop in frequency to the Chathams’ service?

No – in fact due to increasing demand partially due to closed borders, we’ll be operating the ATR as a predominately passenger aircraft supported by a second aircraft as a freighter

What will passengers notice in the move from the Convair to the ATR?

Yes – the ATR is a quieter, more modern aircraft. It’s been recently renovated with an improved interior. We’ll also have 2 flight attendants on board. We’re in discussions about inflight snacks too – so customers can expect to see something a little different, but uniquely Air Chathams on board.

Does this mark the end of Convair passenger operations?

Not immediately. The plan is to transition the ATR onto the Chatham Island route supported by the passenger Convair on the island and freight Convair based in Auckland. The intention is to operate Convairs through until mid to late 2021 and stagger their withdrawal from the total fleet as they come due for major inspections.

Have you got a last date Convair service and first date ATR service yet?

Not yet, but we’ll make sure they go out with the appropriate recognition. Our airline has been built on the back of these workhorses, and they’ve helped us grow into the successful, homegrown business we are today so it’s only fitting that mark the occasion when they do finally fly their last flights.

Thanks to Duane and Dan from Air Chathams for their answers to these questions...


  1. Sounds like the 580 will get a good send off. I like that idea

  2. Steve, were Duane and Dan forthcoming of plans to add further ATR 72's to the fleet?

  3. What about Saabs to Norfolk? I heard they were getting HF radios too.