12 March 2010

Taupo Air Services and its Auckland Commuter Service

Established by Peter Matich, Taupo Air Services Ltd took over the light aircraft operation and the former maintenance facilities of Air Central after they moved their base to Napier in 1978. The Air Services Licensing Authority permitted the licence to be transferred on the 30th of October 1978. Meanwhile, Air Central continued operating its airline services through Taupo but ceased flying through Taupo in January 1982. At an Air Services Licensing Authority hearing in Rotorua in in July 1983 the ASLA chairman noted that it was a requirement of every air service licence that the licensee would not abandon or curtail the authorised service without the consent of the Authority. Air Central had failed to do this and so their licence was changed, the company losing the right to operate scheduled services between Rotorua and Tauranga, and between Taupo and Auckland. 

At the same hearing, in presenting evidence for their own service, Taupo Air Services told the Authority members of the business community in Taupo have very limited access to by air to Auckland under the current service operated by Air New Zealand. They are usually obliged to spend two nights in Auckland, even if their business could be completed in half a day. At the time Air New Zealand operated two flights to Taupo each day. An early morning flight from Auckland continued on to Wellington, via Wanganui. The reverse route was flown in the evening. Mr D C Handerson, Managing Dirertor of Cherry Island Travel, Taupo, stated in his letter, "As a Travel Agent I am aware that some 90% of our business community are virtually forced to drive to Auckland as a day's business requires a 2 night stay with the timetables that are presently available. The alternative is to drive to Rotorua and use Mount Cook." The application was successful and the airline was awarded rights to operate a minimum of three flights a week between Taupo and Auckland with a maximum of six flights per week.

Scheduled services began on the 12th of October 1983 initially using Cessna 337 ZK-DFT on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. After the early morning flight from Taupo the plane would sit in Auckland all day before the late afternoon flight back to Taupo. The initial fare was $70 each way. 

Cessna 337 ZK-DFT at Taupo 15 December 1983 shortly after the service commenced.
Taupo Air Services' first timetable, effective, 1 October 1983

Cessna 402 ZK-DSG was added to the fleet in April 1987 and was used on the Auckland service when larger loads necessitated. A Saturday morning return flight was also operated in the service’s latter years. 

Cessna 337 ZK-DFT at Queenstown 24 October 1987 

Taupo Air Service's Cessna 402 ZK-DSG at Taupo on 23 January 1993

A fourth weekly flight on a Saturday

On the 23rd of April 1990 Air New Zealand withdrew its older 100 series Fokker Friendships and relinquished its services to Whakatane and Taupo. At this stage the daily direct Friendship service to Auckland was Taupo Air Services only competition but suddenly they had to compete with a twice daily service between Auckland and Taupo operated by Eagle Air Bandeirantes. The new Air New Zealand service operated out of Auckland, rather than overnighting in Taupo. This meant a later morning departure out of Taupo so there was still a market Taupo Air Services' early morning flights.

Richard Porter, one of Taupo Air Services two pilots at the time told NZ Wings in October 1991, "The 337 is the only way to maintain the service with light loadings. Our passengers are mostly Taupo businessmen so the lack of baggage space isn't too bad. Our competition out of Taupo is Eagle twice a day, but we still have local support." 

However, at some point of time, the scheduled air service did end but I have no record of when. The Cessna 337 was sold in 1995 and the Cessna 402 in 1998. The Taupo Air Services' commuter service to Auckland is a good example of a local operator trying to provide an air service suited to the needs of the local community. Apart from a brief spell it never really grew beyond its three flights a week but quietly for 8 to 10 years provided a service for the Taupo business community.

Taupo Air Service's Cessna 402 ZK-DSG at Taupo on 1 December 1996

In 2010 only feature of the scheduled service still to be seen was the window of Taupo Air Service's hangar/terminal which boldly announced "We fly Taupo Auckland." They might have flown to Auckland once upon a time but at this stage Taupo Air Services continued to operate as only a charter and scenic flight operator and offering flight training.

A sunny day in Taupo - Cessna 206 ZK-TAM on 10 September 2010

A gloomy day in Taupo - Cessna 172 ZK-DHU on 23 January 2011

In September 2011 Taupo Air Services was sold to Richard and Patience Izard's Izardair, who again offered air charter and scenic flight options from Taupo.  

Aircraft operated included: 

ZK-BRQ      Piper PA-18A-150 Super Cub                                            c/n 18-5571

ZK-BTS       Piper PA-18-95 Super Cub                                                 c/n 18-6201

ZK-CAN      Cessna 185 Skywagon                                                        c/n 185-0134

ZK-CHS       Cessna 185D Skywagon                                                     c/n 185-0793

ZK-CRT       Champion 7GCBC Citabria                                                c/n 7GCBC-73

ZK-CXM      Cessna 177B Cardinal                                                         c/n 17701462

ZK-DFT       Cessna 337 Super Skymaster                                              c/n 33700176

ZK-DHU      Cessna 172M Skyhawk                                                      c/n 17261028

ZK-DJU       Cessna 172M                                                                      c/n 17261517

ZK-DSG       Cessna 402B Utiliner                                                          c/n 402B0559

ZK-NSF       Cessna A152 Aerobat                                                         c/n A1520985

ZK-TAL       Cessna A185F Skywagon                                                   c/n 18502860

ZK-TAM      Cessna U206F Stationair                                                    c/n U20602042

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