07 July 2010

Tasman Air

Bruce Gavin has e-mailed this piece on Tasman Air Services Ltd, the forerunner of Akarana Air.


In 1968 E.J. Ferrier, who was the main shareholder in Tasman Air Services Ltd, imported Piper PA.31 Navajo ZK-CUF into New Zealand and the aircraft was registered on 10 October of that year. It was the objective of the company to operate the aircraft on executive and tourist air charter services from Auckland. The aircraft was one of the earliest post World War II light American built twin-engine aircraft to operate in New Zealand. E.J. Ferrier held the majority shareholding of 40,000 $2 shares with J.V.M. Kean Ltd holding 3000 shares (15% of the capital). The company was granted Air Services Licence No. 492 by the Air Services Licensing Authority, which allowed the operation of air taxi and air charter services from Auckland to any licensed aerodrome in New Zealand. It was anticipated that a considerable utilisation would be forthcoming by providing tourists with air tours to places such as Waitomo and Rotorua.

The Navajo made its first flight to the Chatham Islands on 3rd of November 1968. The Chathams were to play an important part in Tasman Air's hopes and story. As it happened Alexander Helicopter's Beech baron, ZK-CWH, made a trip to the Chathams on the same day, this being the first time two twin-aircraft were on the ground on the Chathams at the same time.

Tasman Air Services' Piper Pa31 Navajo, ZK-CUF, at Christchurch.

In the event the amount of charter work was poor and it wasn’t until the company operated a temporary air service between Christchurch and the Chatham Islands that utilisation improved. In the middle of the winter of 1969 the grass runway at the Hapupu Aerodrome on the main Chatham Island became heavily waterlogged and was closed to large aircraft including Safe Air’s Bristol Freighters, which regularly serviced the islands. Tasman Air stepped into the breach from 3 July 1969 and began operating a thrice-weekly service between Christchurch and the Chathams. The aircraft could carry four passengers on the journey to the Chathams (allowing it to be able to return to New Zealand should conditions not allow a landing) and six passengers back to New Zealand. The company quickly applied for a permanent licence but this was disallowed by the Air Services Licensing Authority to protect the incumbent Safe Air service. With the reopening of the aerodrome and the return of Safe Air, Tasman Air’s service ceased.

The company continued, however, to operate charter flights to the Chathams. In October 1969 the company applied to the Air Services Licencing Authority for a non-scheduled licence to fly a daily service from Christchurch to a private airstrip about six miles from Waitangi under charter to Air Progress Ltd, the commercial Division of the Wellington Aero Club. At the same time, however, Safe Air were applying to link Christchurch with the Chathams and the Tasman Air proposal never came to fruition.

Tasman Air's final charter flight was planned for the 7th of November 1969 but was cancelled due to bad weather. After this the operation was wound up and ZK-CUF was sold to the Department of Civil Aviation, which registered it as ZK-DCE.

PEOPLE included:

E.J. Ferrier- company principal
Ivan Reardon- pilot (who was later became the chief pilot of Akarana Air)


ZK-CUF Piper PA.31 Navajo (c.n.31-261)

  • ‘Taking Off- Pioneering Small Airlines of New Zealand 1945-1970’ by Richard Waugh, Bruce Gavin, Peter Layne and Graeme McConnell. Published by Kynaston Charitable Trust, Auckland. Printed by Craig Printing, Invercargill 2003.
  • ‘Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of New Zealand’- various issues
  • Archives New Zealand- various files  
(Compiled by F.B. Gavin July 2010)

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