31 July 2010

Pacific Blue Blues

Pacific Blue is the subject of at least two investigations by aviation authorities after two incidents, two days apart, above Queenstown. The Transport Accident Investigation Commission is investigating a June 20 incident in which Pacific Blue and Qantas aircraft travelled too close together in what is known as a "loss of separation". Pacific Blue declined to comment on the matter last night, but TAIC chief investigator Tim Burfoot confirmed the two aircraft had come within 304 vertical metres of one another. He said the Pacific Blue pilot was about to land in Queenstown but decided not to because of bad weather conditions, so moved out to do a "go around" before attempting to land again. The loss of separation occurred as the aircraft was climbing. It is not known who is to blame and an investigation could take up to six months. Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority is investigating claims by four witnesses that a Pacific Blue pilot breached rules by departing Queenstown airport in dark, stormy weather on June 22. A spokesman confirmed the airline was investigating the incident on the flight, but said the flight took off "20 minutes before evening twilight". Sixty-five passengers and six crew were on board the aircraft. But CAA spokesman Bill Sommer said investigators believed the flight was "probably 12 minutes late getting airborne". Airlines operating out of Queenstown must depart no later than 30 minutes before twilight as a safety precaution because the airport was not lit at night. The rule is in place because the mountainous surroundings and obstacles are hard to see and, if a pilot changes their mind about departing, they need sufficient time to land. Mr Sommer said the investigation would look at all aspects of the flight, including the crosswind limitations of the aircraft, which he said was 16 knots (29.6km/h). "It's been reported that the crosswinds when they got airborne may have been 20 knots." Investigators would speak to the pilot, the airline and witnesses. One witness, Queenstown harbour- master Marty Black, said it was "virtually dark" when the plane took off into a front. "Not only was it dark, but the weather was bad ... that's not a good mix at all ... it took off, it was airborne and it basically dropped in height. It didn't climb at all." A Pacific Blue spokesman said: "The airline has an internal procedure that aircraft at Queenstown should take off a minimum of 30 minutes before evening twilight. On this occasion the aircraft took off about 20 minutes before evening twilight. "After takeoff the aircraft climbed at a safe and legal height in accordance with the weather conditions at the time and followed the prescribed visual departure procedure to continue its course to Sydney." Transport Minister Steven Joyce said he had been briefed on the incident and expected an investigation to take up to two months. "Obviously it's a concern. Civil Aviation were very concerned at the time and they are undertaking this investigation. They've been talking to Pacific Blue about their operations."

Meanwhile Queenstown Airport is trying to get approval to allow night flights... see http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2010/06/and-speaking-of-queenstown.html

30 July 2010

Salt Air tackles Starfish

Source : http://www.northernadvocate.co.nz/local/news/salty-competition-for-starfish/3918262/

Air New Zealand's new Starfish discount card for frequent fliers will go head-to-head with the successful 10-fare discount voucher offered by its only commercial opposition in Northland, Salt Air, since 2008. The Starfish scheme, announced earlier this week, will entitle users to 30 per cent discounts on all regional airfares for an annual fee of $800. A 15 per cent discount costs $200. The discount is for all regional flights to and from regional destinations and all regional flights to a city, or from a city back to a regional destination. Grant Harnish, managing director of Salt Air, said Air New Zealand's Starfish card showed the value of competition for the consumer - although it was a completely different scheme from his company's 10-fare Flexifare voucher. Flexifare currently costs $1090 for 10 "sector" fares from Kerikeri and $990 from Whangarei. Also valid for one year, it includes the cost of the shuttle bus into the Auckland CBD from North Shore airport. "Consumers love the fact they always know exactly how much their fare costs whereas the Air New Zealand offer will be 15 or 30 per cent off the fare available on that day - but good on them. The competition is a great thing for the travelling public," said Mr Harnish. Air New Zealand group general manager Australasia Bruce Parton said customers had told him they wanted cheaper flights when the company visited 20 towns and cities looking for feedback. Starfish would stimulate growth and reduce the price of regional travel for frequent fliers.But United Travel Whangarei managing director David Moss said Starfish was "not necessarily about Air New Zealand being everybody's friend"."It is about trying to capture loyalty. If someone has your loyalty card, well of course they will use it. Loyalty cards are fantastic if you are happy to stick to one carrier."But users should make careful comparisons between what they will save with the discount, and what they may be missing out on in special deals."

Last Post for Origin Pacific

Source : http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/3961897/Creditors-get-nothing-as-Origin-saga-ends

The failed Origin Pacific Airways looks set to be wound up without any action being taken against it. Liquidator Wayne Deuchress told The Nelson Mail civil action could have been pursued, but the idea was put to creditors and none were interested in funding it. "The response was pretty much a nil result really." He declined to comment further. Origin Pacific collapsed in 2006, owing $21 million. More than 200 staff lost their jobs, and the so-called "trust account" for passenger funds contained just $91. Origin Pacific Airways was founded by Robert Inglis. He was a director and majority shareholder of the company. Former Nelson coroner Ian Smith was also a director and there were eight shareholders other than Mr Inglis at the time of the company's collapse. Christchurch accountant Murray Allott this month ceased his work as receiver for Origin Pacific. It appears the Inland Revenue Department and all unsecured creditors received nothing. Mike Pero, an Origin Pacific shareholder and creditor who said he lost about $3m in the company's collapse, believes it is unlikely civil action would have provided much return. "It would just be a waste of time, energy and money, I suppose. You learn from your experience and we won't go there again in a hurry." It was a "real shame" the airline hadn't succeeded, he said. "I still think it had huge potential and is something the regions could still do with, but nobody's game to take on Air New Zealand."

29 July 2010

Farewell FHO

Cancelled from the register as “destroyed” on the 27th was Piper Pa23-250 Aztec E, ZK-FHO. The Aztec arrived in New Zealand in October 1984 and was initially registered to Whiteleigh Holdings Ltd of Wanganui.

FHO at Nelson on the 7th of February 1996 (above) and at Takaka on the 6th of January 1998. Photos : S Lowe

Over the years it had a number of owners but it is perhaps best known for operating Takaka Valley Air Services’ Wellington-Takaka flights from the mid 1990s until the early 2000s. On the 30th of January 2002 it was registered to Tauranga’s Sunair. On the 17th of May 2010 FHO suffered a nose wheel failure at Napier after a courier flight from Paraparaumu which seems to have led to its cancellation.

ZK-FHO in Sunair colours at Gisborne on 14 November 2007. Photo : S Lowe

Nelson's New Air Nelson Hangar

Air Nelson's $12 million hangar is a silver lining in the gloomy economic cloud hanging over the region. The development has already landed the company a new aircraft maintenance contract that is bringing 30 new employees to the region and has provided greater job security for more than 80 existing staff. The three-stage project began last November with the construction of a 5000-square-metre hangar and an office block. The offices are now in use and the hangar will be officially opened at a public day on August 14. The only part left to complete is the refurbishment of the existing hangar, which was built in 1942 and is the earliest steel structure of its kind in the region. Air Nelson technical manager Rob Burdekin said the project was running ahead of schedule and "significantly" under budget. "With a building project, there's always a certain amount of contingency. It's about quotes coming in on target with estimates given by the quantity surveyor. I guess what we're saying is they did a fairly good job." Mr Burdekin said Air Nelson had already employed 16 of the 30 new staff needed for the maintenance work it had secured on Mt Cook Airline's 11-strong fleet of ATR72 aircraft. Some of those new employees were trainees from Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology in Blenheim or the Air New Zealand training school in Christchurch. Some people who were facing redundancy from Safe Air in Blenheim had also been employed, while other positions were filled by people returning from overseas, Mr Burdekin said. "They need to have experience and qualifications in the industry, so we don't tend to get flooded with people." Air Nelson conducts about 12 heavy maintenance checks a year, with each job lasting about two weeks. The new contract will see that increase to about 18 and the company is exploring opportunities to further increase its workload. "The potential that we're looking at right now is for another half-dozen checks a year that's quite realistic." Mr Burdekin said the ATR aircraft fleet was growing in the South Pacific region and the only other maintenance provider was Air Tahiti. "We see quite an opportunity there. We intend to make the most of that. It wouldn't have happened if we didn't have this facility." Nelson stood to benefit significantly, he said. "You look at the contribution those extra 30 staff will bring to the region." Other businesses such as welders and upholstery firms were gaining work from doing things that were part of Air Nelson's core business, Mr Burdekin said. The new hangar helps cement Nelson as a growing aviation hub, also being home to several helicopter firms. Mr Burdekin said the Government's focus for aviation was too centred on places such as the Waikato. "To be honest, if you look at the money that's involved, you'd find this region's bigger. We'd like to see some of that focus and support."

28 July 2010

Starfish and Increased Napier Flights


More flights may be coming into Hawke's Bay starting from October an Air New Zealand spokesman says, but that won't guarantee cheaper flights. Australasia group general manager Bruce Parton was in Napier yesterday and said the frequency of flights may increase later this year, but only if people filled the seats. Jet liners were not likely to fill our skies either he said as the cost of running them would mean fewer flights in and out of Hawke's Bay Airport. "It's a thriving region for us and one we're keen to support," he said. "Our issue is that if we opened it up to A320 jets then the cost of that would be added to ticket prices." Mr Parton was in town to promote a new loyalty card for frequent flyers in regional airports around the country. Named Starfish the card would come at a cost of $200 for a 15 per cent discount on fares or $800 for 30 per cent and last 12 months. "Our frequent regional flyers have told us they'd like the option of getting even more value for money in recognition of their travel needs," Mr Parton said. The company was investigating new scheduling and waiting to see how popular the card was before making estimates on more flights. "We'll process the information and add more flights where appropriate," he said. Announcements were due to be made in several weeks once more research was completed. On average about 13 flights run in and out of Hawke's Bay between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch daily. A new runway extension would only just be suitable for jets to use Mr Parton said and he did not envision other providers entering the Bay's flight market. He admitted regional flights around the country had remained static for about four to five years while main trunk routes had cheapened - making the Bay appear more expensive. "We had a case where we had a conference in Palmerston North where they were saying Hawke's Bay was cheaper to fly to," he said. Runway Hawke's Bay Trust member Simon Nixon said Air New Zealand's monopoly on the region was pushing up fares and a loyalty card would not ease this. "How is the card going to benefit those coming down for one time travel? It's fine for those people who live here and travel a lot but I think they are a minority," Mr Nixon said. "Price won't come down unless competition is brought in - the idea does sound like it would do some good but it won't fix the larger issue." Mr Nixon said the current runway extension was right on the limits of operation for small jets. "It will bring in charters which is good but I think larger airlines will be loathe to schedule regular flights," he said. The current 50-passenger planes being used in Hawke's Bay were not adequate for large events.

Air Nelson to Greymouth... the service that never got airborne

This post is a postscript to the two posts on Coast Air...

Towards the end of Coast Air’s services to Greymouth Air Nelson announced, not only a formalising of ties with Eagle Air, but also a November expansion into the West Coast with flights from Nelson to Westport, and Greymouth route which were designed to link up with other Air Nelson and Eagle Air services. Robert Inglis told the Nelson Evening Mail on the 16th of July 1988, “There is no scheduled Nelson-West Coast service at present and a need for one had been identified.” The service was timetabled to fly from Wellington to Nelson, Westport and Greymouth in the morning and back along the same route in the afternoon using a 7 seat Piper Navajo,. Robert Inglis told the Greymouth Evening Star on the 19th “that the route should complement the services of Coast Air, which flies between Greymouth and Christchurch. He said the service would primarily advantage Wellington, Nelson and Palmerston North passengers who wanted to travel to the West Coast and return in a day.” Interestingly he also said “negotiations between Air Nelson and Coast Air have been going on for some time, but he said he was not prepared to disclose the nature of these negotiations.”

The Westport and Greymouth service featured in the timetable of 1 August 1988

While the service appeared in Air Nelson’s timetable it never got airborne as on the 16th of September an announcement was made that Air New Zealand had bought a half share in Air Nelson and was handing over a number of routes to Air Nelson the following month. These included Air Nelson operating a twice-daily service to Wellington and a daily flight to Nelson and 19 flights a week between Christchurch and Hokitika with Fairchild Metroliner aircraft.
The Navajo and Chieftain aircraft were used on regular schedules to Westport but never to Hokitika. However on the 26th of November 1989 Chieftains ZK-NSO and NSP were used on the Christchurch-Hokitika-Christchurch services after a Metro broke down. Photo : S Lowe

26 July 2010

Wave Goodbye to the Pacific Wave

Disappearing from the Air New Zealand national fleet is the Pacific wave. All the Airbus 320s have lost the Pacific Wave. ZK-SJE, taken in Auckland yesterday, still wears its Pacific wave. I am not sure whether SJB still has its Pacific wave, but the rest of the 737 fleet has lost its... I can't say I'm sorry, I never liked it! One wonders if we get a new colour scheme with the new 777-300s.

23 July 2010

Interesting Snippets on Other Sites...

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/air-new-zealand-air-points/1106957-new-seat-trial-atr.html has a piece on new seating being trialed on Air New Zealand Link ATRs. At least one of the ATRs has a couple of rows on the new seats which are a lot thinner than the current style with a curved back that allow for at least a couple more inches of leg room.

Meanwhile Bluebus has a great post on the Bristol Freighter service to the Chathams... http://nzcivair.blogspot.com/2010/07/merchant-islander-at-hapupu.html. He has an interesting shot of the tower facilities so thought I'd post an off shore shot of an interesting terminal at Amundsen Scott South Pole station...

22 July 2010

Jetstar to do training at Matamata???

No, Jetstar Airbus 320s are not going to be seen in the Matamata circuit... CTC Aviation which recently announced a new cadet scheme with Jetstar is having a dispute with Airways Corporation over fees for their training operations at Hamilton International Airport. CTC is interested in using the likes of Matamata or Whakatane to offer a cheaper option for their training. However, the story did make for an exciting photo for the cover of the local paper, the Matamata Chronicle.

In the past Matamata has had various operators offering non-scheduled services including SPANZ, Geyserland Airways and Air North. Air North's air service was the last, ending in the late 1970s.

21 July 2010

Pineland Airline - Pine Air

Auckland-Tokoroa Air Services’ flights to Tokoroa ended sometime after mid-1991. It was some two years later, on the 1st of June 1993, that the South Waikato News announced a new airline was to take off in Tokoroa. Pine Air Ltd was owned by Jim and Libby Lyver. The company proposed to fly a three-day week twice daily return air service to Auckland using Piper Pa23-250 Aztec E, ZK-DGS, with Phil Haslemore appointed as the chief pilot.

Services began on the 26th of July 1993 with two return weekday flights to Auckland offered provided there were two or more passengers as well as providing “on demand” services to Wellington and intermediate destinations such as Whangarei, Palmerston North, Taupo, New Plymouth, the Coromandel and Tauranga.

South Waikato News - 2 September 1993

In mid-August the South Waikato Expansion Trust entered into a joint venture with Pine Air giving the Trust exclusive booking rights for the airline in return for sales, marketing and business strategies from the Trust. The Trust saw seven potential market segments; the general public, public and community service personnel, central and local government personnel, tourists, charter travel and freight. The airline had a number of plans including a larger 10 seat Piper Chieftain, a base hangar, a pick up and let down service, runway lights for night time operating and the provision of an on call accident and emergency service from the South Waikato to specialist units of hospitals in major centres.

ZK-DGS all wrapped at Tokoroa, but not going far on the 6th of September 1993... sadly the photo was quite prophetic, the service only lasting just over 3 months.

By the 23rd of September, however, locals were told they must “support the new Tokoroa air service if they want it to remain.” While patronage was increasing, it was not increasing fast enough. The support was not forthcoming and on the 11th of November the South Waikato News announced that Pine Air had stopped operating regular services. The newspaper report Chief pilot Phil Haslemore as saying, “The company had wanted to wait until December to see if the market for the service would improve, but in the last three months business ‘dried up’ and there seemed little reason to continue.”

18 July 2010

Westland's Commuter Airline - Coast Air

Bert Waghorn, an earthmoving contractor from Reefton, had learned to fly in a Cessna 150 with Nash Taurau's Westland Air at Greymouth in the early 1970s. Having completed his PPL he was able to fly to the North Island to pick up parts for broken down machinery, often saving up to a week for it to be delivered by normal means. To help facilitate this he bought a partnership in a Cessna 172. In April 1973 he and Frank Hallaran formed Coast Air Charter Ltd which in July 1973 took over Westland Air's air charter licence.

Coming from Westland Air into the new Coast Air were a Cessna 172 ZK-CKN, which was soon sold, and a Cessna 177 Cardinal, ZK-DIH. The Cardinal was based in Greymouth and John Royds was employed as the pilot/manager. One of the features of the aircraft was that it was fitted with stretcher capability and it was used extensively for air ambulance duties.

Coast Air Charter's Cessna 177 Cardinal ZK-DIH at Hokitika on 23 April 1984.

In February 1976 Jeff Rees moved to Hokitika as a resident instructor. This was the first time in several years that the West Coast had had a full time flying instructor. Bert Waghorn bought Cessna 172 ZK-DHQ in late 1976 and this was used by Coast Air until it was sold in late 1978.

Cessna 172 ZK-DHQ operating for Coast Air at Hokitika in 1978
Greymouth Evening Star, 4 February 1976

1978 was a year of expansion for Coast Air. The air charter and training fleet was grown with the addition of Cessna 172s ZK-EKF and ZK-ELH (which replaced ZK-DHQ), Cessna 207 Skywagon and Cessna A152 Aerobat ZK-ELC which was registered to the Reefton Aero Club but was used by Coast Air. While Coast Air was primarily Greymouth based aircraft also operated from Hokitika, Reefton and Westport. In addition to the air charter and training work, they aircraft were also used for air ambulance and aerial photography as well as being available for private hire.

Cessna 172 ZK-ELH at Hokitika in January 1980

Cessna 207 ZK-EJD at Greymouth on 25 November 1984. 

Cessna 152 Aerobat ZK-ELC at Greymouth in 1981

From its early days Coast Air was interested in operating a regular air service. In 1977 it tried, unsuccessfully, for a temporary licence to transport passengers, on demand, between Greymouth and Christchurch. In September 1980 Air New Zealand announced a proposal to axe flights between Westport and Hokitika thereby cutting the connection between Westport and Christchurch and also to reduce flights to Wellington. Coast Air Charter announced plans to start daily feeder services to Westport. The company announced that after the arrival in Greymouth of the morning Westland Flying Services flights from Christchurch a Coast Air plane would fly passengers to Westport. The same aircraft would later in the day fly a return service to Hokitika to connect with the Air New Zealand flight to and from Christchurch at Hokitika. The plane would then fly back to Greymouth to connect with the Westland Flying Services flight to Christchurch. As things transpired the revised Air New Zealand service saw Westport linked to both Wellington and Christchurch via Hokitika on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays. Coast Air Charter did offer a feeder “air taxi” service linking Westport with the national airline on the other days of the week. There seemed, however, to be little interest in the service, the people of Buller being more interested in the reinstatement of a daily Air New Zealand service.

The company’s next attempt to establish a scheduled service was in December 1983 when the company applied to Air Services Licensing Authority to operate a scheduled air service between Christchurch and Greymouth with a De Havilland Canada Twin Otter. While the authority was satisfied that the proposed service was necessary and desirable, it was not satisfied that the company had the financial ability to run the service. The company set itself to furnishing the evidence, reapplying in the new year. However, in the interim, new legislation in the form of the Air Services Licensing Act of 1983 had come into force. This meant that Coast Air Charter had to replace its existing charter licence by the 31st of March 1984. The new legislation also required that the company obtain a new “B licence” to operate a Twin Otter. There was a complication, however, in that they could only apply for the new licence after the 1st of April when the new act came into force.

By late July 1985 the company had obtained the necessary licence and had raised the capital for the hire purchase of a Twin Otter. The original choice was for an ex-Canadian Government aircraft, which once imported, was expected to cost around $1.5 million. The Mayor of Greymouth, Dr Barry Dallas, being very hopeful for the future of the service told the Greymouth Evening Star that previous efforts at providing such a service had been laudable, but had failed through under-capitalisation and unsuitable timetables. "The present enterprise has been thoroughly researched and has a healthy financial backing. The timetables will enable Coasters to do same day business in either Auckland or Invercargill.” At this time the company was also exploring a daytime Greymouth-Glaciers-Mount Cook tourist connection service to increase utilisation between the planned morning and late afternoon trans-alpine services.

In the end the Canadian aircraft fell through and instead an Alaskan short nosed Twin Otter was sourced. The Twin Otter, N250CM, (c/n 250) was built in 1969. Crowley Maritime obtained it in 1979 and used it for supplying their operations on the Alaskan North Slope oilfields as well as flying ice flow patrols for shipping. It left Alaska under the command of Canadian pilot Jim York who flew her from Anchorage first to Oakland in California, then via Honolulu, Pago Pago and Auckland to Ashburton arriving on the 22nd of November 1985. Plans to land in Greymouth on the way south were thwarted by the West Coast weather. The Twin Otter spent a week in Ashburton being refitted for passenger operations, obtaining its certificate of air worthiness and it was placed on the New Zealand aircraft register as ZK-OTR. A further week was spent on pilot training and route proving.

The De Havilland Canada Twin Otter in its American registration the day after it arrived in New Zealand at Ashburton on 23 November 1985. 

The company, meanwhile, was preparing to launch the service on the 9th of December 1985. The original plan saw a Greymouth to Christchurch and return twice a day on weekdays and daily in the weekend. Single adult fares were to cost $69 with children under 14 half price. The company also envisaged a door-to-door freight courier service. Once again, however, problems beset the company. They rescheduled their start date to the 9th of January 1986 but then the Civil Aviation division of the Ministry of Transport announced the airline did not have the air service certificate which allowed it to fly the Twin Otter commercially. Civil Aviation also said the Category B air transport licence was also in abeyance while waiting for the difficulty over the air service certificate "to be sorted out." The situation was further complicated by the sudden resignation of Coast Air's chief captain, Captain Fred Holtkamp. The planned inaugural trans-alpine flight was cancelled and the 20 special guests who were to take the VIP flight to Christchurch made do by enjoying a short scenic flight.

The Press, 10 January 1986

DHC Twin Otter ZK-OTR at home at Greymouth on 23 February 1986.

The service finally got airborne on the 17th of January 1986 when the Twin Otter, named “The Province of Westland”, departed Greymouth for Christchurch at 7.00am. The return flight arrived back in Greymouth at 9.15am. The afternoon service left Greymouth at 4.40pm, returning at 6.30pm. By March 1986 the company was looking for more work for the Twin Otter. Originally the company had planned a middle of the day service south from Greymouth to Franz Josef and over to Mount Cook. However, at Franz Josef, the Waiho River had burst its banks and had destroyed the Mercer Airport and this effectively washed away the plans for a Glaciers and Mount Cook service.

The original timetable for the service that began on 17 January 1986

In the week following the first flight Les Bloxham, the travel editor, of the Christchurch Press reviewed the service...

Coast Air, Flight No. 12 Christchurch to Greymouth.
Wednesday, January 22.
Scheduled departure: 8.30 a.m.
Actual departure: 8.31 a.m.
Est. flight time: 45 min.
Actual flight time: 54 min.
Seating capacity: 20.
Seats filled: 4.

Check-in procedures, handled by Newmans Air, were done efficiently and in a friendly manner. A boarding call was made at 8.23 a.m. and passengers were directed to the de Havilland Twin Otter parked at Gate 2. The aircraft has 20 seats made up of five rows of one plus two, one row of two seats, and a row of three at the rear. The seats are basic and narrow with limited leg room, but they are adequate for such short duration flights. (Incidentally, the best seats as far as plenty of space is concerned are the three at the rear.) Passengers were personally welcomed on board by one of the pilots who also gave the safety briefing. Biscuits with pate and packets of fruit juice were available on a self-help basis. As a non-smoker in a relatively confined area I was pleased by the prohibition on smoking for the duration of the flight. Smokers unable to survive without lighting up for 45 minutes might not be so happy. The noise level was tolerable - in fact, this Otter was a lot quieter than others I have flown in around Fiji and Canada. Twenty-five minutes after take-off we were at an altitude of 10,000ft and crossing the Main Divide slightly to the south of Arthur's Pass at 170 knots (183 miles an· hour). Ten minutes later we were overhead Hokitika. (A dense layer of cloud on the West Coast forced the pilots to use I.F.R. (instrument flight rules) procedures and to home in on the Hokitika beacon before starting their let-down along the coast to Greymouth.) We landed on Greymouth's sealed strip at 9.25 a.m. The flight was smooth and pleasant. In clear weather a feature of this service will be the magnificent mountain scenery flown over at comparatively low altitudes. Unfortunately, viewing is impaired at present by the badly crazed and scratched state of most of the windows. Shooting satisfactory photographs would be impossible. (I was told later that Coast Air is considering replacing the damaged panes with new glass.) Over all, this new link between Greymouth and Christchurch should prove popular with businessmen and tourists alike. Having spent four hours driving the route through Arthur's Pass the previous week, I am now in no doubt about the way I will prefer to go in future.  

I only flew on the Twin Otter once... it was, apparently, the first time it had had a full load. The aircraft took an hour flying into a punchy nor-wester with the plane letting down on the Hokitika beacon before flying VFR up the coast to Greymouth. Nowadays Greymouth has a GPS approach.

The airline was keen for more work for the Twin Otter during the middle of the day and it was approached by Timaru interests who wanted a direct air service to Christchurch. On the 26th of March 1986 Coast Air announced that a new service would be commenced linking Christchurch and Timaru. It was also announced that during winter the Twin Otter would be based at  Christchurch instead of at Greymouth. As Greymouth Airport did not have landing lights the first flight was to be timed to reach Greymouth just after daybreak. The aircraft would then return to Christchurch with passengers and be available for flights to and from Timaru before the afternoon flight to Greymouth and return Christchurch.

The Press, April 1986

Coast Air began its winter schedule on the 21st of April 1986. The basing of the Twin Otter in Christchurch and the addition of the Timaru service meant several compromises had to be made. With a 7.15am departure from Christchurch the new timetable meant business people from Auckland or Wellington couldn't connect with the morning Coast Air service to Greymouth. The return flight to Christchurch did not arrive back until 9.15am and this meant there was not a lot of time for business people to fly to Auckland or Wellington for a same day return. In the same way the Timaru flights were not scheduled well. The first flight left Christchurch at 10.50am  and the afternoon flight at 2.35pm and these times did not suit business people going in either direction.

Coast Air's first flight to Timaru on the 21st of April 1986. Source : The Press

The winter timetable with Timaru flights, effective 21 April 1986

The Timaru timetable was not popular and failed to generate enough traffic. One week had only six passengers and the inevitable happened on the 28th of May when Coast Air's Christchurch-Timaru service was discontinued.

Following the short-lived Timaru service the company Air looked to Nelson and at the end of June 1986 a new twice Christchurch-Nelson service was announced. The company’s’ director, Mr Bert Waghorn, told the Greymouth Evening Star that "Coast Air's east-west flights were doing well but the company was still making a loss. He noted that that Air Albatross had been making five return trips a day between Nelson and Christchurch with an 82 per cent load factor before it went into receivership. All we need is 50 per cent to make a profit."

The Press, 8 July 1986

Coast Air’s Twin Otter service between Nelson and Christchurch, which had to compete with Air New Zealand’s Friendship service and Goldfield’s Air Piper Navajo service, began on the 21st of July 1986. The Twin Otter was based at Nelson with southbound flights leaving Nelson at 7.20am and 2.20pm with northbound flights leaving Christchurch at 11.20am and 6.20pm. The Twin Otter was not fast, with a scheduled flight time of 75 minutes as opposed to 50 minutes in the Friendship. The Christchurch-Nelson link also necessitated changes in the timetable for the Greymouth flights. These now left Christchurch at 8.55 a.m. and 4.00pm and from Greymouth at 10.05am and 5.10pm, times that were not so suitable for business people travelling from the West Coast.

Coast Air timetable, effective 21 July 1986

Within days of Coast Air commencing on the Nelson-Christchurch route Goldfields Air ceased. This, however, did not improve the economics of the Twin Otter operation. The Twin Otter's STOL performance was ideal for operating in and out of Greymouth’s short runway but in all other respects it was the wrong aircraft. It’s fixed undercarriage made it slow and it's lack of pressurisation on both routes made it an undesirable option for the travelling public. With the aircraft Nelson-based, the timetable to Greymouth didn't suit local business traffic. Despite the best efforts of Coast Air the airline averaged only 7.6 the passenger per flight resulting in incurred losses of around $1 million. A major rethink was called for and the decision was made to replace the Twin Otter. Its last scheduled flights were flown on the 24th of December 1986 under the command of Captain Bruce Riddell and First Officer M Clarkin flying the afternoon Nelson-Christchurch-Greymouth-Christchurch Nelson service. After Christmas the Twin Otter positioned to Ashburton where it was prepared for sale and eventual departure for Vanuatu.

Coast Air decided to replace the Twin Otter with a leased eight-seat Piper Navajo, ZK-JGA, which  Goldfields Air had previously operated. 

Piper Pa31-310 Navajo at Greymouth on 21 December 1986.

The Navajo, like the Twin Otter, was based in Nelson and operated a Nelson-Christchurch-Greymouth return service both in the morning and in the afternoon/evening. However an air war was brewing. In early March 1987 Pacifica Air announced its intention to introduce flights between Nelson and Christchurch with a pressurised Beech Super King and this caused Air New Zealand to ramp up its flights between Nelson and Christchurch. Coast Air was the first casualty of this air war and cut its Nelson-Christchurch service with the last flights being flown on the 27th of March 1987. 

Coast Air's decision to concentrate on its Christchurch-Greymouth link was essentially a good one but the airline still didn't get it quite right. The Navajo was based in Christchurch and from the 30th of March offered three flights each weekday across the alps to Greymouth. The first flight out of Christchurch was at 7.30am which didn't enable business people from Wellington or Auckland to connect with the morning service to the Coast. The earlier departure out of Greymouth offered better connections for West Coasters but it was still not as good as when the Twin Otter was based in Greymouth.  

Timetable as at 30 March 1987

Further changes were made to the company during April 1987. The directors and officers of the company resigned and Hokitika businessman Bruce Smith of Como Holdings was appointed managing director to oversee the financial reconstruction of the company. Pilot numbers were reduced by one, the office manager, Mr Harry Kitchin, who had been with the company since its inception, was made redundant, and the mid-day service was dropped in an endeavour to cut costs.

Timetable as at 1 May 1987

The company continued to incur financial difficulties and on the 29th of February 1988 the Greymouth Evening Star carried the headline “Coast Air Still Flying Despite Suggestion it Might Cease” and detailed the necessity for massive fixed and working capital investment in the airline. At the end of March Como Holdings, itself facing financial difficulties, announced it was going to reclaim and sell the Piper Navajo aircraft it had been leasing to the airline for the past 14 months. In the light of this an announcement was made that the airline was to cease operations on the 15th of April with the directors expecting to incur a loss of some $750,000.

A few days before the air service ended... ZK-JGA departs Greymouth on 14 October 1988. Notice the changed titling.

Despite being placed in receivership the receivers managed to relaunch Coast Air which had actually been operating as a viable concern for the previous 12 months. Once again the airline used Navajo ZK-JGA, leasing it from its new owner Air Nelson. Fares increased by 18 percent and instead of two full-time pilots, the new operation had one full-time and one part-time pilot. The airline restarted services on the 2nd of May. However, having seemingly weathered one problem another was soon to arise when Air New Zealand announced that Friendships would be withdrawn from Hokitika and replaced with three Metroliner daily return flights between Hokitika and Christchurch running at similar times to the Coast Air flights from nearby Greymouth. This was the final straw and an announcement made that Coast Air was going to cease trading. Although Coast Air announced their service would end on the 31st of October, the final flight between Greymouth and Christchurch was on the 17th of October 1988 due to exceptionally light loadings on the final planned services.

Aircraft Operated

Cessna A152 Aerobat
ZK-ELC - c/n A1520787

Cessna 172
ZK-CKN  - c/n 17252194
ZK-DFY -  c/n 17260735
ZK-DHQ - c/n 17261103
ZK-ELH - c/n 17270955
ZK-EKF - c/n 17269923
ZK-EHO - c/n 17269668
Cessna 177B Cardinal
ZK-DIH - c/n 17701900

Cessna A185F Skywagon
ZK-DPG - c/n 18502427

Cessna 207 Skywagon
ZK-EJD - c/n 20700362
De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter
ZK-OTR - c/n 250

Piper PA-31-310 Navajo C
ZK-JGA - c/n 31-7612102

17 July 2010

Origin Pacific colour scheme disappearing...

Noted at Auckland Airport this morning, but not photographed, was Airwork's Fairchild SA227-CC Metroliner III ZK-POF in an all white colour scheme. I captured it landing in Auckland on the 25th of May 2010 sporting a white nose...

15 July 2010

Increased Jetstar domestic and international to Queenstown

Low-fare airline Jetstar is expanding its transtasman services with flights from Melbourne and the Gold Coast to Queenstown. Jetstar will start twice-a-week flights from the Australian airports in December and also expand its Auckland to Queenstown service from daily to 11 times a week.