12 September 2010

Goldfields Air - Alexandra's Airline

In 1980 Goldfields Aviation Ltd (later Goldfields Air Ltd) and its principal Mr A. 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.

In January 1981 Westland Flying Service’s Cessna 402 ZK-DHW flew into Alexandra for Goldfields Air to evaluate it. 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. 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 a licence in 1985 and inaugurated a non-scheduled service between Alexandra and Christchurch in May 1985 using Beech V35B Bonanza, ZK-EDJ (c/n D-9224). The chief shareholder, Murray Cresswell, was 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 days 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 as a pick up and set down point on the Alexandra timetable 

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

 Information Sheet No 1 - Goldfields Air's first timetable, May 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. The Navajo, reregistered ZK-JGA (c/n 31-7612102), was introduced to the Alexandra-Wanaka-Christchurch service in October 1985 with Neil Abbott as the pilot.

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

Piper Pa31 Navajo ZK-JGA at Christchurch 9 April 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???
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?