06 October 2013

Associated Air - Paraparaumu's Friendly Little Airline

Air New Zealand commenced flying between Auckland and Paraparaumu on the 25th of October 2011 and on the 4th of November 2013 the airline will commence Paraparaumu-Christchurch flights. In the 1980s, however, there was another airline that pioneered these services. This is the story of Associated Air.

Harry Jenkins, a Pukekohe bulldozer-driving contractor, started learning to fly with the Waikato Aero Club, gaining his PPL in 1960 and his commercial and instructor ratings in 1966. Moving into the aviation industry he started flying for Paraparaumu based New Zealand Aero Sales. When this company was sold he started the Paraparaumu Flying School, a branch of Jim Bergman's Auckland Flying School which was later to Rex Aviation. While under the Rex Aviation banner he commenced a regular service to Westport and Greymouth (see http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/rex-air-charter-west-coast-service.html) while the training and air charter business expanded. Rex Air Charter was in turn taken over by Dalhoff and King. When this company later sold the business that be had built up to Capital Air Services and the Wellington Aero Club. Harry was so outraged that on the 1st of July 1975 he started up his own company, Associated Aviation, offering flying training and limited charter work from Paraparaumu. In the beginning the company operated two Cessna 150s (ZK-CTE and CXE) and a Cessna Cardinal RG (ZK-DRF). Then on the 1st of September 1976 a Cherokee 180 (ZK-DLN), the first aircraft owned by Associated, joined the fleet.”   

In February 1979 Piper Pa23-250 Aztec E ZK-ERM (c/n 27-7405435) was been added to the fleet and this added a new dimension to the company’s charter work. The arrival of the Aztec also heralded the arrival of a new name, with the aircraft carrying Associated Air Charter titles. A feature of the charter work was a number of charter flights to the Chathams Islands that operated from May 1980.  

Captured shortly after arriving on the line, Associated Air Charter's Piper Aztec at Paraparaumu in April 1979

In 1975 Robert Inglis and Nicki Smith had worked for Harry Jenkins as he established Associated Aviation in Paraparaumu. In 1978 they established their own Motueka-based flying school, Associated Aviation (Motueka).  In 1980 they, along with Harry Jenkins, bought Nairn Aviation and changed the flying school and air charter operator's name to Associated Aviation (Nelson).

On the 22nd of April 1980 the company began its first air service, a passenger and freight service from Nelson and Motueka to Collingwood and Takaka. The service operated on Tuesdays and Fridays with the morning flight leaving at Nelson and flying direct to Collingwood and then returning via Takaka and Motueka returning back at Nelson at 9.10am. The afternoon flight left at 4.00pm and reversed the morning service's route arriving back at Nelson at 5.40pm. This service ended some time later.

The Golden Bay air service, effective 22 April 1980

In 1981 the company commenced a second regular air service. In January 1981 The Dominion announced that Associated Aviation had joined with Raumati Carrying and Contracting Ltd to establish a new door-to-door delivery operation between the Kapiti Coast and Auckland. The new service, known as Arrow Air Freight, operated on an air taxi basis. The Aztec left Paraparaumu for Auckland at 6.00pm with the return flight leaving Auckland at 8.30pm to arrive back at Paraparaumu at 10pm. In addition to freight there was room for at least one passenger seat available on the five-seater.

The Dominion, 13 April 1981

The Dominion, 13 April 1981

Arrow Couriers and the Aztec... The Dominion, 13 April 1981

At the beginning of December 1981 Associated Air Charter began operating air-taxi flights to Auckland and return twice-weekly. Early in January, this was stepped up to a regular three return flights a week service operating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The introduction of this service marked the beginning of the airline proper and it Associated Air Charter became known as Associated Air.

Associated Air's first timetable, effective January 1982

In April 1982 the company successfully applied these flights to operate on a scheduled basis and for the addition of a nine seat Cessna 421 Golden Eagle to their fleet. Harry Jenkins told the Kapiti Observer that “the service has been very well supported, and with a history of four months of high loadings, has proved itself sustainable," The flights departed Paraparaumu at 7.25am, the aircraft remaining in Auckland for day and the return flight leaving Auckland at 4.25pm, for the 90 minute flight to Paraparaumu.

The nine-seat aircraft was introduced to the fleet in September 1982 in the form of Cessna 402B Utililiner, ZK-DSB (c/n 402B0585). The 402 carried Associated Air titles and this was to be a feature of subsequent aircraft. Late in 1982 the airline added a second Cessna 402, ZK-KAN Businessliner (c/n 402B0931), to the fleet. This aircraft retained its executive configuration for some time. 

Kapiti Observer, 5 January 1983

Above, the first of the two Cessna 402s, ZK-DSB at Christchurch in October 1985. The 402 would sit in the Garden City all day before its return service to Paraparaumu. Below it is seen repainted at its Paraparaumu home base on 15 May 1988.

In late 1982 the company began operating air taxi flights to Nelson to test the market for a scheduled service. At the same time, the company had been flying freight to and from Christchurch, with some 3691kg of freight having been carried in October and November 1982. The company successfully applied to fly scheduled services to both South Island cities. The scheduled services to Christchurch and Nelson, which were operated by the Aztec, officially began from the 11th  of April 1983. Both services were operated on Mondays and Fridays. The Nelson service operated on Monday mornings and in the late afternoon/early evening on Fridays. The Christchurch service operated during the middle of the day.
Announcing the new service to Christchurch - Kapiti Observer 26 March 1983

Not long after the Christchurch service started Piper Aztec ZK-ERM was there operating the flights on the Monday of Queen's Birthday weekend, 7 June 1983.

The Auckland service, which had been getting loadings of some 70%, had been expanded some months before to operate Monday to Friday a northbound flight leaving Paraparaumu at 7.25am and departing from Auckland at 4.25pm. On Fridays the flight departed Auckland early in the afternoon and then flew a second Paraparaumu-Auckland-Paraparaumu service in the late afternoon/early evening.

The second Cessna 402, ZK-KAN at Paraparaumu on 15 May 1988

Timetable Number 4 including the new Christchurch and Nelson services. Effective 11 April 1983

From the 19th of September 1983 the twice weekly service to Christchurch, which had operated in the middle of the day, was rescheduled to leave early in the morning and return late afternoon enabling a full day of business in Christchurch for the passengers from the Kapiti Coast. This service was altered from the 2nd of April 1984. Blenheim was included as a stopover. This enabled Kapiti business people a full day in either Blenheim or Christchurch and likewise Blenheim people received their direct air connection to Christchurch for many years. The frequency of the Christchurch flights was increased to three flights a week at the same time. 

This service was altered in April the following year with the inclusion of Blenheim and the frequency was increased to three flights a week. An addition to the fleet was made in March 1985 with the arrival of Cessna 310R, ZK-ETM.

Harry Jenkins at Blenheim in 1984 with Cessna 402 ZK-KAN after the company introduced flights between Blenheim and Christchurch after an absence of a direct flight for many years. Air New Zealand now fly Blenheim-Christchurch thrice daily on weekdays.

Cessna 310R ZK-ETM at Paraparaumu on 16 January 1986

With the collapse of Air Albatross Associated Air saw an opportunity to expand its services. From the 12th of January 1986 the company altered its Paraparaumu to Nelson service to run via Palmerston North each weekday. The aircraft flew to Nelson, via Palmerston North, then did a return Nelson-Palmerston North flight before returning to Paraparaumu via Palmerston North in the evening. A Paraparaumu-Palmerston North-Nelson return service was also offered on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings. Unfortunately Eagle Air had the same idea and extended their Hamilton-Palmerston North service to include Nelson. Two operators couldn't survive on the route and the Associated Airlines service didn’t meet expectations and was short-lived, lasting only two months. The company then returned to the twice weekly service between Paraparaumu and Nelson with Palmerston North being dropped from the schedule. This twice weekly Nelson service was itself dropped in 1987 only to be reinstated the following year.

In the aftermath of the Air Albatross collapse - The Dominion, 6 January 1986
The timetable for the Palmerston North-Nelson service replacing Air Albatross effective 12 January 1986. Air New Zealand now fly this route twice a day on weekdays.

In June 1987 night flights were commenced to carry the National Business Review, which was being published in Paraparaumu. From Monday to Friday the Cessna 402s and the Cessna 310 flew the NBR to both Auckland and Christchurch in time for the early morning delivery.

On 1 November 1987, aged 59 and still actively involved with the airline, Harry Jenkins passed away. His widow Mary took over as the principle shareholder, while their eldest son Russell became the operations manager/chief pilot. In 1988 Cessna 402C ZK-LMP was registered to Associated Air, however, it was sold after two months.

In mid 1989 the company was rebranded as Associated Airlines. The company also sought to expand its flights to Auckland and at the same time including Wanganui in its services from the 19th of June 1989. The Cessna 402 flew from Paraparaumu to Auckland and then did an Auckland to Wanganui return service. It then flew back to Paraparaumu via Wanganui arriving home at 2.45pm. It then returned to Auckland via Wanganui before flying direct back to Paraparaumu. These extended services were short-lived.

Now flying to Wanganui - timetable effective 19 June 1989

In October 1989 year the company introduced Cessna 421 Golden Eagles to the fleet, with ZK-JBF added to the fleet and later, in early 1990, ZK-DCN. The frequency of the southern service to Blenheim and Christchurch was increased to a weekday service. At the same time Saturday night freight flights between Hamilton and Timaru for Sunday newspapers were added to the schedule. The introduction of the Golden Eagles meant the end for the Cessna 310, ZK-ETM, and the two Cessna 402s, ZK-DSB and ZK-KAN, and these were sold.

Cessna 421C Golden Eagle enjoying the Hokitika sun on 24 May 1991

The frequency of the southern service to Blenheim and Christchurch was increased to a weekday service from 7 May 1990. However, on the 23rd of July 1990 Air Nelson introduced direct Blenheim-Christchurch flights. Associated Airlines’ found the competition too much subsequently discontinued its Paraparaumu-Blenheim-Christchurch service.

A major change happened for the airline at the end of 1990. On Christmas Eve 1990 it was announced that Air Nelson was to further expand its services with Metroliners taking over from Associated Airlines' Cessna aircraft on the Paraparaumu-Auckland and Paraparaumu-Nelson routes. The Metroliners were to operate Paraparaumu-Wanganui-Auckland and the twice weekly Paraparaumu-Nelson service was eventually operated with Piper Chieftains or Navajos. The change, which was to be effective from 4 February 1991, meant that Associated Airlines would cease to operate. The three Associated Airlines' pilots transferred to the Air Nelson staff and underwent training as Metroliner first officers and three Air Nelson captains transferred to Paraparaumu. Two reservations and traffic staff at Paraparaumu were also given the opportunity to transfer to Air Nelson. Associated Airlines' managing director Mr Russell Jenkins was to manage the Air Nelson operation in Paraparaumu. The flying school and air charter business, Associated Aviation, continued its operations unchanged from its separate location on Paraparaumu Airport.

However, it was not a complete dead and buried for the company. In June 1991 Associated commenced a contract with Armourguard to carry freight between Wellington-Napier-Gisborne. Another contract was signed with the Sunday Times to carry printing plates between Auckland and Timaru on Saturday nights. Beech 58 Baron ZK-WLV was added to the fleet in 1994 and this was primarily used for charter work. It was sold in April 1997.

By 1994 Air Nelson’s Metroliners were replaced on the service between Paraparaumu and Auckland, with Associated Airlines using their Cessna 421 Golden Eagles to operate the Air Nelson service. 

Another Associated aircraft on a charter to Hokitika, Beech Baron ZK-WLV on 7 June 1996

Toward the end of 1996 the Armourguard flights between Wellington, Napier and Gisborne ceased. Then, during December 1996, Air Nelson, flying under the Air New Zealand Link banner relinquished the Motueka-Wellington-Motueka service in favour of Associated Airlines. Associated Airlines added ex-Air Nelson Piper Pa31-310 Navajo ZK-NSN to their fleet and commenced operating the Motueka-Wellington service on the 2nd of December 1996. The airline operated the Motueka service until the 27 February of 1998. Associated Airlines' withdrawal marked the end of scheduled air services to Motueka. 

The Dominion, 24 December 1996

Associated Airlines acquired both the Motueka service and the Piper Navajo from Air Nelson... ZK-NSN taken at Motueka on 2 January 1998

The Motueka timetable effective 1 February 1997

On the 20th of November 1995, with Air Nelson long gone from Paraparaumu, Associated Airlines resumed their weekday return service to Auckland using their Cessna 421 Golden Eagle.

Kapiti Observer, 10 February 1997

On the 10th of November 1997 the 421 was replaced by Origin Pacific Jetstream 31s on the Paraparaumu - Auckland service operated on behalf of Associated Airlines. The last remaining Cessna 421, ZK-DCN, continued to be used for charter work. The company finally ceased operating the Paraparaumu-Auckland air service in May 1998 with the 421 eventually going to Origin Pacific in April 1999. Both Russell and Keith Jenkins took up commands with Origin Pacific.

One of  Origin Pacific's Jetstreams ready to operate the Auckland service. Kapiti Observer, 10 November 1997
The Auckland Paraparaumu service as operated by the Origin Pacific Jetstreams, effective 1 November 1997

The last remaining Cessna 421, ZK-DCN, continued to be used for charter work. The company finally ceased operating the Paraparaumu-Auckland air service in May 1998 with the 421 eventually going to Origin Pacific in April 1999. Both Russell and Keith Jenkins took up commands with Origin Pacific.

Associated Airline's second and longest serving Cessna 421 Golden Eagle, ZK-DCN, at Nelson on 3 January 1991


  1. This is awesome - this is where I learnt to fly with Russell and many others

  2. Yes, with Ron Pownceby and Harry too. Harry always had an up to the minute comment about world events as a starter. Eg So X invaded Y this morning..

  3. harry was a real gentleman and a 1st class pilot/instructor; he ran a great business, such a great loss to the aviation industry from paraparaumu, i wish mary good health and russell and keith well in their new ventures; rob shuttleworth

  4. I hired aircraft from Associated in the 80's. Great company.

  5. Loved working for these guys, even if I occasionally forgot to turn the runway lights on. Lol