03 June 2010

Eagle Air's First Bandeirante...

Thirty years ago today Eagle Air registered its first Embraer EMB-110P1 Banderiante 110267, ZK-ERU. It had arrived in the country on the 31st of May 1980 after Paul Wright and Lou Day flew it as ex PT-SBF on a seven day, twelve thousand mile delivery flight from the Embraer factory in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil. The route taken was via Belem, Brazil, St Croix in the West Indies, through Florida and Texas to Monterey in northern California. The Bandit then flew the long eleven hour sector to Honolulu, twelve and a half hours to Pago Pago and then the final fifteen hundred miles on to Auckland.

The soon to be ZK-ERU in her Brazilian registration ZK-ERU on arrival at Ardmore on 31 May 1980. Photo : R Killick

The Bandeirante flew a demonstration flight to Palmerston North on the 11th of June and may have operated a few services on the 13th of June, but its first official full day of service was on the 16th of June 1980 with Eagle Air extending its services from Wanganui and Palmerston North to Hamilton onward to Auckland. ZK-ERU was the first of the modern commuter airliners to see service in New Zealand, and the first turboprop.

For the small company, which at that time not aligned with Air New Zealand, it was a brave step and a huge investment... to the extent of some $ 1.4 million dollars. The booklet marking Eagle Air's first 25 years writes of this, "The Bandeirante was a huge investment and simplu had to be kept in service to pay its way. That plane never let the company down - it was in the air every day for its first year, allowing the company to cross an economic threshold and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief."

My first flight in a Bandeirante... Above ZK-ERU arrives in Auckland on the 24th of November 1982 while below it has unloaded at Hamilton. The P1 version of the Bandeirante had the large cargo door. After taking this photo I walked around the southern end of the airport to photograph aircraft on the other side of Hamilton airport and then the skies opened and was really saturated. Rather than walk back on the road I explained to the guy in the tower my predicament and he kindly gave me permission and a green light to go directly across the runway... How times have changed! Photos : S Lowe

Eagle Air's second and very smart colour scheme which was applied to ZK-ERU, as seen at Palmerston North on the 18th of May 1985, and to Bandeirante ZK-FHX as well as their, at that stage, four Piper Chieftains. One of these, the original Chieftain, ZK-EIE, was the only one to carry the original Eagle logo. Photos : S Lowe

In my opinion this is the ugliest of Eagle Air's colour schemes... Just too bland! Taken at Hamilton on 5 February 1988. Photo : F B Gavin

In their own colours and later in Air New Zealand Link colours Eagle Air was to go on to operate enother eight Bandeirantes and use them for flights extending from Kaitaia in the North to Nelson and Blenheim in the south, though for a brief time in 2001/2 they operated between Blenheim and Christchurch. The Bandeirantes, originally configured with a 2+1 seating for 18 were refurbished for Air NZ Link to a 1+1 configuration with 15 seats.

The P1 version of the Bandeirante, with its large cargo door, really looks like two different aircraft. Taken at Whangarei on 29 January 1992 (above) and Auckland on 16 October 1998 (below)

The aircraft was finally withdrawn from service on the 29th of June 2001 and the registration was cancelled on the 1st of August 2001. At time of its withdrawal from use the aircraft had amassed 37,000.3 airframe hours and 61,087 cycles. It was sold to Tauwhare Military Museum near Cambridge which is owned by Andy Moreland. Given this is New Zealand's first turbo-prop commuter airliner I hope that is one that will always be preserved... and wouldn't it be nice to see it in the original Eagle Air colours again!

ERU's final "scheme" - a white tail... Darryn Morgan suggests that this was the result of major work on the tailplane - it may have been corrosion on the vertical spar, and given it was only planned to be in service for a short time, they never repainted it fully. . Taken at Wellington on 14 October 1999. Photo : S Lowe


  1. The Bandeirantes operated as far South as Christchurch on the BHE-CHC route for a short time around 2001/2002

  2. Thanks... post updated. Cheers, Steve

  3. I Have a couple of shots of the E110 fleet ERU/FHX/KIP all freshly repainted in 1988, as well as JCM in Simmons colours at Kaitaia shortly after entering service. How do I get them to you if you are interested?

  4. Paul Wright and Lou Day deserve credit for ferrying this aircraft to NZ.

  5. The white, blue and red paint scheme was from the period when Mutual group owned Eagle. The scheme was part of making themselves attractive while in negotiations with Ansett NZ that eventually fell through.

  6. I have updated the post with mention of Paul Wright and Lou Day...

    It was very interesting reading about Eagle making themselves attractive while in negotiations with Ansett NZ... I had never heard that was a possibility

  7. This aircraft now sits in a paddock near the road at Tauwhare, I pass it daily going to & from work.

  8. I just saw Paul Wright at NZTG about an hour ago! Been a long time!

    After working overseas, now back in NZ with Air NZ and living in TG.

  9. A great little airline that will be no more in Aug 2016, when the last Beech 1900D scheduled flight is completed. Will be a sad day, and history seem to be repeating itself with the establishment/expansion of 3rd level airlines around NZ.

  10. I flew in that Bandit (still in its original colours) on a flight from Gisborne to Napier only a few days after Eagle Air and Air Central merged.