24 May 2010

Associated Air - First Flights for Air Nelson

When Air New Zealand announced the withdrawal of Friendship services from Westport and Hokitika and the withdrawal of the midday flight to Timaru Air Nelson had only a limited time to source and bring into service its first two Metroliners. In the event, the timeline proved to be too tight and it was Associated Air's Cessna 402 ZK-DSB that flew the first Air Nelson flight to Hokitika, and then, later in the day the first Air Nelson flight to Timaru. The West Coast Times on the 31st of October 1988 reported, "Landing 35 minutes late, the Cessna 402 twin turbo-prop aircraft piloted by Keith Jenkins turned out to be chartered from Associated Air of Paraparaumu. Mr Jenkins said the flight was uneventful apart from strong headwinds all the way."

The first Air Nelson flight to Hokitika. Cessna 402 ZK-DSB at Hokitika on 31 October 1988. Photo : West Coast Times
The Timaru Herald reported the following day, "The Richard Pearse Airport turned on a stormy welcome for the first of the Air Nelson flights between Christchurch and Timaru yesterday afternoon. Winds gusting to over 50 knots made the landing of the Cessna 402 twin-engined aircraft a bit bumpy, but not dangerous, for pilot Peter Walding, of Nelson. Mr Walding said several years experience in "windy" Wellington meant the conditions at Levels, though unexpected, were well within his experience. The Cessna had been hired by Air Nelson from Associated Air as the plane which was to do the run, a 19-passenger Metroliner III, had not been cleared by the 'Ministry of Transport civil aviation division. Only one passenger took the Christchurch to Timaru flight but four people waited to catch the flight back to Christchurch, all of whom were connecting with other Air New Zealand schedules." Associated Air aircraft continued to be chartered by Air Nelson until the Metroliners came into service and they were often used as backups for the Piper Navajo and Chieftain fleet.

  Cessna 402B ZK-DSB at Westport on an Air Nelson service on 23 January 1990. Photo : S Lowe

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