12 September 2010

Goldfields Air - Alexandra's Airline

In 1980 Goldfields Aviation Ltd (later Goldfields Air Ltd) and its principal Mr Murray Cresswell first applied to the Air Services Licensing Authority (ASLA) for an air services licence for air charter, air taxi, scenic flights and joy rides from Alexandra as well as a scheduled air service between Alexandra and Christchurch with one Piper PA-23-250 Aztec F aircraft. At a public hearing on 10 December 1980 the application was declined by the ASLA as the Aztec considered unsuitable for the service. The aircraft did not have turbo-charged engines and thus did not have the single-engine performance capability for the route and it was also was it is not fitted with the full de-icing equipment required. 

In January 1981 Westland Flying Service’s Cessna 402 ZK-DHW flew into Alexandra on demonstration to Goldfields Air. Following this visit an application was made to the ASLA for a non-scheduled Alexandra-Christchurch service using a Cessna 402. The application, which was heard on the 17th of March 1981, was unsuccessful. 

Cessna 402 ZK-DHW at Alexandra in January 1981. The 402 had flown a film grew from Hokitika to Christchurch in the morning and then flew to Dunedin for maintenance. It then flew to Alexandra before returning to Hokitika. I know because I was on board.  Central Otago News, 20 January 1981

A third application was made in December 1981 for a service using a PA32-300 Lance. Piper PA32R-300 Cherokee Lance ZK-EIB had been registered to Goldfields Air on the 15th of October 1981. This application, too, was unsuccessful and the Lance’s ownership was changed on the 11th of February 1982. 

Goldfields Air finally gained an air service licence in 1985. Murray Cresswell flew his Beechcraft V35A Bonanza, ZK-EDJ (c/n D-9224), to Alexandra on the 10th of April 1985. The Central Otago News reported Murray Cresswell saying, he has already had a number of bookings. Flights to Christchurch will leave Alexandra about 8.30 a.m. and return at 10.30 a.m. If there is sufficient demand, Mr Cresswell said it is likely he will provide two return trips a day.

Beech V35B Bonanza, ZK-EDJ, taken at Christchurch on 21 January 1985.

Central Otago News, 11 April 1985

Non-scheduled passenger services began on the 18th of April with the chief shareholder, Murray Cresswell, being the company’s chief pilot. Goldfields Air initially offered a Sunday to Friday service with Saturday flights being available by prior arrangement. The aircraft was based at Alexandra and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays a morning service was flown to Christchurch and back. On Wednesdays and Fridays the Bonanza stayed at Christchurch for the day leaving at 3.30pm, making a day's business in Christchurch possible. On Sundays the Bonanza flew an afternoon service to Christchurch and return. On 1 August 1985 the timetable was changed to fly daily. The new timetable also included a “whistle stop” at Wanaka as required. From this point on Wanaka continued to be listed in the company's timetables as a pick up and set down point on the Alexandra timetable.

Central Otago News, 18 April 1985

Goldfields Air's Beech Bonanza ZK-EDJ on a service to Christchurch on the 3rd of June 1985

 Information Sheet No 1 - Goldfields Air's first timetable, April 1985

The company had always intended to operate an IFR scheduled service and so imported a Piper Pa31-310 Navajo, VH-TRP previously used by the Victorian state premier from Australia. 

Piper Pa31 Navajo ZK-JGA shortly after arriving from Australia on 16 October 1985 wearing its Australian registration VH-TRP

The Navajo, placed on the New Zealand register as ZK-JGA (c/n 31-7612102), arrived in Alexandra on the 10th of December 1985 and it was introduced to the Alexandra-Wanaka-Christchurch service with Neil Abbott as the pilot.

Pictured at the Alexandra-Clyde aerodrome in front of the aircraft were (from left).—Vincent County Councillor Graham White, Goldfields Air operations manager and pilot Colin Taylor, and Civil Aviation inspector Ritchie de Montalk. Central Otago News, 12 December 1985

Goldfields Air's Piper Navajo ZK-JGA and Beech Bonanza ZK-EDJ at Alexandra on 5 January 1986

Timetable Effective 1 January 1986

On the 2nd of April 1986 the company moved its base to Christchurch and inaugurated a morning Christchurch-Wellington return service before operating a Christchurch-Alexandra-Queenstown-Christchurch service. Despite Gerald Shirtcliff, the company’s managing director, advocating a fare $ 14 less than Air New Zealand’s normal fare and the aircraft’s leather seats, the reality was the company had to compete against Boeing 737s. Following the flight to Wellington the Navajo flew to Queenstown and Alexandra, again stopping at Wanaka as required. 
The timetable for the Wellington service effective 2 April 1986... Can you spot the typo???
Goldfields Air's Piper Navajo ZK-JGA at Christchurch 9 April 1986.

The following month, on the 1st of May 1986, Goldfields Air launched a twice daily Christchurch-Nelson service. The service was short-lived, however, and the company encountered liquidity problems and suddenly ceased its services on the 29th of July 1986. The collapse of Goldfields Air came close on the heels of the failure of air Albatross and the withdrawal of Wairarapa Airlines on the Nelson-Christchurch sector. At that time Goldfields Air’s Nelson agent, Mr Winston Williamson of the Nelson Travel Agency Ltd, told the Nelson Evening Mail, "It is very easy to start an airline and very easy to stop an airline but it is very hard to do the bits in between."
 The final timetable... including the Nelson service. 

1 comment:

  1. Typo - The from Queenstown to Queenstown G52 flight?

    Perhaps they mean Queenstown-Wanaka-Queenstown?

    Or am I off by a long shot?