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 some ways the Club's service was too successful and the increasing usage of the Auckland Aero Club's Cessna 336 led to NZ Forest Products purchasing its own aircraft. Piper Pa23-250 Aztec D, ZK-CUS (c/n 27-4499). The Aztec was purchased in April 1970 and this became the mainstay of transporting company executives between Auckland and Tokoroa. 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 Aztec was replaced by a larger Piper Pa31-310C Navajo, ZK-PNX (c/n 31-7712092) which became known as the Pinex plane. This was registered to NZ Forest Products on the 3rd of October 1977. It was sold in Australia and 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 Product’s owned, Piper Pa31T3 1040 Cheyenne (c/n 31-8475001) which was aptly registered ZK-FPL. This was first registered to NZ Forest Products on 17th of December 1984. On the 9th of October 1987 the ownership in the New Zealand aircraft register was changed to Pineair Operations Limited, and on the 15th of January 1991 to Airwork Holdings Ltd.

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

With the expansion of the pulp and paper mill Kinleith, corporate giant Elders Resources NZFP Ltd, who had bought out NZ Forest Products, was instrumental in the development of the Tokoroa airfield including the provision of an 850m x 18m sealed runway. With the sealed all weather strip came the introduction of scheduled services for company personnel as well as being available for the general public. For some years the operation of NZ Forest Products aircraft was undertaken by Airwork NZ Ltd who operated an unscheduled, as required, service for Elders/NZFP from Ardmore. 

From the 1st of October 1989 Airwork NZ took over the service and using the Piper T1040, ZK-FPL, operated it as Auckland-Tokoroa Air Services. Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain, ZK-EBT, was also often used 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 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. 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. Advertising continued until the 2nd of July 1991, after which it appears the service petered out.

South Waikato News, 21 November 1989

1 comment:

  1. Well, I used to fly ZK BUF when it was with the Akld Aero Club ..also Zk BJS ..and the 336. Whilst the Skymaster was the 'pocket rocket' my favourite was BUF ..a lovely aeroplane ! Will never forget that strident 0-470 hauling us into the air time and again out of difficult places without default or murmur.. can't say the same for BLP the weak-kneed Apache the Aero Club operated at the same time lol . .