28 March 2010

Finding a Niche - Vincent Aviation

Vincent Aviation was a Wellington based charter company that was founded by Peter Vincent in 1992 and operated a variety of services within New Zealand but also in Australia and East Timor. This post focuses on the New Zealand operation which saw some exotic aircraft types being operated including a Douglas DC-3, Bell 212s and de Havilland Herons. Vincent Aviation’s main work in New Zealand was charter or niche specialist operations. At times, as part of their many varied operations, they also offered scheduled services.

In late 1991 the company intended to start services to the Chathams Islands using De Havilland 114 Heron aircraft, ZK-TAJ which the company purchased in June 1991. Delivery was delayed while repair work was carried out on the spar, the aircraft finally arriving in early February 1992. By the end of the month, however, major corrosion had been found in the wings and the aircraft was grounded. A replacement Heron was found in Australia. VH-KAM, of Airlines of Tasmania, was leased by Vincent Aviation, the Heron arriving on the 26th of June 1992.  At this time both Mount Cook Airlines and Air Chathams were operating services to and from the Chathams. The Heron went out on the 21st of August 1992 but the scheduled service to the Chathams never eventuated. Instead, a scheduled scenic service Wellington-Christchurch was offered. The information sheet for the service gave a start date of 18 September 1992 with a flight offered each Friday, leaving Wellington at 8.30am and Christchurch at 11.00am. The Heron was operated by Vincent Aviation until August the following year.

The Australian de Havilland 114 Heron VH-KAM at Dunedin on 17 July 1993 while on a charter to a rugby test.

In the summer of 1991/92 Vincent Aviation planned a Wellington-Picton passenger service in a joint venture with Helicopters (NZ) Ltd using one of their Bell 212 helicopters which could carry twelve passengers. The timetable showed flights would be initially on Friday and Sunday evenings with a fare of $111. Additional flights were scheduled over the Christmas holiday period. Again, this service did not seem to last long.

On the 8th of April 1994 Douglas DC-3 VH-CAN flew the Tasman to become ZK-AMY on the 24th of August 1994 for Vincent Aviation. The aircraft was used for charter and tourist work based out of Wellington until mid-1998 when it was placed in storage at Palmerston North.

Douglas DC-3 enjoying the sun at Christchurch on 10 September 1995

Following the collapse of United Aviation in 1997 Vincent Aviation picked up a number of courier flights that and ran a schedule in the lower and central North Island. Using mainly their Cessna 402s and Piper Pa34 Seneca ZK-DCP they had an early morning service departing Palmerston North for Wairoa and Gisborne at 5.00 a.m. In the later afternoon/early evening the aircraft flew a Gisborne-Wairoa-Napier-Palmerston North service. There was also an afternoon Wellington-Palmerston North-New Plymouth return service. Their timetable noted, “this is a scheduled freight service and the freight takes priority, therefore it is important that you arrive on time or we may leave without you.” They continued these routes until into 1999.

For more on this service see : http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2011/01/vincent-aviations-east-coast-service.html

On the 28th of September 1998 Piper Pa34 Seneca ZK-DCP was spending the day in Gisborne between its early morning and evening courier flights.
Sporting the original Vincent Aviation logo Cessna 402C ZK-VAC at Nelson on 6 December 1996. Two years later ZK-VAC ditched in Foveaux Strait on the 19th of August 1998 while flying for Southern Air.
 Cessna 402C wearing the current logo at Wairoa on 15 September 2000. Photo : Bruce Gavin
The Dominion, 24 December 1998

From October 1999 Vincent Aviation flew the Wellington-Takaka route for Takaka Valley Air Services until Takaka Valley Air Services closed down operations in early 2000. On the 7th of April 2000 Vincent Aviation then flew the Wellington-Takaka route in its own right. The company offered  twice-weekly flights from Takaka to Wellington on Friday afternoons and Monday mornings, using either a six-seat Piper Seneca or a seven-seat Cessna 402. 

Motueka-Golden Bay News, 6 April 2000
The Takaka flights proved to be uneconomic and they ended in early February 2001. Managing director Peter Vincent told the Motueka-Golden Bay News that apart from a short period just before Christmas and two weeks after, the flights had not been well-patronised. Mr Vincent said while some flights had been profitable the quieter flights had lost money. "It just becomes not economically viable." He said the airline would continue to offer on-demand or charter flights where "our return for any particular flight is assured". The airline has been using planes from its Wellington to Nelson newspaper run to carry on to Takaka and then back to Wellington. Even using those flights, it was not possible to match the airline's normal charter rate and on top of that was the cost and time of maintaining a booking system 24 hours a day. 

Vincent Aviation took over the Dominion flights from Flightcorp on 1 October 1999. Initially Vincent Aviation's Piper PA34 Seneca ZK-DCP was used but later the company's Cessna 402 was also used. The seats remained in the Seneca with the newspapers in the nose locker or on the seats with a green net to tie them down. The Cessna 402 would have some or all seats removed if the load was large with the long nose locker used for weight and balance purposes and also the wing lockers.

By the early 2000s Vincent Aviation was advertising seats of the Nelson to Wellington flight in the local newspaper. Vincents used the Aero Club for check in for its passengers. The airline had a couple of regular passengers but flights were mostly comprised of people wanting a cheap flight to Wellington. As the service became more well known the aircraft used was upsized to the Cessna 406 and then later to the Beech 1900C. Vincent Aviation continued to operate the Dominion service until very early January 2006. 

Reims-Cessna 406 Caravan ZK-CII with reflections in the puddles at Queenstown on 23 April 2000. The registration reflects CII's previous operator, Cityjet. It was later re-registered ZK-VAA and before becoming ZK-XLC with Gisborne-based Kiwi Air. 

Reims-Cessna 406 Caravan ZK-VAF on a charter to Greymouth on 12 September 2008. This aircraft was also used for Airways Corporation calibration work... not the branding at the rear of the fuselage.

On the Dominion newspaper run, Vincent Aviation's Beech 1900C ZK-VAE at Nelson on 25 September 2004...

Perhaps Vincent Aviation has become best known in New Zealand for their charter work for Air New Zealand. For a number of years Vincent Aviation had two Beech 1900s, Beech 1900C ZK-VAE and Raytheon 1900D ZK-VAD, being regularly used services between Wellington and Whakatane, Wanganui, Westport, Blenheim and Timaru, and south from Blenheim to Christchurch. These aircraft were also used as back up for Eagle Air’s Beech 1900s. Both these aircraft went to Australia with ZK-VAB being cancelled from the register in August 2010 and ZK-VAE in October 2010.

Beech 1900C, ZK-VAE, rolls on runway 16 at Wellington on 16 November 2007
Raytheon 1900D ZK-VAB arrives in Christchurch on 31 August 2006 after flying the morning Eagle Air service from Wellington and Blenheim.
Vincent Aviation's De Havilland Canada Dash 8 ZK-VAC was also a regular back up aircraft for Air Nelson’s Bombardier Q300s. Later it also saw service in Australia and the Pacific before being cancelled from the New Zealand register on the 9th of December 2011 and being exported to Denmark. 

Operating an Air Nelson service, Vincent Aviation's Dash 8 ZK-VAC at Napier on 14 November 2007

In September 2009 Vincent acquired an ex-Origin Pacific British Aerospace Jetstream 31, ZK-JSH, for calibration work for Airways Corporation in New Zealand and the Pacific, though this aircraft also did back up service for Eagle Air. Three further British Aerospace Jetstream 32s were to follow. ZK-LFW arrived in May 2012 and is used for the Life Flight air ambulance while ZK-VAH and ZK-VAI arrived in July and November 2012 respectively and have been used to operate Eagle Air services.

The Life Flight BAe Jetstream air ambulance arriving back into Wellington on 7 January 2013
On an Eagle Air service, BAe Jetstream 31 ZK-JSH at Auckland on 27 July 2012
BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-VAI taxiing for departure at Auckland on 24 May 2013

In 2010 Vincent Aviation sought to rekindle the New Zealand corporate aircraft charter market and offered charter around the country using a Cessna 510 Mustang light jet ZK-MUS which was leased from Wellington property developer Michael Garnham for the service.

Cessna 510 Mustang ZK-MUS which Vincent Aviation chartered at Ardmore on 1 November 2011 

Vincent Aviation began operating Air National BAe 146-200 ZK-ECO in June 2011, with the aircraft retaining the Air National logo on the tail. On the 5th of March 2012 was rolled out in Vincent's  livery and made a local flight along with a camera ship to conduct some air to air shots. The 146 has done charter work in New Zealand but most of its work has been in Australia until the collapse of Vincent's Australian operation in 2014.

First flight in Vincent colours, BAe 146-200 ZK-ECO gets airborne from Wellington on 5 March 2012.

Vincent Aviation always sought to be a company that looked for a niche and would consider any opportunity. A Wellington-Greymouth service was considered in 2010 though nothing came of this. (http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2010/03/vincent-aviation-eyes-up-greymouth.html). In 2014 Vincent Aviation were involved in trying to establish an air service out of Masterton and this saw the visit of Saab 340 VH-VNY to Masterton (http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/02/more-on-visit-of-vincents-saab-to.html)

Saab 340 VH-VNY at Masterton on 26 February 2014
In late May 2014 Vincent Aviation's much larger Australian operation went into receivership. The New Zealand operation followed suit and was replaced in receivership on the 23rd of October 2014. Peter Vincent was reported as saying the application to liquidate its New Zealand operations related to lease and maintenance provision payments for a BAe 146 aircraft. “The problem is the income generated by that aircraft is caught up in the Australian receivership, but the costs in relation to that aircraft are coming back to the New Zealand entity." The Australian business, although a subsidiary, was much larger than the New Zealand operation and the level of cost that had come back was difficult for the smaller New Zealand business to withstand. A few days later, on the 28th of October 2014 Vincent Aviation was placed into receivership.

Vincent Aviation operated over a dozen aircraft types in New Zealand... So after a little researching and this is what I have come up with some help from Bruce Gavin. The dates are when they were started and ended service or were registered to Vincent Aviation. They certainly had a diverse fleet...

BAe Jetstream 31
JSH (Sep 2009-Oct 2014)

BAe Jetstream 32
LFW (May 2012-Oct 2014)
VAH  (Jul 2012-Oct 2014)
VAI (Nove 2012-Oct 2014)

BAe 146-200
ECO (Jan 2009-Oct 2014)

Beech Baron
TWB (Mar 2002-Sep 2003)

Beech 1900C
VAE (Sep 2001-Oct 2010)

Beech 1900D
JND (Apr 2003-May 2003) became VAB
VAB/2 (May 2003-2010)

Bell 212
Various (Nov 1991-Jan 1992)

Boeing Stearman
STM (Dec 1994-Jul 1997)

Cessna 182
MDH (Dec 1999-Jul 2003)
MRH (Jul 2007-Dec 2007)

Cessna 402C
VAB (Feb 1996-Aug 2001)
VAC (Nov 1996-May 1998)
VAD (Mar 1997-Feb 2008) Registered to Flightcorp for 3 months in 2006/7

Cessna 510 Mustang
MUS (Chartered 2010)

De Havilland 82 Tiger Moth
BRL (Feb 1993-Jul 1997)

De Havilland 114 Heron
TAJ (May 1992-Aug 1993)
VH-KAM (Jun 1992-Sep 1993)

De Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash
NEZ (Jul 2005-Aug 2005)
VAC/2 (Aug 2005-Dec 2011)

Douglas DC-3
AMY (Aug 1994-Oct 1998)
AWP (1994) leased for a short time

Piper PA23-250 Aztec
FHO (Oct 1999-Apr 2000)

Piper PA34 Seneca
DCP (Nov 1997-Feb 2002)
JAN (Oct 1999-Jun 2000)

Reims/Cessna F406 Caravan
CII (Nov 1999 May 2003) Became ZK-VAA
VAA (May 2003-Jan 2008)
VAF (Dec 2002-Jan 2009)

Saab 340B
VAA (Nov 2010-Oct 2012) Operated primarily in Australia
VAB (Mar 2011-Jun 2013) Operated primarily in Australia

I am trying to establish a database of all New Zealand’s third level operations. Can you help with any more information on Vincent Aviation, in particular...
  • Have I left out any of their scheduled services?
  • Who took over the courier service up the East Coast - Sunair, Air Freight or Air Napier?
  • Do you have any start/finish dates for their scheduled operations?
  • Any other information or interesting stories information regarding Vincent Aviation’s operations in New Zealand?
If you can, please write a comment below or e-mail me at westland831@gmail.com


  1. Another fantastic read :-) thanks !! I reckon Vincent could try to bring back the "Mystery Weekends". I'd be keen to take a flight to God knows where for a night or two. And what an aircraft to hoon away, a 146 !! When Ansett did the mystery weekends they were pretty popular, well, at least I think they were. Love the 146 and its looks awesome in the Vincent livery. I look forward to seeing it back in Christchurch sometime, I will have my camera ready.

  2. Good old DC3! A real workhorse - reliable as heck and built like a tank!