13 July 2021

Golden Bay Air - 7 questions for the 7th month

Last month I wrote to New Zealand's regional airlines asking them seven questions about their airline as they offer air services to our regional centres. I have tried to make the questions generic and not commercially sensitive but at the same time offer a glimpse of our regional airlines and some of the challenges they have and how they rise above them. The first five questions are specific to each airline... the last two I'm asking all the airlines.

This time we are back to the South Island with owner Richard Molloy reflecting upon Golden Bay Air...

Golden Bay Air had its origins in Wellington. With the move of the base to Takaka how has the airline been adopted by the Golden Bay community?

We are part of the fabric of Golden Bay now having been operating for 15 years. Many people in the community use our service to commute to Wellington (quite a few living in Golden Bay but working part time in Wellington for government and private agencies) plus also the normal family and friends visiting. We provide flight experiences for schools, voluntary organisations, charities, etc and work experience for local high school students, some of whom have gone off to pursue careers in aviation. We offset carbon in a local reforestation programme.

Historically air services to Takaka have struggled and failed. What has changed that Golden Bay Air has not only survived, but flourished?

Our Wellington-Takaka model is to fly VFR when the weather is reasonable, with IFR back up aircraft to be used when the weather requires, This allows us to keep operating costs down but provide a reliable service which is what you need when you operate scheduled flights. We are also certified for shuttle and rental car operations which allows us to offer other services - Heaphy Track and Abel Tasman transport packages from Wellington, Nelson and Takaka, and because we operate out of an incredibly scenic area, we can also offer scenic flights and work with other operators to provide fly-cruise packages in the Abel Tasman. So providing a complimentary mix of services is key.

The Gippsland Airvan entered service with Golden Bay Air in early 2019. How has the airline and the passengers found the Airvan?

Its a really versatile aircraft - we can use it on both Karamea and Wellington services and it is a brilliant aircraft for scenic flights. Very cost effective and being brand new, doesn’t have the same maintenance worries as older aircraft can have.

The airline indicated that before lockdown it was interested in a larger twin to replace the Piper Seneca. What sort of specifications would the airline need in looking for a Seneca replacement?

Watch this space… 😊

Golden Bay Air worked with Airways for the establishment for an RNAV approach at Takaka. What impact has the RNAV approach had on the airline? Do you think Karamea needs an RNAV approach? Why or why not?

We needed this to provide reliability on our scheduled service and it has achieved this. Yes an RNAV approach to Karamea would be good as over the summer we are at the point where our Karamea flights are daily scheduled services but we need an IFR aircraft that would work for Karamea. All part of the challenge of finding the right type for the mission, that can carry the loads (including packs and bikes).

The last two are the same I am asking all the airlines… Covid presented the New Zealand regional airlines with many challenges. What has your airline learnt and how is it stronger from these challenging times?

We learned that having a diverse and flexible offering is key when tough times hit - we may have lost our international tourists, but the Great Walks have been extremely popular with the locals, and this has kept us going. Challenges also bring opportunities – we have been able to recruit an awesome team in the air and on the ground. COVID also reminded us to put things in perspective - at the end of the day, the most important thing is looking after people.

In a sentence or two how would you describe your airline?

We are a boutique, family owned and operated air service based in the top of the South Island. We provide a diverse range of scheduled, scenic and charter flights, as well as shuttles and rental cars to support our full return Heaphy and Abel Tasman track transport and fly-cruise packages from Wellington, Nelson and Takaka. Our routes are incredibly scenic and our pilots love sharing their passion for flying and the area- giving commentary to passengers and chatting with them through the 2-way headsets, so our flights are a real treat for many who haven’t experienced the thrill of flying in a smaller aircraft before. It is important to us that we look after our community and our environment - as well as providing essential transport services for our remote community we are carbon neutral and safety is a core focus - at our Safety Management System certification the CAA called us an exemplar for the industry.

ZK-ZUG arriving in Wellington on 27 May 2021 from Takaka

Thanks Richard for your responses. I loved my day flying with Golden Bay Air some years ago. You certainly fly some beautiful country and I love seeing you guys mixing it with the jets at Wellington International. And PS, I'm looking forward to reporting on "Watch this space!" 

My history of Golden Bay Air can be found here : http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2011/06/sun-is-shining-on-golden-bay-air.html


  1. Watch this space could imply a new route from them. Perhaps something like a Wellington to Karamea non stop service.

    1. Never happen. At least not scheduled anyway.

  2. Watch this space… 😊 was the answer to this question Jarden... The airline indicated that before lockdown it was interested in a larger twin to replace the Piper Seneca. What sort of specifications would the airline need in looking for a Seneca replacement?

    1. I hear theres some Islanders going cheap up North ;) :P