30 June 2010

NZ's Wannabe 2nd Bandeirante Operator - Trans North Airlines

The early 1980s saw many changes in the third level scene in New Zealand, with the most dramatic of these being the introduction of turbo prop aircraft. One of these proposals that didn’t get off the ground was Trans North Airlines, a joint venture between the Northern Districts Aero Club  (NDAC) and Whangarei Businessmen. At this stage the NDAC were operating a twice daily weekday serevice between Whangarei and Auckland using Piper Cherokee 6s of De Havilland Devons. However, with Air New Zealand reducing their service to Kaitaia to four flights a week and often talking of the losses made on the Northland service there seemed to be room for an operator who might eventually take over the Northern services completely. The proposed service was outlined in a rather quirky Northland Age article on the 28th of April 1981.

Bandeirante may become a Common Sight
The Bandeirante which may one day be flying from Auckland to Kaitaia daily, would not figure on the list of the most luxurious aircraft. Despite the fact that the seats and panelling are of patent leather are very new trims. The New Zealand agents for the aircraft, Airwork New Zealand, point out however that the plane is a true commuter and has no delusions of grandeur. While the 18 passengers the Bandeirante can carry have very little room to stretch out the aircraft does have very sophisticated electronics and is very cheap by everyone’s standards. Ready to fly they cost $ 1.5 million or roughly half the cost of a new Shorts 330, which was also brought to the Far North recently on a promotional visit. One man who should know what makes a good aeroplane is the manager of the Kaitaia Travel Bureau, Nr N L Thompson, and he says the Bandeirante is the most satisfactory. It is fast, modern, and just the right size for the Kaitaia to Auckland run.

The plane has certainly been a success story for the manufacturers. The first unit took to the air in 1973 and since then sales have rocketed especially in the United States. The firm, Embraer has become the sixth biggest world aircraft manufacturer and the largest builder of general aviation aircraft outside the United States. The Bandeirante (meaning pioneer) certainly looks the part, with a shape not too unlike the Friendship. The wings are stubby and the two Pratt and Whitney turboprops hang very close to the ground. Like the Shorts 330 the cargo space can be enlarged in a matter of minutes by removing seats and installing a portable bulkhead. Unlike the Shorts however it has a large luggage compartment even when all the 18 seats are filled. It is relatively quiet to fly in and does not have the high pitched whine of the Friendship at take-off. The big question, although is not what sort of aircraft the Bandeirante is but what sort of service will be provided to the Far North if the Northland Districts Aero Club is successful in obtaining a licence to service the area. The man who become the managing director of NDAC, Mr W Baker, told the Northland Age on Sunday that he has little doubt that Air New Zealand will drop the Kaitaia-Auckland run from its schedule and the licence will be given to the group and that there will be no problems in providing the same service as given by the national airline, the only difference being that it will operate on a seven-day-a-week basis. He did not agree that this would affect the other third level operator already working out of Kaitaia. New Zealand Air Charter could continue to fly out of Kaitaia in the morning and return in the late afternoon without affecting NDAC or vice versa. The one danger could lie in the fact that if the entire is given to a third level operator Kaitaia could lose what little say it has now. The Far North does not have a great deal of political clout but what it does have has been used to retain some semblance of an air service from New Zealand. He says that if a third level operator takes over that entirely that influence will fly away with the last Friendship, unless there is a significant amount of investment from this part of the north.

In October 1981 NZ Wings reported that a deposit had been paid with delivery scheduled over the Christmas period. The airline ap¬plied unsuccessfully for a licence to operate a scheduled air service Whangarei-Auckland with a minimum fre¬quency of three return flights a week. Meanwhile the Bandeirante was ready and painted in Trans North Airlines colour scheme with it’s new Zealand registration ZK-TNA. (Many years ago I saw a slide of it advertised in one of those companies that sells slides. Foolishly I didn’t buy one). Meanwhile the NDAC awaited the Government domestic air service policy paper that was to review air service licensing in New Zealand.

In April/May 1982 the NDAC again applied for a change to their licence including adding a scheduled service Auckland-Kaitaia with a mini¬mum frequency of three return flights per week and a non-scheduled service Whangarei-Kaitaia with the addition of one Embraer Bandeirante to the authorised fleet. This would have provided direct competition with Air New Zealand both on the Whangarei/Auckland service and the Kaitaia/Auckland service, and the Auckland Aero Club application for a scheduled service on the Kaitaia Auckland route. Once again, the application was unsuccessful.

Trans North Airlines’ Embraer EMB-110P1 Bandeirante (c/n 110372), PT-SEQ, was registered in October 1982 to American Central Airlines as N800AC. As a postscript to this story NZ Wings carried the story in their issue of December/January 1983 a Piper Chieftain on delivery across the Pacific for Ashburton Air Services and eventual registration as ZK-TNA for Northland interests as ditching 500 miles off Hawaii.

Turboprop commuter aircraft eventually did see service in Northland. The NDAC operated GAF N22 Nomad between Whangarei and Auckland and it was Eagle Air who operated Bandeirantes to both Kaitaia and Whangarei after Air New Zealand withdrew its Friendships

26 June 2010

Forestry Town's Businessliners

In 1955, with the delivery of new generation Cessna aircraft, the Auckland Aero Club started to operate regular air services. In August it started a twice weekly service between Auckland and Great Barrier Island and in December 1954 it started a weekday service between Auckland and Tokoroa using 3-passenger Cessna 170 “Businessliners.”

Cessna 170B, ZK-BGK, at Christchurch. 

The Auckland Aero Club's service to Tokoroa service replaced that James Air Services had operated. Like its predecessor the Auckland Aero Club service operated two services each weekday, but, unlike the James Air Services operation the service was Auckland based and only operated to Tokoroa. The introduction of the Auckland Aero Club service, which featured ground transport from Mangere into Newmarket was highly suited to NZ Forest Product’s officials who needed to do a day’s business in either Auckland or at the mill at Kinleith. 

South Waikato News, 8 December 1955

The Auckland Aero Club operated four Cessna 170 “Businessliners.” ZK-BGE Cessna 170B (c/n 26455), was the first in the fleet. It crashed at Dargaville on the 2nd of April 1960 and was not rebuilt and instead was replaced by ZK-BJS Cessna 170B (c/n 20351). Two of the Cessna's were name, ZK-BGK Cessna 170B (c/n 26456) was named 'C.B. Smith' and ZK-BLS Cessna 170B (c/n 26455) was named 'H.M. Buchanan'. 

Auckland Star, 31 July 1956

In September 1957 ZK-BUF Cessna 180A (c/n 32935), named 'Sid Langston', was added to the Auckland Aero Club fleet. 

The Auckland Aero Club's Cessna 180, ZK-BUF.

The association between the Auckland Aero Club and NZ Forest Products was to last many years. While the public service disappeared semi-regular flights were made by the Club to Tokoroa carrying many NZ Forest Products' officials. Later NZ Forest Products helped fund the Aero Club’s purchase of Cessna 336, ZK-CGF Skymaster (c/n 336-0168). This was registered to the Aero Club on the 12th of March 1964 and operated by them until it was sold in December 1971.

Cessna 336 Skymaster, ZK-CGF, at Greymouth on 25 June 1972 after passing from Auckland Aero Club ownership. Photo : B Whebell

In the 1960s Lew Day joined the Auckland Aero Club as manager of the commercial pilot training school and progressed to CFI and later operations manager. In the November 1988 issue of NZ Wings Lew notes, Then came a difference of opinion which changed the face of Ardmore Aerodrome. The aero club committee said the club was overstaffed, the eight instructors overseeing about 12,000 hours a year. There was also the aspect of the ground school, but Lew pointed out that an instructor couldn't be expected to step straight out of an aircraft into the classroom and teach, nor could he teach for eight hours a day. Nevertheless, with the costs of flying increasing, the club members weren't getting the benefits they might have expected if the flying school wasn't there. "The committee was firing all my staff, so I told them to fire me too. So there I was, unemployed." 

While this was going on the operation of the Auckland Aero Club's Cessna 336 on behalf of NZ Forest Products was, in some ways, too successful. The financial assistance NZ Forest Products had given the Club the ability to purchase the Cessna 336 and gave them priority for its use but by 1970 the forestry company needed a dedicated aircraft capable of IFR operations. 

To that end NZ Forest Products was negotiating with Airwork to purchase its own aircraft and advertised for the position of a contract pilot. Lew Day gained his single pilot instrument rating and applied and it was he that operated NZ Forest Products' Piper Pa23-250 Aztec D, ZK-CUS (c/n 27-4499) which was purchased in April 1970. The Aztec became the mainstay of transporting company executives between Auckland and Tokoroa and other work as needed by the company. The Aztec was operated until February 1978 when it was sold to Cookson Airspread of Wairoa.

Above, NZ Forest Products first plane, Piper Aztec, ZK-CUS, taken at Tokoroa. Photo : D White Collection

The Press gave a detailed account of the service on the 16th of February 1977. New Zealand Forest Products’ Kinleith mills are 233 km by road from the company’s head office in Auckland - about three hours’ drive. But staff from the head office are able to spend a full working day at the mill without leaving home at the crack of dawn. The secret is a twice-daily, two-way private company air service operating between Auckland’s Ardmore aerodrome and the company’s own airstrip in the forest near Tokoroa. Each morning, Monday to Friday, Airwork pilot Lew Day takes the Forest Products’ Piper Aztec off the ground at Ardmore, and arrives at Tokoroa at 8.30 a.m. A short car ride takes passengers to the Kinleith site only minutes after local personnel have started work. Meanwhile, the aircraft is on its way back to Ardmore with a complement of passengers for head office, Penrose Industries, or perhaps a link-up with transport to some other destination. Shortly after 4 p.m. the aircraft is back at Tokoroa waiting to return the morning travellers to Ardmore by 5 p.m, and bringing return passengers or new arrivals from Auckland. Urgent documents, light parcels and inter-office correspondence are carried on the aircraft too. New Zealand Forest Products purchased their six-seater twin-engine Piper Aztec through Airwork and entered into a maintenance and operating contract with the company. Airwork garages the Aztec in its Ardmore hangar and carries out routine and special maintenance between flights. A waiting room for Forest Products passengers is provided also on the premises. Between flights Lew Day oversees maintenance, processes passenger traffic information, prepares operating and statutory reports and schedules, and checks weather and other conditions. Valuable savings in travelling time and the consequent gain in effective working time, together with the flexibility of a private service for special non-routine flights, more than justify the expense of a service which has paid for itself, according to executives of New Zealand Forest Products.

The Aztec was replaced by a larger Piper Pa31-310C Navajo, which was registered to NZ Forest Products as ZK-PNX (c/n 31-7712092) on the 3rd of October 1977. The registration was drawn from the Pinex product which was used extensively in the building industry at the time and the Navajo became known as the Pinex plane. It was operated by the company through to 1985 before it was sold in Australia. It departed from Auckland on the 6th of June 1985. 

The Pinex plane, Piper Navajo, ZK-PNX is seen above at Tokoroa shortly after its arrival in the country in November 1977 and below, at Ardmore in September 1981.

The Navajo was in turn replaced by the final aircraft NZ Forest Products Ltd owned, a Piper Pa31T3 1040 (c/n 31-8475001) which was aptly registered ZK-FPL. The 1040 was a turboprop powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-11 engines usingthe fuselage of a PA31-350 Chieftain with the wings and tail of a PA31T Cheyenne.

Once again it was Lew Day who was instrumental in the introduction of the Piper 1040 into Forest Product's service. The 1040 was registered to NZ Forest Products on 17th of December 1984. 

Piper Pa31T 1040, ZK-FPL, at Rotorua on 25 March 1987. Photo : S Lowe

In 1986 NZ Forest Products was sold to Elders and became Elders Resources NZFP Ltd. On the 9th of October 1987 ZK-FPL's ownership in the New Zealand aircraft register was changed to Pineair Operations Limited. Pineair Operations was a wholly owned company of the forestry giant.

Elders Resources NZFP Ltd set about expanding the pulp and paper mill Kinleith and this company was instrumental in the development of the Tokoroa airfield including the provision of an 850m x 18m sealed runway in late 1989. The company had considered using corporate helicopters, but the flexibility and reliability of an all weather strip won out. Nearest alternate Rotorua had proved inconvenient due to executive time lost travelling some 40 minutes each way.  The sealed all weather runway enabled the introduction of scheduled services for company personnel as well as being available for the general public. 

From the 1st of October 1989 Airwork NZ took over the operating of the air service which was advertised as Auckland-Tokoroa Air Services. Mainstay of the service was Piper 1040, ZK-FPL, which remained registered to Pineair Operations Ltd, but Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain, ZK-EBT, was also often used as the backup aircraft on the service. 

The Auckland Tokoroa Air Services timetable effective 1 October 1989

On the service... Auckland-Tokoroa Air Services Piper Pa31T 1040 at Tokoroa on 1 February 1990 (above) and Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain ZK-EBT at Tokoroa on 24 January 1991 (below). 

The December 1989/January 1990 issue of NZ Wings describes the air service. “Elders have a preferential booking arrangement with Airwork but that both parties see it as being in their interest to make a reasonable number of seats available to the public each day in the nine passenger aircraft. Flight time for the 90 nm trip, largely over some scenic Waikato farmland, is around 30 minutes at a typical cruise altitude of 6000 feet at 210 knots. Use of the call sign "Pinex One (to Four)", a historic connection with a NZ Forest Product wall product, is to continue. Crewing the Piper for Airwork will be Les Marinkovich, Ian Shades, Graham Purvis or Greg Barrow. Lew Day who had pioneered NZ Forest Products' operation continued to fly for Airwork on a casual basis until his retirement around 1994 when he was well into his seventies.

Ground handling at Auckland International is under the wing of Mount Cook Airlines” Advertising of the Auckland-Tokoroa Air Services first commenced in the South Waikato News on the 21st of November 1989. 

South Waikato News, 21 November 1989

On the 15th of January 1991 the Piper 1040 was registered to Airwork Holdings Ltd. Advertising for the service continued until the 2nd of July 1991, after which it appears the service petered out.

25 June 2010

Cheaper Regional Seats on NZ

Air New Zealand is understood to be planning major changes to its regional fare structure, including deep discounts in return for an annual fee to attract more business fliers as the economy recovers. Leisure travellers would also benefit through a doubling in the number of super-cheap seats to the provinces through the airline's grab-a-seat website. This would make an extra 50,000 seats a year available from as low as $1 each. Senior management has held a series of workshops around the country involving about 5000 key customers, businesses and local politicians to canvass options. It is understood that central to the plan is an annual discount card which would be sold for between $1000 and $1500 in return for a discount of between 20 per cent and 35 per cent on any regional fare. The discount card would also include Koru lounge membership, worth about $600, and all fares would continue to earn airpoints. To improve the value of the Koru membership lounges would be added to some smaller airports, and existing lounges upgraded. The changes were aimed at businesspeople and staff of large organisations who regularly travelled to one of the main centres either for business or weekly commutes to work. The airline sees the changes as a way of significantly stimulating the regional market. It was expected that up to a third of regular flyers in the regions would take up the offer, codenamed Project 21, reflecting the number of provincial centres on the network that did not have jet services. A one year nationwide trial of the system was expected to be announced next month and launched before September. House of Travel retail director Brent Thomas said the initiative was surprising given that Air New Zealand held a monopoly on the regional network. The airline could also be taking pre-emptive action in anticipation of new competition, he said. Air New Zealand could be looking to capitalise on an uplift in travel this year after the recession and encourage a return to more normal company travel policies. Including the Koru Club membership as part of the package could be aimed at enticing businesses back into the lounges. However, the annual fee for the discount card "does seem like a lot of money" for all but the most frequent travellers. "I don't think there will necessarily be a huge take-up, would be our initial view," Mr Thomas said. South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said the deal would encourage more business people to fly from Timaru Airport rather than driving up to Christchurch to take advantage of much cheaper fares. Fares from Timaru to Wellington regularly cost more than $250 each way

23 June 2010

Viscount Replacement - What Might have Been

The Hokitika Guardian of 27 February 1969 reports...

Visit of Fokker Fellowship to New Zealand

The Fokker F28 Fellowship, the pure-jet successor to National Airway’s jet-prop Fokker Friendship airliners, will arrive in Wellington tomorrow afternoon. During a visit of six days the Fellowship will be scrutinised by National Airways, the civil aviation division of the Ministry of Transport, the Air Force and Air New Zealand – all potential purchasers. NAC does not have an immediate interest, but it is understood to have “looked” at the Fellowship with a view to possible purchase in the late 1970s. The Air Force and civil aviation could find the Fellowship ideal as a VIP aircraft. Air New Zealand’s interest is that the Fellowship would be ideal for the Norfolk Island run. Air New Zealand is a major shareholder in two Pacific Island airlines (Polynesia and Fiji) that operate over routes where the Fellowship is far and away the best aircraft. It is to these airlines that Fokker has the best chance of making immediate sales in this area. On Saturday afternoon the Fellowship will take nearly 50 VIPs on a flight to Invercargill and back. The party, which includes the Minister of Transport (Mr Gordon), the Attorney-General (Mr Hanan) and several other members of Parliament will stop at Hokitika before flying over Manapouri to Invercargill. On the return trip the Fellowship will circle the site of the Comalco aluminium smelter at Bluff and pay a visit to Central Otago before stopping at Dunedin.

Fokker Fellowship, PH-MOL at Hokitika on 1 March 1969. The Fellowship remains the largest jet to land at Hokitika. Photo : F Lowe

22 June 2010

NQC sports new titles 2...

ZK-NQC bathed in the late afternoon sun today with her new titles... I'd love one of those red security passes, but if you can't get one hand the camera to some one on the other side of the fence! Thanks for that!

21 June 2010

Auckland Emergency

Plane lands after emergency reported

Source : http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10653416

An Air Nelson flight from New Plymouth has landed safely in Auckland after initially reporting hydraulic problems with its nose wheel. Emergency services were put on standby after the plane contacted the Auckland International Airport to report the problem. Airport spokesman Richard Llewellyn said safety procedures were put into place and the plane landed safely. No one was injured. The Air Nelson flight was carrying 29 passengers who were alerted to the problems in the air. Air New Zealand owns Air Nelson. Company spokesman Mark Street said passengers onboard the Q300 were notified of the problems in the air. He said the plane landed with "no worries". "I heard from operations that the fire service used it as a good excuse to get out all the vehicles," Mr Street said. He said the plane would be checked out.

Golden Bay Air to introduce a year-round service to Takaka

Starting 22 September Golden Bay Air will introduce an a year-round Takaka-Wellington Service.

From the 22nd of September to the 18th of December the company will operate a single flight six days a week. Over the summer break until the end of January there will be two-four daily flights and then from the 31st of Jnauary till the 30th of April the company will operate two flights from Sunday through to Friday with a single flight on Fridays. Over the winter months there will be a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday flight offered. The company is also offering a daily scheduled flight between Takaka and Karamea from the 22nd of September to the 30th of April 2011 with winter flights being on demand.

Golden Bay Air have also commissioned an instrument approach at Takaka Airport and are adding a twin-engined aircraft to their fleet.

More details can be found on their website, http://www.goldenbayair.co.nz/

NQC sports new titles...

Sporting new titles is Airwork's Boeing 737-200QC, ZK-NQC which now carries Courier Post titles. It continues to remain one of the most difficult aircraft in New Zealand to get decent photos of given the way it is usually parked at Auckland International. Below, a real desparation shot taken today, half in and out the hangar, taken straight into the sun!

NAC Apache

James Aviation’s second foray into offering a scheduled service was brought about by two reasons. The first was the unsuitability of Rotorua’s airfield at Whakarewarewa for larger aircraft. Following the Second World War NAC operated Lockheed L10 Electras and De Havilland 89 Dominies through Rotorura. In the 1950s NAC introduced De Havilland 114 Herons to the Rotorua route, and although the Duke of Edinburgh flew into Rotorua in a Heron during his visit, NAC decided, shortly afterwards that the Rotorua field presented hazards to large-plane passenger services.

James Aviation (Rotorua) Ltd had been formed in January 1958 as a subsidiary company of James Aviation Ltd and it was charged with managing James Aviation’s Rotorua scenic and charter operation. 

Following the withdrawal of NAC from Rotorua Bay of Plenty Airways introduced their own service to Wellington. However this service came to a tragic end when their Aero Commander, ZK-BWA, crashed on Mt Ruapehu on 21 November 1961 with the loss of six lives. With Rotorua without an air service James Aviation were chartered to fill the gap and offer a light-plane daily service between Rotorua and Hamilton and Rotorua and Tauranga on a twice-daily basis. This commenced on the 8th of January 1962 and continued until 9 November 1963 just before the present day Rotorua Airport was opened.

James Aviation's Piper Pa23 Apache, ZK-BYB at the old Rotorua airfield at Whakarewarewa.

While the Apache service never appeared in the main NAC timetable it did appear in the Waikato Times of 5 January 1962

James Aviation used Piper Pa23-160 Apache, ZK-BYB (23-1828), configured for four passengers with one seat being removed to make room for luggage. In addition Cessnas 182 ZK-BRI (c/n 33690) and BUK (c/n 34416) and Cessna 180A ZK-BVG (c/n 50068) were used on these and flights between Tauranga and Whakatane which were introduced at the same time. All these services provided connections to the corporation’s network.

These two classic photos give a good glimpse of the old Rotorua airfield at Fenton Street. Above Cessna 182A ZK-BUK and below Cessna 180A ZK-BVG.

In 1964 James Aviation (Rotorua) Ltd was purchased by Bill Evans who moved the operation to the in a hangar and office he had built. The name James Aviation Rotorua Limited was retained under his ownership. Ewan Smith, who went on to establish Air Rarotonga recounts, I was a school kid hanging around the airport then and used to help refuel and clean aircraft just to get near them. He had BRI, BVG, BUF and the new 172 CHN which was joined a bit later by BWN. BUF was sold. James Aviation Rotorua Limited offered scenic flights, charter and did photography and other aerial work for Forest Products. He didn't operate it for long before selling to the Aero Club in 1965. I believe he went to Bermuda for many years running a boat charter business before retiring back to Nelson. 

When the operation was sold to the Rotorua Aero Club  on the 31st of August 1965 the time assets included three Cessnas - Cessna 182 ZK-BRI, Cessna 180 ZK-BVG and Cessna 172 ZK-CHN, a confirmed order for a Cessna 206 floatplane, due for delivery the following month, a hangar and office. The combined Aero Club and James Aviation scenic and charter operations was operated under the name Rotorua Aerial Charter.

Aircraft Operated

Auster J/5B Autocar
ZK-AYQ - c/n 2944 (1959-1960)

Auster J/1B Aiglet
ZK-AZT - c/n 2751 (1957-1959)

Cessna 180
ZK-BQI - c/n 32373 (1960)
ZK-BUF - c/n 32935 (1963-1965)
ZK-BVG  - c/n 50068 (1958-1965)
Cessna 172
ZK-BUZ - c/n 28138 (1963)
ZK-BWN - c/n 47304 (1964-1965)
ZK-CHN  - c/n 17251986 (1965)

Cessna 182
ZK-BRI - c/n 33690 (1962-1965)
ZK-BUK - c/n 34416 (1958-1964)

Piper PA-23-160 Apache
ZK-BYB - c/n 23-1828 (1960-1963)

19 June 2010

Full Emergency at Blenheim

A plane with 12 passengers and two crew on board was diverted from Wellington to Blenheim late this morning when the pilot radioed that he thought the front wheel of the Beech 1900D aircraft (ZK-EAK) was flat. Eagle Air flight NZ2239 took off from Gisborne at 10.50am and landed safely at Blenheim at 12.10am amid a full emergency callout. Sergeant Mark Kirkwood, of Blenheim, said the pilot had felt some sort of vibration and suspected the nose wheel of the 19-seater plane might have been flat. He raised the alarm and was diverted from Wellington to Blenheim, about 80km away on the southern side of Cook Strait, where a full emergency was declared. Woodbourne airport, just south of the city, was cordoned off with only emergency services allowed into the airport for a short time. They couldn’t see anything, but raised the alarm as a precaution, Mr Harrison said. The 12 passengers were "pretty laid back", he said. While one older woman was a bit nervous, no one panicked. The two crew on the flight did a good job keeping everyone informed, although seeing the fire engines at the airport as they landed "was a bit of a buzz". ''There's always that thought in the back of the mind [when you fly] but I was with the wife and had to put on a brave face,'' Mr Harrison said. The passengers were taken to a lounge after the plane landed and Air New Zealand spokeswoman Andrea Dale said they had been rebooked on other services out of Blenheim. Engineers had inspected the plane and it had been put back into service, she said. Mr Kirkwood said the incident would be reported to the Civil Aviation Authority to investigate.

Cook Strait Air Fare Wars Again

Air New Zealand has turned up the heat on Cook Strait again. They often get hammered for knocking out the competition, somewhat unfairly I think. Empty seats lose money as many an airline in NZ knows. This recession has hammered the provinces really hard and from what I have heard there are a lot of empty seats to the regions. I also suspect a lot of people are driving to major airports to get one of the super cheap fares. Soundsair have done well developing into Nelson over the last few years. I've used them a couple of times and they are great. Lets hope there is room for two operators.

Air New Zealand is opening up more cheap seats on its Nelson-Wellington and Nelson-Auckland routes, and is wagering $20,000 that customers will rush to get on board. t says that if its plan doesn't produce a 40 per cent drop in customers paying top fares out of Nelson within six months, it will donate $20,000 to Nelson Mayor Kerry Marshall's preferred charity. The national carrier, harshly criticised in March for its fare structure, by which a 35-minute one-way trip from Nelson to Wellington can cost $238, has advised customers by email that it is responding to the call for more value for money and concerns about the cost of last-minute fares. Air NZ group general manager of shorthaul airlines, Bruce Parton, said today the change had been brought in on May 10 and early indications were that it was reaching the 40 per cent target. He said the $20,000 was the airline "putting its money where its mouth is". "We just figured it was a way of saying `look, we are serious, we did listen to you, we are serious about it, we're not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes'." While the airline's figures were commercially sensitive, it had no problem with showing the mayor, he said. "What people from Nelson will experience is fewer people buying the very top end fares, especially at the last minute, and fuller planes. Far more people will be able to buy cheaper fares at the last minute." Similar changes and some other initiatives were planned for travel from other regional centres. Mr Parton said that Air NZ was also going to add more flights to and from Nelson in September or October, with details still being worked out. It had been trialling a new pricing strategy between Nelson and Christchurch for the past 12 months. It had reduced the number of customers paying higher fares on that route by 40 per cent. "It sounds like they're desperate," said Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford. Sounds Air had 25 Nelson-Wellington flights a week and the ticket price of $100 was the same if the seat was booked "one hour, one day, one week, one month or one year in advance", he said. He hoped his customers would be loyal in the face of the new offer, because if Air NZ kept reducing fares, Sounds Air would eventually be unable to compete. "You know what will happen then [to Air NZ fares]," Mr Crawford said. Mr Marshall said this morning that apart from the email, he had not yet heard from Air NZ, but he welcomed the news. It followed a recent public roadshow at which the airline was questioned about its fares and near-monopoly in the Nelson market, he said. “My general feeling is that Air NZ has listened and put some energy into trying to make sure people understand they are trying hard to make sure people get a good deal and, secondly, that it's not as bad as everybody thinks." He said Air NZ's two "dramatic" new investments in Nelson – a $12 million hangar nearing completion and the plan to maintain Mt Cook Airline's ATR72 fleet here, bringing 30 engineering jobs – showed good faith and said great things about Nelson. If he did end up with the $20,000, he would go through a "very robust process" to decide which charity got it. "There are lots of worthy causes, and things are pretty tough at the moment," Mr Marshall added. Nelson MP Nick Smith also applauded the move. Dr Smith, who complained about the high fares in March, said there was a lot to be proud of about Air New Zealand, which had "really pulled its socks up" over the past decade. "My concern has been from constituents about the quite high price of airfares out of Nelson and a perception that they have been pricing their domestic services very highly while at the same time struggling to make a profit in their international services."


Air NZ Nelson-Wellington – $79-$238 one way
Air NZ Nelson-Auckland – $99-$371 one way
Sounds Air Nelson-Wellington – $100 one way.

The Changing Faces of NZ Airfields

Haven't New Zealand airfields changed over the years... Once upon a time you could visit most airfields and even smaller airports, wander around and take photos of all sorts of aircaft. Then came the hangars, then increased security and now houses. Once upon a time I used to take photos of most NZ aircraft. That's why these days I take just the airline (in the widest sense of the word) stuff.

Sounds Air wants to build an airpark – a residential neighbourhood with its own airfield – at Picton Airport. The company has applied for land-use consent to subdivide 16 freehold residential sections on farmland it owns behind the airport in Koromiko. Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford said anyone buying the sections would build their own house and hangar. The development would also include storage warehouses and space for tourism and taxi offices. It would be one of the few airparks in the country where residents could taxi to their property, Mr Crawford said. "It's something a bit different, it's not grapes or the Sounds ... there's nowhere else in New Zealand that's doing this – not the true airpark arrangement." The company had not yet decided how much the sections would go on the market for, he said. He also would not talk about the overall cost of the development, but said Sounds Air had paid about $200,000 for detailed plans for the subdivision for its land-use consent application. Sounds Air has owned the airport since 1986 and bought the neighbouring farmland it plans to develop four years ago. Planning for the park began two years ago, but the company had held off because of the recession, Mr Crawford said. He expected to begin building within a year of getting planning approval. "We feel the market might be on an uplift and this is a good time to get it through council," he said. Market research and comments from pilots passing through the airport suggested there was support for the idea, he said. Airparks were popular in the United States. In this country, the Mackenzie District Council subdivided 33 sections on land next to Pukaki Airport in 2008, which returned more than $1.5 million. In April, Waiheke Island Airpark Resort Ltd won an Environment Court hearing to build 26 visitor units and 11 single hangars and a terminal at the existing airfield on the island. Noise would not be an issue for the properties as the small airfield "isn't Heathrow" and there were no plans to expand it, he said.

18 June 2010

Air Safaris Sole Schedule

Air Safaris was founded in 1970 by one of the New Zealand aircraft industry’s nice guys, Richard Rayward, who commenced operations with a Cessna 180 from Mesopotamia, one of the South Island high country sheep station in the central Southern Alps. The company slowly expanded to include scenic flights from the Mount John station airstrip. 

In 1975, with an increasing demand for its scenic flights over Mount Cook, and in particular its Grand Traverse flight, the company made a massive investment by establishing its own base at Tekapo which included a sealed runway, aircraft hangars and passenger facilities. Until 1978 the company operated single engine Cessna piston aircraft, but in that year the company introduced a turbo Pilatus Porter, ZK-PTP. 

Air Safaris' Pilatus Porter at Rangiora on 28 April 1985

In 1981 the company introduced another turbo type, this in the form of two Australian GAF N22 Nomads, ZK-NOL and NOM. These were later replaced by larger GAF N24 Nomads, ZK-NMC, NMD/1 NMD/2, NME, NMG and NMH.

A sexy machine, Cessna 207, ZK-SEX. Air Safaris operated four Cessna 207s... ZK-SEV, SEW, SEX and SEY. A story I recall is that when Air Safaris went to register their third 207 they were going to register it SEY but the people in the register office insisted that it be SEX and that they had been saving the registration for Air Safaris. Taken at Tekapo on 21 March 1989.

Air Safaris never operated their own scheduled service but for a number of years they were used for backup and overflow work for Mount Cook Airlines flights south of Christchurch. Air Nelson also used them between Christchurch and Hokitika and Christchurch and Timaru during the transition times after Air New Zealand withdrew their Friendship services while they awaited the delivery of their Metroliner.

GAF N24 Nomad, ZK-NME, finished for the day. Photographed at Timaru on 21 November 1991.

In 1991 Air Nelson contracted Air Safaris to provide two return weekday flights between Timaru and Christchurch as part of their Air New Zealand Link operation. The Nomad, found rapid acceptance by the South Canterbury public and was certainly a big improvement on the Piper Chieftain that had been earlier operating the route. While the Nomad was not pressurised this did not cause problems on the short hop to Christchurch over the Canterbury plains. At the time Air Nelson staff reported that the Nomad was very reliable and if there was a mechanical issue a replacement Nomad was quickly despatched from Tekapo.

The Timaru-Christchurch schedule in the Air New Zealand timetable of 28 October 1991... How on earth does a GAF Nomad get the aircraft code CD2?

The contract for a twice weekday service lasted until 1996. The Air New Zealand timetable of 1 September 1996 shows at that time the service reduced to just two flights a week, a Monday morning Timaru-Christchurch-Timaru service and a late afternoon and early even Friday return service. The use of Air Safari’s Nomads ended some time after this.

Today Air Safaris continues to focus on its core business of scenic flights from Tekapo and Franz Josef. It continues to operate GAF N24 Nomads, ZK-NMC, NMD and NME along with a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, ZK-SRI, three Gippsland GA8 Airvans, ZK-SAE, SAF and SAZ and a turbo charged Gippsland GA8-TC 320 Airvan, ZK-SAU.

Above, Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, ZK-SRI, and below, Gippsland GA8 Airvan, ZK-SAF.
 Both taken at Tekapo on 3 February 2003. 

16 June 2010

Hello Auckland - The Eagle has landed

Following up on the earlier posts on Eagle's first Bandeirante is 30 years since today Eagle Air commenced operations into Auckland with Bandeirante ERU. It had a demanding schedule...

Auckland-Hamilton-Palmerston North
Palmerston North-Hamilton-Auckland
Auckland-Hamilton-Wanganui-Palmerston North

Palmerston North-Hamilton-Auckland
Auckland-Hamilton-Palmerston North

Palmerston North-Hamilton-Auckland

The NZ Herald of 16 June 1980 featured a full page advert...

The previous posts can be found at...



15 June 2010

Flying Fish - Port Hutt Air


Yellowfin Holdings Ltd, of Port Hutt, Chatham Islands, was established in 1991 as a fish processing and wholesale company. In 1996 Yellowfin established Port Hutt Air Ltd to fly its fish to the mainland. The company purchased Beech 65-B80 Queen Air ZK-TAL from Tyrrell Aviation and reregistered it as ZK-PHA (c/n LD-384). In 1998, in conjunction with Port Hutt Air and Airwork Holdings, Chathams Airlink Ltd was established and this advertised passenger and freight flights to and from the Chathams. These flights began on the 9th of October 1997 and operated until mid-1998.

Port Hutt Air continued to operate its Beech Queen Air during this time until the 21st of November 2001 when ZK-PHA’s main undercarriage collapsed on landing at Paraparaumu after a flight from the Chatham Islands and Wellington. While the pilot was uninjured, the aircraft’s propellers, cowlings and lower fuselage were all damaged and the aircraft was written off. Chathams Airlink ceased to trade in 2002.
Beech Queen Air ZK-PHA unloads its fish in Nelson on a summer's evening on the 5th of December 1996
A replacement Queen Air was obtained in the form of ZK-WKA (c/n LD-506) and this flew for a number of years with Port Hutt Air titles. ZK-WKA's last flight was from Paraparaumu to Palmerston North on the 11th of October 2004.

The new Beech Queen Air ZK-WKA about to depart Nelson on the 3rd of November 2003.

The following year, on the 23rd of August 2005, Port Hutt Air was placed into liquidation while ZK-WKA was deregistered in April 2006. For some years WKA lay rather forlornly at Palmerston North Airport but in 2010 it was brought up to flyable standard and was registered as A3-CIA for Chathams Pacific’s Tongan operation.
The once again flyable Beech Queen Air A3-CIA arriving at Auckland on 15 June 2010 en route to Tonga

Resurrection for Air Chathams Queenair???

Spotted and snapped at Auckland International this afternoon was Chathams Pacific Beech Queenair A3-CIA... The question I have is whether this is the ex-New Zealand registered ZK-CIA as featured in an earlier post???

A3-CIA at Auckland on 15 June 2010 (the filename is wrong). Photo : S Lowe

Jetstar Enhances Queenstown Operations

Budget airline Jetstar can handle dodgy Queenstown weather now it’s adopted the same ‘flying-blind’ technology as its main rival. A year after taking over Qantas’ domestic services, Aussie-based Jetstar has fitted its New Zealand Airbus planes with satellite-based Required Navigation Performance equipment. RNP is a computerised system which allows pilots to take off and land in difficult conditions such as low cloud and fog, that otherwise disrupt flights to and from the resort. As a result of the new on-board software, Queenstown diversions this winter should lower from 12 per cent to one per cent, Jetstar boss Bruce Buchanan says. It’s introduced RNP after getting aviation authority approvals in Australia and NZ and has been conducting extensive test flights. In the next two weeks, Jetstar is lowering its minimum bad-weather operating height to the same level as Air New Zealand. “But you’ll still get some diversions in really bad weather,” Buchanan warns. He says Jetstar will next roll out its $12.5 million RNP programme through Australia then lower its minimum bad-weather operating height into Queenstown even further next winter. Buchanan says the technology also allows up to five per cent shorter flight times as pilots don’t have to rely on ground navigation aids to take off and land. It would also help bring night flights into Queenstown, he adds. The prospect of late-night flights has upset many airport neighbours, but in making it easier for Aussies to weekend over here “it would be a game-change in terms of visitation to Queenstown”, Buchanan says.

...and speaking of Queenstown

Source : http://www.odt.co.nz/news/queenstown-lakes/110713/bid-more-night-flights

Bid for more night flights

Allowing night flights to arrive in Queenstown would boost the Otago economy by $39.4 million a year and create employment for 665 workers, a plan change hearing was told in Queenstown yesterday. The Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) is seeking a plan change and a notice of requirement to expand the Air Noise Boundary and Outer Control Boundary and to allow night flights to arrive in Queenstown between 10pm and midnight to allow for tourism growth to 2037. Independent research consultant Gregory Akehurst told the hearing allowing 11 international flights a week, carrying about 65,100 people a year, to arrive between 10pm and midnight would increase tourist activity in the resort. He said the changes were necessary to maximise the economic contribution international tourism made to the region. The airport contributed about $167.1 million to the regional economy sustaining the equivalent of 2590 full-time workers a year. He said passenger movements would increase from 652,341 in 2007 to 2 million in 2037. QAC chief executive Steve Sanderson said there had been 638,000 passengers through the terminal in the nine months to the end of March. The corporation was spending $8 million constructing the runway and safety areas and over the next five years a capital programme of more than $40 million was planned for runway and apron lights, a new heavy taxi way, new terminal expansion and facilities. "The current noise boundaries are reaching the end of their capacity. To facilitate the growing tourism market the airport needs to extend its noise boundaries. Strategically it also needs to be able to extend its operating hours to allow for a limited number of scheduled flight arrivals between 10pm and midnight, to capture the Australian market and allow holiday makers to maximise their vacation, rather than losing valuable time travelling during the day. "Capping the number [of] flights in Queenstown at current capacity would seriously affect the local economy." The corporation was committed to an estimated $5 million compensation package for those affected residential properties within the new boundaries. "I acknowledge the concern of those affected residents about the lack of detail and finality about the mitigation package but the reality is we are unable to finalise this matter until we are further own the process and know exactly which properties are included and to what extent." The corporation did not have an "open cheque book" and the compensation would increase the company's debt by 13%, he said.
Lawyer for QAC Amanda Dewar said the corporation was preparing an updated Noise Management Plan to address the effects of aircraft noise on properties within the boundaries. The hearing before commissioners Bob Batty, David Clarke and Stephen Childs continues today, when QAC will present evidence on noise, navigation and health effects of the changes. The council's senior policy analyst, Karen Page, was highly critical of the proposals in her report to the commissioners. She recommended they accept submissions that night-time flights should be rejected and said the hearing should be adjourned, because QAC did not provide enough information for the commissioners to make an informed decision. Of 92 submissions, 24 supported, eight partly supported, and 60 opposed the plan change.

14 June 2010

Vincent goes Jet

Click the link below for a very nice picture of ZK-MUS

Source : http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/3807225/Bid-to-make-charter-jets-sound-choice

Wellington airline Vincent Aviation wants to rekindle the corporate aircraft charter market destroyed a decade ago by a high-profile government department charter and an air crash. Vincent Aviation managing director Peter Vincent said charter aircraft became a "dirty word" after Work and Income New Zealand spent $165,000 hiring Ansett New Zealand planes to fly 140 staff to a training course at a Taupo resort in 1999. Confidence in the corporate charter market collapsed four years later following the crash of an Air Adventure plane as it prepared to land at Christchurch Airport, killing the pilot and seven top staff from the Crop and Food Research Institute. Chartering aircraft has been regarded as a "gross exorbitance" since those incidents, Mr Vincent said. While some big companies still made limited use of air charters, there has been almost no work from government departments, with the exception of transporting visiting dignitaries. Mr Vincent will use a new Cessna Citation Mustang light jet for the service. It is owned by Wellington property developer Michael Garnham. The Mustang seats up to five passengers and can fly to almost any airport in New Zealand from Wellington in under 90 minutes at a cost of about $2500 an hour. With a price tag of US$3 million (NZ$4.3m), the Mustang is an entry level jet, lacking the beds, bars and plasma screens found on board much larger top end luxury jets like film director Peter Jackson's Gulfstream IV or businessman Graham Hart's Global Express. The Mustang's interior is closer to a ministerial limousine with four opposing leather seats, pull-out tables and a drinks cabinet, Mr Vincent said. "What we have got to try and do is convince people now that the Mustang is not an exorbitance, it is actually an effective and economic way for people to travel." The jet was aimed at company executives wanting to visit several places in a day. This could not be done using scheduled airline services or for the same price. "It is the sort of machine where ... they could go to Manapouri and have a meeting, then to New Plymouth and Gisborne and be back in Wellington that afternoon. "If people's time is taken into account, that is when aircraft really come into their own." Mr Vincent hoped to convince taxpayers that it was also an appropriate aircraft for cabinet ministers to use to visit the regions, and a cheaper option than using an Air Force King Air transport plane. However, he concedes that last week's revelations over ministerial credit card spending abuses, including a $1292 charter flight by former Labour minister Shane Jones from Kaitaia to Tauranga to deliver "a key sector speech", will have set back the chances of getting the Government back on board. Mr Vincent's biggest operation is in northern Australia where it flies from Darwin to mining towns using a fleet of 10 turboprop aircraft.