26 February 2010


Captured at Wellington on 20 February 2010 were the Soundsair Caravan fleet; Cessna 208 Caravans PDM and TZR and Cessna 208B Grand Caravan SAA. These maintain the scheduled services, currently seven flights a day to Picton, two to Blenheim and between two and five a day to Nelson.

Island Air Mishap

Bruce Gavin sent an email regarding Island Air Charter/Adventure Aviation Ltd who operate a shuttle service between Tauranga and Motiti Island. On 21 January 2010 their Cessna 172, ZK-WGE, overran the airstrip at Motiti Island. None of the four people on board were injured.

Cessna 172 ZK-WGE taken at Tauranga on 11 November 2005 - F B Gavin photo

Newmans Air Additions...

Bruce Gavin has emailed me the following additions...
  • I believe the scheduled twice-weekly calls into Ashburton only operated for the peak ski season.
  • From 1 June 1985 Newmans Air introduced feeder services from Te Anau and Wanaka to Queenstown to link up with Newmans Air flights to and from northern centres.
  • Flights from Te Anau were operated by Waterwings Airways (Te Anau) Ltd (operating as Milford Sounds Scenic Flights) which had been operating over the route in its own right since February 1984.
  • Flights from Wanaka to Queenstown were operated by Aspiring Air Ltd. Aspiring Air had been operating a daily (on demand) Wanaka/Cromwell/Christchurch service in its own right since early 1984 but this was ended once the link with Newmas Air started.

23 February 2010

Remote Adventures Update

Cessna 172 ZK-WFS that Remote Adventures has been using over the summer has returned to Nelson Aero Leasing Ltd effective 1 February 2010. The comapny's website still shows three flights a week between Takaka and Paraparaumu.

Newmans Air - Taking on Mount Cook

The March 1985 issue of NZ Wings gives a great introduction to this profile on Newmans Air... Whoever selected the (Newmans) company logo, some years ago now, was certainly farsighted - Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek legend. Newmans have been moving people around for over 100 years, from small beginnings as a South Island mail coach run in 1879. Today the name is an umbrella term for a group that has corporate fingers in a number of pies - coach tours, freight, minerals, timber, horticulture, marine resources and, now, the airline business. In 1983-1984 the various divisions in Newmans group employed over 1700 people, utilised assets of $111 million and had total earnings of $135 million; well placed as the country's largest inbound tour operator to now reach for the skies. The company isn't entirely without an aviation background; Sir Jack Newman in his early days as head of what was a private company, was a member of the first committee of the Nelson Aero Club in 1932 and also helped establish Cook Strait Airways in 1937. This is the Newmans Air story...

In 1983 there was a concerted effort by the Nelson-based TNL Group and Air New Zealand to take over the Mount Cook Group. The group, which was largely involved in transport, also operated Newmans Tours, a competitor of the Mount Cook Group's own tour company.Mount Cook was not happy about the TNL proposal and in full-page advertisements in the national newspapers Mount Cook said it did not want "this unique company to become yet another autonomous division of a large trucking company. We have never settled for less and we are not about to start now. 

On the 1st of June 1984, after its take over bid had been rebuffed, the TNL Group had applied to establish its own airline.  Managing Director Garth Butler told the media that the application was made possible by a change in the air licensing regulations. Details at this stage were scarce, with TNL declining to give any details, but Les Bloxham, the long time travel editor of The Press, suggested that the service was likely to fly between Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch, Glentanner (Mount Cook), and Queenstown with two De Havilland-7 four-engine turbo-prop aircraft.

On the 11th of June adverts appeared in the major newspapers detailing An application by TNL Group Limited (trading as "Newmans Airlines"), to operate a Category A air transport service over the following routes: 
(a) Winter:
(I) Auckland to Queenstown and return via Rotorua, Christchurch, and Glentanner.
(II) Christchurch, Rotorua, Auckland and return; Christchurch, Glentanner, Queenstown and return.
(b) Summer:
(I) Auckland - Rotorua Christchurch.
(II) Christchurch Rotorua - Auckland; 
with a fleet of two De Havilland DHC-7 Dash 7 Series 102 aircraft.

By the end of June 1984 more details on the new airline were being made known. The Nelson Evening Mail of the 27th of June 1984 reported that the TNL order for the two de Havilland Canada Dash 7s, plus spares, is worth just under $US20 million in New Zealand currency, at today's values, the deal is worth about $31 million. The sale is subject to the TNL Group being granted an airline licence... The two TNL aircraft were in the initial stages of construction and would be ready for delivery in December.  

TNL chairman, Peter Grayburn, said the company was now looking for suitably qualified staff including 12 pilots. "Mr Grayburn visited three airlines operating Dash-7s including Hawaiian Airlines and Rocky Mountain Airlines of Denver, Colorado. "Those airlines place great emphasis on tourism. The high wing and seat placement in a Dash-7 means excellent viewing for passengers. That makes it an extremely satisfactory aircraft for uses to which TNL intends to put it." Mr Grayburn said TNL looked at other aircraft including the Hawker Siddeley 748 (flown by Mount Cook). But the HS-748 was a low wing aircraft, which meant a third of the passengers were denied a view. Another important factor, particularly for TNL's future development of air routes, was the Dash-7's short take off and landing capabilities... 

The report also gave details of the two submissions received about the application with give a good insight into the revised licensing procedures. The Air Services Licensing Authority in Wellington has received two submissions (objections are not permitted under the deregulated licensing procedures) on the application by TNL. One was from the Lands and Survey Department in Christchurch and the other was from Mount Cook Airlines. A spokesman for Lands and Survey said from Christchurch the department’s involvement was probably because part of the Glentanner station a proposed landing site for the TNL airline is crown land leased for pastoral purposes. The deadline for the receiving of comments was Monday. The two submissions have now been sent to TNL. A report expected to be completed by the Civil Aviation Division to the Ministry of Transport will next week, will also be sent to the applicant. The applicant has seven days to comment on these papers. It was expected by a licensing authority spokesman today that the application would be considered in the week beginning July 9. If the decision was favourable, a licence would be typed out immediately and sent to the applicant along with the decision.

Even as late as November 1984 the Newmans Group was still lamenting the merger with Mount Cook Group. It would have been in the interests of both New Zealand's two largest tourist companies and the nation if the companies had merged early this year, the chairman of TNL, Mr Peter Grayburn, told the annual meeting yesterday. Mr Grayburn rued the failure of TNL, renamed Newmans Group, Ltd, at the meeting, to get the assent of either the Mount Cook directors or the Examiner of Commercial Practices to the merger at its annual meeting. "The services of Newmans and Mount Cook were, and still are, completely complementary and would be supportive of each other, in the interests of both the combined group of shareholders and the nation." 

By December 1984 the construction of a new hangar was well underway in Christchurch but environmental objections were threatening the plans to fly to Glentanner, near Mount Cook. The existing airstrip at Glentanner was unsuitable for the Dash-7 aircraft and the company proposed to build a new 890-metre sealed runway running parallel to the Tasman River but construction could not begin until the "half dozen" objections had been heard and approval was given by the Land Settlement Committee. 

On the 22nd of December 1984 the first de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 ZK-NEW arrived in Nelson after a 9000 mile delivery flight from the de Havilland factory in Toronto, Canada. Several hundred people watched as the plane circled over the city and made two low level passes over the runway before finally touching down. Over the next six weeks it was kept busy doing crew training and familiarisation flights.

Newmans Air's first DHC Dash 7 in Christchurch on 3 January 1985 soon after its delivery flight. 

ZK-NEW on display at the Wings and Wheels show at Wigram on 27 January 1985.

The second Dash 7, ZK-NEX, arrived in New Zealand in early February 1985 in ready for the launch of services. The April 1985 National Business Review carried an interesting piece on the Newmans Air Dash 7s. De Havilland Canada, which is Canadian Government-owned, had ceased to make the Dash 7 after 100 units. However, the Canadian Government agreed that the line should be reopened, and unit 101 was Newmans' first plane. No 102 was a Canadian Government plane designed for arctic research, and 103 the second Newmans plane. An interesting sidelight of the Newmans order was that it regenerated demand for the Dash 7. De Havilland has produced 33 of them since re-opening the line, and is planning a modified version. 

Newmans Air's second Dash 7, ZK-NEX at Christchurch on 17 August 1985

Another of Newmans Air's innovative features was the connections it was making. The same issue of the National Business Review reported that the Newmans Group is discussing with the major hotel chains a package deal to promote New Zealand to New Zealanders. The package deal would include flights, coaches, and hotel accommodation. And the airline, which has joined IATA, is also looking at linkages with the smaller third level airlines. "We've spoken to six or seven," McDonald said. "We're looking to provide a complete service for the tourist. "For example, we're making an arrangement so that tourists can fly on to Te Anau from Queenstown. Rotorua is an area that could be the hub of a system." At the Newmans Air launch in Rotorua in February Peter Grayburn said he had been approached by representatives from Whangarei, who had asked if the airline would service the city. Grayburn was careful to emphasise that Newmans was not in competition with Air New Zealand. It appears that thinking may be changing. McDonald said they could be looking at servicing Wellington within 12 months, and would look at other cities. He said, however, Newmans did not intend to compete with Air New Zealand on the main trunk routes.

The company’s first scheduled flights began on 13 February 1985, using the two De Havilland Canada Dash-7 aircraft, ZK-NEW, named "Uenuku" and ZK-NEX, named "Kopako". The initial timetable saw two daily northbound services from Christchurch to Rotorua, one extending further north to Auckland, and three southbound services from Christchurch to Queenstown. The Glentanner (Mount Cook) airfield was not ready when services began due to delays with the Land Settlement Board approvals and then with the Civil Aviation Division.  

The original Newmans Air timetable, effective 12 February 1985

The issues with the use of Glentanner were eventually overcome and from the 19th of March 1985 Newmans Air flights to and from Queenstown began to call at Glentanner (Mount Cook). Two southbound flights from Christchurch landed at Glentanner and one northbound. 

Glentanner added to the network. Newmans Air timetable effective 15 March 1985

At the time of the launch of services the airline’s chief executive, Mr Ken McDonald, foresaw a third Dash 7 and including Nelson on their network. He told the Christchurch Press he estimated Newmans Air would have captured 50 per cent of the available market by June 1986 and that they were aiming to get 70 per cent of the market in the long term. The March 1985 issue of NZ Wings expanded on the choice of the Dash 7... Newmans Air initial routes do not reflect the Dash 7's expensive STOL capabilities, apart from the Glentanner strip near Mount Cook. Instead the thinking includes a second stage, once the airline has established a level of demand, of utilising the Dash 7s to reach into such locations as Wanaka, Te Anau and the West Coast as feederliners contributing to a main trunk service flown by aircraft such as the DC-9 or BAe 146. Peter Grayburn told the Newmans annual meeting that the airline would not be putting together the calibre of staff it has recruited if it only intended to operate two aircraft. The vision of a new airline certainly grabbed the imagination of many, applications for positions in the new venture well outnumbering the 128 jobs created. Over 400 aircrew applied for 22 seats and over 600 applied for 20 positions as cabin attendants (no men made the grade). The captains are all old hands on the Dash 7 while the co-pilot appointments probably caused a manpower shortage on the RNZAF's No. 40 Squadron. Flight operations manager is Captain Wesley Stratton, a 30,000 hour veteran with experience stretching back into wartime bomber cockpits, He came to the airline after seven years with Brymon Airways, flying Dash 7s around Britain and across to France. Further expertise came in the form of managing director Ken McDonald, previously Trans Australia Airlines manager in New South Wales. He was one of 2000 airline management possibilities checked out by Newman's consultants. Former Brymon cabin services controller Jan Davies came out of retirement in Bermuda on a four month contract to supervise and train the new cabin staff. Orchestrating the initial planning was Eric Peter, Newmans special project manager, in company with flight operations consultant Dave Hannon. Dave Hannon had been instrumental in establishing Brymon Airways with New Zealand racing driver Chris Amon... 

Newman's Garth Butler believes that there is room for both Mount Cook and Newmans Air on parallel tourist routes, noting that unsatisfied demand last year was 30 per cent. In line with Mount Cook Line, he considers that the major limiting factor to growth is the accommodation bottlenecks of Christchurch and Queenstown. Over $50 million has been invested by the Newmans group in giving their horse wings. Company management are forecasting that the airline will be in profit within its second year of operation. An annual utilisation of more than 3000 hours per aircraft is expected, with around 100,000 passengers carried by early 1986. It remains to be seen whether tourism will grow to provide two strongly independent tourist operators with a good return over competing routes. 

On the 5th of March 1985 it was announced that Newmans Air was assessing the suitability of Ashburton airfield as another possible destination to fly skiers from the nearby Mount Hutt skifield to Queenstown. At this time the airline was into its fourth week of commercial service. Ken McDonald, Newmans Air's chief executive told The Press, the company was satisfied with passenger loads and forward bookings. "Bookings. are better than we had anticipated and we are now running at a load factor of about 29 per cent," said Mr McDonald. "Some flights next month are already fully booked." The airline is marketing overseas a "See New Zealand" fare which offers a 30 per cent discount for foreign tourists. Mr McDonald said that a group of Americans had written to the company to say the inflight service was the best they had experienced in years. The company is currently negotiating to secure a lease of a third Dash 7 for the 1985-86 peak season.

The timetable from the 1st of June showed a slight reshuffling of flights. The frequency of flights to Queenstown were reduced from three to two flights per day while the aircraft that overnighted at Rotorua now overnighted at Auckland meaning Auckland had two flights per day. Newmans Air were keen to develop feeder services and from the 1st of June 1985 two feeder services were operated between Queenstown and Wanaka and Queenstown and Te Anau. 

Aspiring Air commenced a seven-day a week service between Wanaka and Queenstown to connect with Newmans Air’s flights at Queenstown using their Cessna aircraft. The flights appeared in Newmans Air’s timetable and carried ZQ flight numbers. The 20-minute flight operated twice a day, depending on traffic and a one-way ticket to Christchurch cost $161 one way to Christchurch - $3 more than the direct Queenstown-Christchurch flight. This air service also operated under visual flight rules. On fine days the flights would fly direct to Queenstown above Cadrona, while on murky days the aircraft would fly down the Clutha River to Cromwell and then proceed through the Kawerau Gorge to Queenstown.

On the same day and in the same way Waterwings Airways' entered into an agreement with Newmans Air to offer feeder services between Queenstown and Te Anau. In Newmans Air's timetable of 1 June 1985 a daily flight was offered from Te Anau to Queenstown at 8.15am and a return flight departing at 1.40pm. The flights were timed to meet Newmans Air Dash 7 flights to and from Christchurch.  From the 1985/86 summer the Newmans Air schedule showed Waterwings Airways operating two flights each day between the two centres. These flights all operated with Newmans Air ZQ flight numbers but the timetable did not indicate that the service was a feeder service operated in the Milford Sound Scenic Flights' Cessna 207s. 

From Newmans Air's timetable effective 1 June 1985, with flights from Queenstown to both Wanaka and Te Anau

On the 1st of June 1985 Wellington's Evening Post reported that the fledgling Newmans Air service has completed its first three months in the skies with management claiming better than expected results — but with other people doubting there is room for two competing tourist airlines. Mount Cook Airlines, who fly the same routes as Newmans taking in Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch, Mount Cook and Queenstown, say they have been unaffected by the arrival of the new airline and report solid bookings into this month — traditionally the start of a slow period. Newmans say they are achieving around 60 percent loadings on flights between Christchurch and Auckland — but things are not going as well further south. The Newmans Air chief executive, Mr Ken McDonald, says the fairly light bookings on the Mount Cook/Queenstown route will only be temporary until the ski season gets under way. He says from evidence of advanced bookings, loadings will lift to about 60 percent — which is what the airline needs to break even. Contrary to what many have expected, the Newmans flights have been attracting a large number of domestic passengers — but Mr McDonald says it is becoming known and accepted overseas as well. "It looks like we will have quite a buoyant year," he says. When Newmans Air was first being developed it was said the Newmans company could bear losses on the venture for about two or three years, "We won't have losses for that long," Mr McDonald now says. "We just have to wait for the tourist season and we will be right. We didn't expect profits from the first day." But opinions are divided as to whether two airlines can run side by side profitably on the country's tourist routes. Mr McDonald says with expected growth in New Zealand's tourist industry there is enough scope for both Newmans and Mount Cook. 

Meanwhile Dash 7 ZK-NEX landed at Ashburton on a charter flight on the 17th of April 1985. Scheduled flights through Ashburton on the 17th of July 1985. On Wednesdays and Thursdays the early flight, instead of stopping at Glentanner, landed at Ashburton for 15 minutes before continuing on to Queenstown. There were no northbound stops, as most overseas skiers wanted to return direct to Christchurch or Auckland to connect with international flights. At the launch of the Ashburton service Mr Ken McDonald said that regular flights would soon be going to Wanaka and Te Anau if their air strips were upgraded to take the Dash 7. The twice weekly Ashburton flights continued until the ski season until the 26th of September 1985. They were not repeated again the following year. 

Newmans Air's first scheduled Dash 7 flight to Ashburton on 17 July 1985. Source : The Press

Ashburton in Newmans Air's timetable effective 1 June 1985 

Newmans Air's air routes as at 17 July 1985

By August 1985, the airlines had passed its six months mark. Speaking to the NZ Times the chief executive, Mr Ken McDonald said "We set our sights high, aiming for around 60 per cent loadings in the first six months and we've only just fallen short of that figure." Loadings are steady at around 52 per cent though a number of flights in the next two months are already waitlisted, a very healthy sign for any airline, let alone one only just starting to market in overseas areas where most of their potential customers are to be found. "We have depended to a large extent on the domestic market that is available on the tourist routes and have been surprised with what demand there is for flights, however we are now beginning to market extensively in areas like North America, Asia and Australia." He says it takes at least 18 months to get results from marketing in these areas, but even after a very short campaign results are beginning to show. The lack of early season snow in the South Island caused some concern in May and June. "We were aware we would have to depend on a good ski season to bring loadings up this year but next year will be a whole new ball game." 

While the various group executives worry themselves with the future of the existing airlines in this country Ken McDonald is more concerned at making his airline work more effectively. Newmans, formerly the TNL group, were fully aware that you can't set up an airline by trial and error.  The only trial was in ascertaining the flight times on the Auckland-Queenstown route. "A number of our pilots had never flown in the Southern Alps region before they started with us and to allow them to become familiar with the area we allowed up to 30 minutes on some sectors," McDonald says. The airline is now preparing its summer schedule and all the inflight times are being tightened considerably in a move McDonald believes will make them even more competitive. "We were criticised for being slower in the air than our competitors, but with the new schedules we will be quicker on some routes." He proudly points out that in the first six months of operation the airline has been on time 96 per cent of the flights. Initially the airline limited itself to the traditional tourist route of Auckland-Rotorua-Christchurch-Mount Cook-Queenstown. However, it has already introduced an early morning skier special from Ashburton to Queenstown to cater for enthusiastic skiers who don't wish to miss a day's skiing. "The average overseas skier wants to be able to ski every day he or she is in this country and at the moment a whole day is lost in getting from Mount Hutt to Queenstown by bus, so we opened this new route and it has proved extremely viable." Newmans are now looking at several new landing sites including Ludgate near Wanaka and an area close to Mount Ruapehu. Last week, executives of the company visited the Ruapehu area and believe they may have found a suitable site near National Park but more research has to be done on the terrain. There is no intention of expanding the fleet of two Dash 7 aircraft, till late next year. "We are able to operate successfully at the moment with the two aircraft and I don't see any reason why we should rush in and order more aircraft till we have properly evaluated the routes and potential routes." McDonald is confident that the predictions he made before the launching of the airline will still stand at the end of the first year of operation.

In August 1985 Les Bloxham from The Press reviewed a Newmans Air flight...

Flight ZQ121; August 11, Rotorua to Christchurch.
Aircraft: de Havilland Dash 7.
Scheduled departure: 4.30 p.m.
Actual departure: 4.31 p.m.
Scheduled Arrival: 6.45 p.m.
Actual Arrival: 6.31 p.m.
Time in air: 1hr 55min.
Cruising altitude: 16,000ft.
Altitude wind: 10 knots (head).
Total seats available: 50.
Seats filled: 45.
Cabin attendants: two. (Some inflight assistance was also given by the airline's controller of cabin services who flew this sector to make a six-monthly check of one of the duty hostesses.)

Two phone calls were made to the airline's reservations number in Christchurch before the flight. Both were answered promptly and courteously. At Rotorua, check-in formalities were completed with polite efficiency and without delay. Passengers were individually welcomed on board and shown to their seats by the cabin crew who also assisted with the storage of hand baggage in overhead lockers. I found the seats, which have lambs-wool covers, comfortable with adequate leg space and an unobstructed area underneath for my feet. A safety card, airline magazine, and timetable were in the seat pocket. Pre-flight safety announcements were clear and easy to follow with one hostess standing at the front of the cabin indicating procedures and the locality of the emergency exits. Signs in the cabin were in English and Japanese. Passengers were offered an excellent selection of magazines immediately after take-off, followed by a choice of fruit juice (feijoa or grapefruit). The food service began 25 minutes into the flight. ·Plastic trays and cups with sealed sleeves containing knife, fork, spoons, salt, pepper, sugar and serviette were distributed. Passengers were then offered a choice of generously stacked open sandwiches from a tray - pork, beef or vegetarian. I opted for pork and received a 10cm by 10cm slice of whole-grain bread bearing 4cm of sliced meat attractively garnished with lettuce, pineapple, tomato, carrot, red pepper, cucumber and radish. (On north-bound flights salad rolls, slices of cake and chocolate mints are served). Tea and coffee were followed by offerings from a fruit tray - apples, kiwi, tamarillos, and segments of orange - and a cheese tray with crackers and superb cheese balls. Made with cream cheese and grated cheddar flavoured with onion, gherkin, and parsley rolled in crushed nuts, these little delicacies are produced specially for the airline by its Rotorua caterers, Glenis and Ray Robinson. Trays were cleared and hot towels handed out about 45 minutes before landing. Three informative announcements were made from the flight-deck on route. A hostess responded promptly to my call button, but was unable to meet my request for an Air New Zealand timetable. The lavatory at the rear of the .aircraft was clean and easily accessible. Boiled lollies were offered before landing and luggage was available on the carousel nine minutes after the aircraft's arrival at the gate. 

I was lucky enough to fly Christchurch-Rotorua, Rotorua-Auckland and Auckland-Christchurch on Newmans Air

In late November Newmans was also looking at smaller aircraft in the form of the Dash 8 or ATR 42. Ken McDonald said it was not true that the Dash 7s were too big. "Over the last two or three months loadings have been incredibly good. We just need more aircraft that provide a more efficient operation." Newmans planned a more flexible service with three new aircraft to replace the present two Dash 7s. A decision on keeping the 7s or replacing them would be made "in the near future". The ATR and Dash 8 were not available when Newmans was in the market for new planes and represented the most modern of aviation technology. In the first four and a half months of service to the 30th of June 1985, the airline had returned a loss of $2,542,000. 

Dash 7 ZK-NEX at the end of the day on 10 December 1986

By early 1986 Newmans was looking for new aircraft and a partner and by April 1986 the speculation was the favoured option would be with Ansett Airlines of Australia and that Dash 8’s would replace the Dash 7’s. In May it was confirmed that two de Havilland Canada Dash 8s had been ordered. In July 1986 the Government gave Ansett permission to purchase half of Newmans Air with Brierley Investments buying a further 30 per cent. By this stage the company had lost over $ 5 million since beginning in February 1985. Their position was not helped by Air New Zealand taking over Mount Cook Airlines in 1985.

What might have been but what wasn't...  An artist's impression of the Dash 8 in full Newmans colours

In October 1986 an application was made to Air Services Licensing Authority by Bilmans Management Ltd (trading as "Newmans-Ansett"), to conduct a Category "A" air transport service between Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch, Glentanner and Queenstown with two De Havilland DHC-8 Dash 8 Series 100 aircraft. By the end of the month the Ansett-Newmans-Brierley airline consortium was considering Christchurch-Wellington-Auckland flights, using four revamped Boeing 737-100 aircraft.

The first Dash 8 departed Toronto on the 4th of December 1986 and flew via Greenland, Iceland, Britain, Australia, Crete, Egypt, Bahrain, Muscat, Bombay, Calcutta, Bangkok, Singapore, Bali, Darwin, Mount Isa, Brisbane, and Lord Howe Island to arrive in Christchurch on 15th of December sporting Ansett Newmans titles. ZK-NEY, named Queenstown, entered service on Christmas Day 1986 replacing Dash 7 ZK-NEW. 

The end of a long ferry flight, DHC Dash 8 ZK-NEY on short finals for runway 29 at Christchurch on 15 December 1985

Ex ZK-NEW -  Eurocity Express Dash 7 G-BNDC is pushed out of the Air New Zealand paint hangar at Christchurch on 28 January 1987 being readied for departure to the UK

The second Dash 8, ZK-NEZ, named Rotorua, arrived on the 6th of January 1987 and started service on the 19th of January 1987. While the Dash 8s carried Ansett Newmans titles the branding did not appear elsewhere, the timetable being rebranded as Ansett New Zealand from the 1st of February 1987. The timetable from that date also included feeder flights between Queenstown and Milford Sound, these being operated by Waterwings Airways' Nomad aircraft 

Ansett New Zealand branding on the timetable effective 1 February 1987 with Ansett Newmans branding on the Dash 8s. 

On the 28th of January 1987 non-stop Dash 8 flights were introduced between Auckland and Christchurch. The flights left Christchurch at 6.10 p.m. arriving in Auckland at 7.55 p.m. and left Auckland at 5.45 p.m. arriving in Christchurch at 7.35 p.m. Meanwhile the two Dash 7s were painted in the colours of Eurocity Express, British operator.

The end of the day - Ansett Newmans' second Dash 8, ZK-NEZ at the hangar on 26 January 1986

On the 25th of July 1987 Ansett New Zealand began operating three Boeing 737-100 aircraft between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and this marked the end of Ansett Newmans and the Newmans Pegasus flying New Zealand skies.

My ride back to Christchurch... Ansett Newmans' Dash 8 ZK-NEY at Rotorua on 25 March 1987. 

Even though it was March 1987 the boarding passes were for Ansett New Zealand rather than Ansett Newmans

Demand for Westport Flights Drop

Source: www.westportnews.co.nz
19 Feb 2009 - Air NZ denies blame for less demand
Demand for air flights from Westport to Wellington fell by 2 – 3 per cent last year, says Air New Zealand. However, the airline denies it may be partly to blame for more Buller people driving to Nelson or Christchurch for cheaper, more reliable flights and a wider choice of flight times. Passengers can fly from to Wellington from Nelson or Christchurch return for less than a third of the price of flying from Westport. They can also choose from up to 15 flights a day, compared to just two weekdays and one Saturdays and Sundays from Westport. Responding to questions from The News, Air NZ spokesman Mark Street said the airline had cut its Westport-Wellington prices by up to 34 per cent when it reduced regional fares last October. It had reduced its cheapest fair by $5 to $79 (6 per cent), its flexible fares by $93 to $179 (34 per cent) and its top fare by $36 to $329 (10 per cent), Mr Street said. The 19-seat Beech 1900D aircraft which flew the sector cost more to operate on a cost per seat basis than larger aircraft. Pricing needed to reflect this. Asked why Air NZ did not offer last-minute discounted seats to help fill the often half-empty Westport-Wellington flights, he said it did on its Grab-a-seat website. Air NZ had cancelled 40 flights between Westport and Wellington over 2008-09, Mr Street said. Thirty-nine cancellations were because of poor weather and one for an engineering problem. However, 94 per cent of the scheduled flights had gone ahead. This compared to 97 per cent from Christchurch and 99 per cent from Nelson, for Air NZ’s regional airlines (Eagle Air, Air Nelson, Mt Cook). Christchurch had higher cancellation rates due
to weather, mainly fog. Nationally, 97.5 per cent of regional flights went ahead. Patronage grew strongly after Air NZ increased its Westport –Wellington flights from seven to 12 a week in February 2007, Mr Street said. Since mid-2008, patronage had declined mainly due to the economic recession. Since last Christmas, demand had also been down on the same time last year. Forward bookings were roughly in line with last year. At this stage, no changes were planned to the Westport-Wellington flight schedule. However, Air NZ continually reviewed all routes. Flight viability relied on local patronage, Mr Street said.

19 February 2010

Great Barrier Airline Mysteries...

Registered for Great Barrier Airlines this week was Britten-Norman BN.2A Mk.III-2 Trislander ZK-LGF. However, myseriously the registration was revoked the next day. Can anyone enlighten us why? Their previous Trislander, ZK-LGC, first appeared with the registration ZK-CJS though it was never registered as such. Again a mystery!

Meanwhile work seems to be continuing on the Britten Norman Islander which was carrying the registration ZK-KTR at the beginning of last year.

17 February 2010

Courier Flights

Taxi-ing out at Auckland on 10 October 2008 was Fly-My-Sky's ZK-PIZ on its way to Whangarei on a courier run. This service, Great Barrier Airlines courier service to Taupo and Sunair's courier service from Palmerston to Gisborne all ended about the same time... I think they were NZ Post courier flights. Can anyone enlighten me about this and have a date for the end of the service???

Standby Fares Coming to the Provinces?

Eagle Air is trialling cheap standby tickets from Whakatane to Wellington. The Whakatane Beacon reports that passengers can arrive an hour before the flight and seats available can fly for $59. A return standby ticket must be bought at the same time. Empty seats certainly don't pay... it's great to see at least a trial for the provinces to get more cheap seats.

15 February 2010

Another Cessna 172 for Sunair

Cessna 172M ZK-DKK was registered to Sunair Aviation on 20 January 2010. Is this for use on the Whitianga-Auckland service? An Aztec has been noted flying some of these flights as well as Cessna 172 ZK-DHN

Goldfields Air - More details emerge...

Bruce Gavin writes, “In 1980 Goldfields Aviation Ltd (later Goldfields Air Ltd) and its principal Mr A. Cresswell first applied to the Air Services Licensing Authority (ASLA) for an air services licence for air charter, air taxi, scenic flights and joy rides from Alexandra as well as a scheduled air service between Alexandra and Christchurch with one Piper PA-23-250F Aztec aircraft. At a public hearing on 10 December 1980 the application was declined by the ASLA. Two further attempts were made during 1981 changing the proposed scheduled Alexandra-Christchurch service to a non scheduled route as well as modifications to the type of aircraft to be used. The second application heard by the ASLA on 17 March 1981 was for a Cessna 402, while the third application in December 1981 was for a PA32-300 Lance. Both were unsuccessful.”

In January 1981 Goldfield’s Air were considering purchasing Westland Flying Service’s Cessna 402 ZK-DHW and it flew into Alexandra for them to evaluate it.

Flyernzl’s comment that Piper Pa32R-300 Cherokee Lance ZK-EIB was also registered to Goldfields Air from 15 October 81 to 11 February 82 is interesting. It would seem from the above that the company bought or leased the aircraft and then did not get the licence. The service that commenced in 1985 with Bonanza ZK-EDJ was reported as normally flown by chief shareholder Murray Cresswell.

14 February 2010

Goldfields Air

Photographed at Taieri on 6 February 2010 was Beech V35 Bonanza ZK-EDJ. This aircraft was used by Goldfields Air to inaugurate its non-¬scheduled services between Alexandra and Christchurch in May 1985. The company initially offered a six day a week service but from 1 August 1985 the company flew daily, landing at Wanaka as required.

Beech Bonanza ZK-EDJ at Christchurch on 21 January 1985 before the scheduled service commenced. Did it ever carry Goldfields Air titles?

The company had always intended to operate an IFR scheduled service and so imported a Piper Pa31-310 Navajo, VH-TRP previously used by the Victorian state premier from Australia that become ZK-JGA. The Navajo, reregistered ZK-JGA, was introduced to the Alexandra service in October 1985.

Piper Navajo ZK-JGA taken at Christchurch on 9 April 1986
On 2 April 1986 the company moved its base to Christchurch and inaugurated a morning Christchurch-Wellington return service with the Navajo then continuing on to Alexandra, Wanaka and Queenstown. The following month, on 1 May 1986, Goldfields Air launched a twice daily Christchurch-Nelson service. However the company had liquidity problems and suddenly ceased its services on 29 July 1986. The collapse of Goldfields Air came close on the heels of the failure of air Albatross and the withdrawal of Wairarapa Airlines on the Nelson-Christchurch sector. At that time Goldfields Air’s Nelson agent, Mr Winston Williamson of the Nelson Travel Agency Ltd, told the Nelson Evening Mail, "It is very easy to start an airline and very easy to stop an airline but it is very hard to do the bits in between."

Navajo ZK-JGA went on to serve other regional airlines, namely Coast Air, Air Nelson and Air Marlborough. It is currently operated by Air Charter Manawatu.

Can anyone help? According to Goldfields Air’s timetable of 1 May 1986 the company needed two aircraft to operate their services from Christchurch to Nelson and Wellington. Did they ever use a second aircraft? If so what was the registration?

See further details at http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2010/02/goldfields-air-more-details-emerge.html

05 February 2010

Golden Bay Air Spotted At Wellington

Golden Bay Air's Piper Pa32 Saratoga, ZK-ZIG gets airborne from Wellington on 4 February 2010. Golden Bay Air run a daily scheduled service from Wellington to Takaka and from Takaka to Karamea using ZIG and Piper Pa28-161 Archer ZK-EQS. The air service was originally started by Capital Air in 2006 but last year was rebranded as Golden Bay with the Saratoga being based at Takaka. The company told the Golden Bay Weekly in September last year that they would like to see Takaka airport developed, including the sealing of the cross runway and provision for a GPS approach. They could then look at the possibility of a larger aircraft. In more recent times Golden Bay Air has moved its Wellington arrival and departure point from the Aero Club to Capital Jet Services on the main terminal side of the airport.

03 February 2010

Bell Air - The Intercity Commuter Airline


Graeme Bell grew up in Whakatane. His vocational guidance counsellor at Whakatane High School discouraged him from going into the Air Force and so he took an electrical apprentice with New Zealand Forest Products. Still having a desire to fly he took flying lessons commuting to Rotorua to learn to fly in a Piper Cub. After gaining his private pilot's licence he flew Tiger Moths for the local glider club building his hour hours up before taking his commercial pilot's licence in 1967. 

In 1968 he founded Bell-Air Executive Air Travel Ltd, a Whakatane-based charter with a capital investment of $8000 and a Cessna 185. The company was granted an air taxi service licence on the 6th of September 1968 and started operating that month with Cessna 185C ZK-CGH (c/n 185-0751). The charter rate for a Whakatane to Auckland and return charter flight was $50! In addition to the general charter work he also did air ambulance work. 

Bell Air's first aircraft, Cessna 185 ZK-CGH photographed at New Plymouth on 8 November 1972

From mid-1969 to mid-1971 Bell Air was also operating Piper PA22-150 Caribbean ZK-BSH.

Graeme Bell's employer, the Rangitaiki Plains Dairy company, were very flexible in their employment of the new charter pilot. He worked for them as an electrician but when charter work came along, often for the company, he was given the time to do it. There was not enough work locally to sustain the operation and so at times he flew on venison recovery on the West Coast. Another early source of business was fish spotting. The Ministry of Fisheries were keen to develop the tuna fishery and so he worked fish spotting in the Bay of Plenty, off New Plymouth and he did a survey of southern bluefin off the West Coast. The Cessna 185 was replaced with Cessna 206 ZK-DNG in July 1973.

Cessna 206 ZK-DNG was added to the fleet in July 1973. 
It is seen at Whakatane in November 1973

He was asked to help in the first joint-venture between the Government and the Starkist company of California. The Government chartered the fishing boat the Paramount to prove the "catch-ability" of the fish already sighted round New Zealand waters. 

Very quickly Graeme became an expert fish spotter who are able to determine the difference between skip-jack, yellowfin, blue mackerel, jack mackerel and other fish, their behaviour patterns, tonnage assessments and the movement of the tuna - and all this while concentrating on his flying. An article in the New Zealand Herald expanded on art of his fish spotting. The boats depended on his accuracy. Smaller boats can get into difficulty if directed to a school which is too large for their capabilities. Schools must be known to have such density that it is worth the effort of big boats to switch grounds. Bell registers the stability of a school. It is vital for the fleet to know whether the school is moving slowly, tightly, clinging to the surface, erratic in its behaviour, patternless, sounding, surfacing. He may "dive bomb" the school to see how it reacts to noise. And there is a growing requirement for his supervision of the actual fishing. The Paramount heralded the day of the super-seiners 'in New Zealand waters and it was the beginning, too, of international interest in Graham Bell's work. He has done many assignments through the Pacific combining spotting with research evaluation for surface-feeding stocks, relating surface temperatures to the "showing" of fish, noting migratory patterns. In was this expertise that saw him fishing spotting around the Pacific, and as far north as Guam, Japan, Truk and Palau.

By 1975 Bell Air had three Cessnas including Cessna 172 ZK-DEY and Cessna 177 Cardinal ZK-DKL, but in September 1975 the company introduced its first twin engine aircraft into the fleet in the form of Piper PA23 Aztec ZK-DUB. The Aztec gave greater coverage and speed out over the water for the fish spotting as well as being used for charter work and as a back-up aircraft for regional operator Air North.

Piper Aztec ZK-DUB at Invercargill in July 1978

Bell Air's Cessna 172 ZK-EHJ at Whakatane in August 1981

The fish spotting proved lucrative for Bell Air and this enable the company to purchase Rockwell Shrike Commander 500, ZK-PAT (c/n 500-S-3137) in December 1977Again, the Aero Commander provided an excellent platform for the fish spotting. The purchase of the Shrike Commander was followed in April 1978 with the addition an older of Aero Commander 500A ZK-DCF (c/n 500-A-1274-97) to its fleet, the additional Aero Commander replacing the Piper Aztec ZK-DUB. 

Taken at Hokitika on 5 July 1983 Shrike Commander ZK-PAT, its registration in honour of Graham Bell's wife Pat

The second Commander, ZK-DCF taken at Whakatane in August 1981

In 1979 Whakatane's Air New Zealand service saw a daily midday flight to Wellington via Wanganui and an afternoon service to Auckland. Neither of these suited Whakatane business people and so the company successfully applied for a non-scheduled air service between Whakatane and Auckland. The service began on the 23rd of October 1979 with Cliff Stockwell flying the first flight. A morning and evening weekday service was operated between Whakatane and Auckland and return enabling a day's business for Whakatane and Auckland business people.

Bell Air's 1980 timetable

In May 1980 the company was granted an amendment to its air service licence with the licence to operate a non-scheduled service between Whakatane and Auckland revoked and substituted with a licence to operate a scheduled service.

The Auckland air service proved to be popular, and at times using both Aero Commanders had to be used and so the decision was made to purchase a 15 seat Beech 99. ZK-LLA (c/n U-52) was a 1970 model purchased second hand in the United States for around $640,000 and entered service with Bell Air in August 1981. The Beech 99 was welcomed with an air show at Whakatane that was attended by some 1500 people from Whakatane and surrounding districts. The aircraft took local dignitaries and the press for sightseeing flights.

While Bell Air had moved into the turbo-prop age it still had a need to keep its overheads at a minimum. The pilots loaded the freight, flew the aircraft, returned to the office and did the bookwork. And at this time the company's head office was in the Bell family home where Pat Bell, Graeme's wife, (hence the Shrike Commander being registered ZK-PAT) acted as the office manager.

Flying over its home town, the sleek Beech 99 ZK-LLA flying over Whakatane. Photo : Bell Air

The Beech 99 was a popular choice and passenger numbers grew as a result. In the 1980-81 financial year the airline carried 3685 passengers and 2237kg of freight. In the following year passengers had grown to 5922 and 22,246kg of freight was flown. 

In January 1982 the first Aero Commander, ZK-DCF was sold but the company was keen to expand. In 1982 Bell Air applied to operate flights from Whakatane to Palmerston North and Wellington but the service never eventuated. 

Beech 99 ZK-LLA in Hokitika on 19 July 1983. In 1983 and 1984 the NZ Forest Service used Bell Air to carry tree seedlings from North Island nurseries for planting in South Westland. This was to fulfil a Government promise to plant up to 10,000 ha of special purpose trees in South Westland after Okarito and Waikukupa forests were added to Westland National Park.

An undated Bell Air timetable from the 1980s with Bell Air running to Auckland seven days a week.
The pilot on the right is Peter Vincent, founder of Vincent Aviation

LLA again in its new colour scheme while on a charter to Christchurch on 31 August 1986

In 1988 Mount Cook used Bell Air’s Beech 99 ZK-LLA on services between Auckland and Rotorua with the Beech carrying Mount Cook Airline titles.

Bell Air's Beech 99 ZK-LLA wearing Mount Cook Airline's titles seen here at Auckland on 8 February 1988

In these years Air New Zealand were supportive of the service with many business passengers to and from Wellington transhipping between Bell Air and Air New Zealand. This relationship soured, however, when in February 1990 Air New Zealand announced that it was to replace Whakatane’s Friendship service to Auckland and Wellington with Eagle Air Bandeirantes flying three flights a day between Whakatane and Auckland.

The Whakatane Beacon of 16 February 1990 reported Bell Air’s response. Graeme Bell said, “We are not going to sit back and let Eagle Air walk all over us. We are going to fight and we hope that the people of the Eastern Bay of Plenty will give us their support.” The ‘fight’ took the form of Bell Air aligning itself to Ansett New Zealand as well as entering into debate in the local paper. Bell Air contribution to search and rescue and air ambulance work was well known and it was suggested the loss of the scheduled service could put this community work at risk. In addition, Bell Air argued that their jet-prop Beech 99 was superior to the Bandeirante being both faster and quieter.

On the 5th of March 1990 Bell Air began their new relationship with Ansett New Zealand. Ansett provided terminal services in Auckland, baggage handling, ZQ (Ansett) flight numbers, "through fares" to Ansett's destinations beyond Auckland, access to their reservations system and marketing support. Bell Air added an additional midday weekday Beech 99 return service to Auckland leaving Whakatane at noon arriving at 12.50pm to connect with Ansett New Zealand services. The return service left at Auckland at 1.20pm. This gave Whakatane 18 Bell Air flights to Auckland each week with three weekday return services, one return service on Saturdays and two return services on Sundays with Eagle Air offering a similar number of flights.

Founder of Bell Air, Graham Bell (right) with Ansett New Zealand’s manager of marketing operations David Squires (left) and commercial sales manager, Tony Terrill (middle). Photo : Whakatane Beacon, 13 March 1990

Bell Air aligned with Ansett New Zealand... Timetable effective 5 March 1990

On the 2nd of April 1990 Bell Air inaugurated a new air service between Palmerston North and Whakatane in conjunction with Ansett New Zealand. The service operated thrice weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays using the Shrike Commander for the 70 minute flight. Flight ZQ365 departed Whakatane at 10.00am arriving at Palmerston North at 11.10am while the return flight, ZQ368, departed Palmerston North at 2.20pm arriving back at Whakatane at 3.30pm. The service was not successful, however, and ended after a short time.

Bell Air timetable with Tranzair style script, effective 24 June 1990

For Bell Air this alignment with Ansett initially proved successful. Graham Bell told Wings magazine in 1991, “We enjoy parochial, loyal support from this area... Since our alignment with Ansett, loadings have increased.” The airline continued to operate in its own right and colours with the advantages of linking into a main trunk carrier. 

By January 1992, however, the Beech was repainted into Tranzair titles but with smaller “Operated by Bell Air” titles on the side of the aircraft. Shortly after, in May 1992, the Shrike Commander ZK-PAT was sold.

Taken in its home patch ZK-LLA at Whakatane on 18 December 1993 in Tranzair colours

Bell Air continued to operate the Beech 99 until late 1995 when Whakatane's Tranzair service was then taken over Rex Aviation using Bandeirante and Northern Commuter Airlines using a Piper Chieftain. The Beech 99 flew its last Whakatane-Auckland-Whakatane service on the 6th of November 1995 under the command of Tony McKevitt. This was the last Tranzair flight and scheduled service operated by Bell Air. The Beech 99 was positioned to Dennis Thompson's at Ardmore on the 5th of February 1996 and it was subsequently exported to the United States.

Ironically both Malcolm Campbell of Eagle Air and Graham Bell of Bell started a small charter operation and took them into the turbine age. The difference between them was that Eagle Air had grown beyond one route. When Air New Zealand looked for companies to operate their new commuter services only two were chosen, Eagle Air and Air Nelson. Sadly, despite the alliance with Ansett New Zealand, Bell Air was the casualty.

Bell Air continued operations as it started with a charter operation using Cessna 172 ZK-LLB until it was sold in March 1997. 

The same aircraft - Bell Air's Cessna 172 ZK-LLB. Above, ZK-LLB wearing the registration ZK-ENY while being engaged on marijuana spotting for the police. Photo taken at Nelson on 14 January 1995. Below ZK-LLB taken at Whakatane on 17 April 1996.

Meanwhile Tranzair continued to operate an Auckland-Whakatane service into 1996. On 29 February 1996 the Tranzair name was changed with the airline adopting a new logo and colours for the Ansett New Zealand feeder operation as Ansett New Zealand Regional. Flights continued to Whakatane until Ansett 3 November 1996 when Ansett pulled out of Whakatane citing economic factors.

People Included

Graham Bell - Pilot/Managing Director
Pat Bell - Office Manager
Tim Dennis - Pilot
Greg Dragicevich - Pilot
Dellis Eades - Reservations Officer
John Eades - Reservations Manager
Tim Jeffares - Pilot
Steve Kingsbury - Pilot
Tony McKevitt - Pilot
Craig Steele - Pilot
Cliff Stockwell - Pilot
Peter Vincent - Pilot
Murray Wellington - Pilot