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. 


  1. I remember seeing "CD2" in an Air NZ timetable I sadly lost some years ago and thinking how the heck CD2 was assigned...you would think the code for a Nomad might be something like GAF, GAN or GNO.

  2. Equally don't get the "CD" but suspect the "2" was to distinguish the N24 from the N22 though "4" would surely been more appropriate...
    Perhaps someone has Australian connections may be able to shed light on the "CD" bit and maybe what the N22 was designated.