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 - It began 25 years ago this month

In late 1984 the face of a new player on the tourist airline business appeared in the form of Newmans Air which was formed to offer competition to Mount Cook Airlines. Like Mount Cook Airline’s Newman’s Air had its origins in a rich heritage of bus and tourist services in New Zealand. With its plans to buy into Mount Cook Airlines thwarted Newmans Air was established with its services more or less replicating Mount Cook Airline’s routes.  The company ordered two De Havilland Canada Dash-7 aircraft and the first of these, ZK-NEW, arrived just before Christmas in 1984. Over the next six weeks it was kept busy doing crew training and familiarisation flights.

The company’s first scheduled flights began on 13 February 1985, using two De Havilland Canada Dash-7 aircraft, ZK-NEW and ZK-NEX, though  The initial timetable saw two daily northbound services to Rotorua from Christchurch, one extending further north to Auckland, and three southbound services from Christchurch to Queenstown.

ZK-NEX arrives home at the Newman's Air hangar at Christchurch at the end of the day's flying on 10 December 1986

The first timetable, effective 12 February 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. Newman Air’s original plans to use the ungraded Glentanner (Mount Cook) airfield were delayed due to issues with the Civil Aviation Division and the permit granted to use the airfield by the Land Settlement Board. These were eventually overcome and from 19 March 1985 Newmans Air flights to and from Queenstown began to call at Glentanner (Mount Cook). Very early on the company looked at Ashburton as another possible destination to be used to fly skiers from nearby Mount Hutt to Queenstown. Dash 7 ZK-NEX landed there on a charter flight on 17 April 1985. Scheduled flights on two days a week began on 17 July 1985 with an early departure from Christchurch to Ashburton and then onwards to Queenstown, departing Ashburton at 7.30 a.m. 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.

By August 1985 the company was reporting load factors of 50%, somewhat less than they had originally hoped for. By the end of the year the company was reappraising the suitability of the Dash 7. While being a STOL aircraft they were eminently suitable for Glentanner, they were slow, especially on the long Rotorua-Christchurch sector. Having four engines increased the maintenance costs. Sometime after they were replaced an Ansett NZ engineer told me they had to have a 108% loading on the Christchurch-Rotorua sector to make a profit!

By early 1986 Newmans was looking for another 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 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 a Dash 8 in Newmans Air colour scheme...
In 8 Oct 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. The first Dash 8 arrived in Christchurch on 15 December 1986 sporting Ansett Newmans titles. Ansett Newmans soon introduced direct Auckland Christchurch services with the Dash 8. The Newmans name was soon to disappear however and by early 1987 the airline rebranding to Ansett New Zealand had began.
What appeared - Dash 8 ZK-NEY in Ansett Newmans titles at Christchurch on 26 January 1987... the "Newmans" was soon to disappear and the airline became Ansett New Zealand.

Have you anything to add to this brief account that might fill in some of the gaps about Newmans Air? Have you or comments or thoughts about Newmans Air? Please feel free to write a comment or send me an e-mail to

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 Remembered

Bell-Air Executive Air Travel Ltd was founded in 1968 by Graham Bell as a charter operation based in Whakatane. The company was an air taxi service licence on the 6th of September 1968 and started operating some two weeks later with Cessna 185C ZK-CGH (c/n 185-0751). The charter fee for a Whakatane to Auckland and return charter flight was $50!

Bell Air's first aircraft, Cessna 185 ZK-CGH photographed at New Plymouth on 8 November 1972
Cessna 207 ZK-DNG was added to the fleet in July 1973. Alan Wooller photographed it at Kawerau in November 1973
Over the years a number of single-engine aircraft were used for the company's various air charter activities including fish spotting. In the mid-1970s Piper Aztec ZK-DUB was added to the fleet. Among other uses this aircraft was employed as a back-up aircraft for Air North.

Piper Aztec ZK-DUB at Auckland along with Shrike Commander ZK-PAT at Auckland on 10 May 1978
Bell Air's Cessna 172 ZK-EHJ at Whakatane in August 1981

On 23 October 1979, following the purchase of Rockwell Shrike Commander 500, ZK-PAT (c/n 500-S-3137), Bell Air introduced a scheduled twice a day morning and evening return weekday service between Whakatane and Auckland. The first flight was operated under the command of Cliff Stockwell. The service enabled business people to do a day’s business at either Auckland or Whakatane, something the Air New Zealand service, with a midday flight to Wellington via Wanganui and an afternoon service to Auckland, didn’t offer. Soon after a second Aero Commander 500, ZK-DCF (c/n 500-A-1274-97), was added to the fleet.

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

The scheduled air service proved to be popular, to the point of at times using both commanders 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. The Beech 99 was welcomed by air show at Whakatane attended by some 1500 people from Whakatane and surrounding districts. The aircraft took local dignitaries and the press for sightseeing flights.

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

In these years Air New Zealand were supportive of the service with many business passengers to and from Wellington transshipping between Bell Air and Air New Zealand. This relationship soured, however, in February 1990 when 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 Auckland.

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

The Whakatane Beacon of 16 February 1990 announced Bell Air’s response; “We are going to fight.” With these words, Mr Graham Bell, the head of Whakatane’s third level airline, Bell Air, joined the battle of the airways. 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 destiinations beyond Auckland, access to their reservations system and marketing support. Bell Air added an additional midday weekday Beech 99 return service to Auckland and meaning there were three weekday return services, one return service on Saturdays and two return services on Sundays.

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 was short-lived.

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.

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

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 operated by Bell Air. After this date Whakatane's Tranzair service was then taken over by Rex Aviation using Bandeirante and Chieftain aircraft. Beech 99 was positioned to 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.

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.

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
Craig Steele - Pilot
Cliff Stockwell - Pilot
Peter Vincent - Pilot
Murray Wellington - Pilot