14 November 2010

Air Wairarapa and Air Kapiti

In December 2001, Guy Hingston, a specialist at Masterton Hospital, announced the establishment of a new airline, Air Wairarapa. The company planned to start with flights from Masterton to Auckland on Fridays and Sundays for people wanting "weekend getaways." Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain (c/n 31-7405407), ZK-KIM, arrived in Masterton on the 15th of January 2002. ZK-KIM had previously operated in New Zealand with Eagle Air as ZK-FIB. Guy Hingston envisaged eventually having two Chieftains and he told the Wairarapa Times Age that, “ideally we would like to end up making two flights to Auckland seven days a week, one flight to Christchurch seven days a week, and night freight flights.” The Chieftain was repainted and Civil Aviation Authority approval to start flights was sought. The company was officially launched by Wairarapa’s Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer, on the 22nd of March 2002 with the company operating its scheduled Masterton-Auckland flights on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Wairarapa Times-Age, 19 March 2002

Guy Hingston and Georgina Beyer at the launch of Air Wairarapa at Masterton on the 22nd of March 2002. Photo : Air Wairarapa

By May 2002, however, the company was experiencing difficulties and on the 22nd of May 2002 Guy Hingston announced the company was cutting the scheduled flights in favour of concentrating on charter flights to special events such as. The Wairarapa Times-Age reported him saying, “it was not economic to make regular flights to and from Auckland. But he said the plane was full with passengers travelling to the Warbirds Over Wanaka air show. Bookings were also looking good for daily flights to Mystery Creek next month. The Ellerslie Flower Show later in the year is another we will likely schedule in. We are also hoping to make regular ski trip flights to the South Island. Mr Hingston said. A regular commuter service to Auckland could not be ruled out in the future. Mr Hingston said a return flight on Wednesdays and a weekend flight every month were being looked at.”

Piper Pa31 Navajo Chieftain, ZK-KIM, at Wanaka on 30 March 2002

This Wednesday service came in the form of Air Wairarapa spreading its wings and taking on another name – Air Kapiti. The Chieftain was reregistered ZK-KAP and wore Air Wairarapa titles on one side and Air Kapiti titles on the other. Masterton-Paraparaumu-Auckland flights started each Wednesday on the 26th of June 2002. NZ Aviation News reported that “the first scheduled flight on 19 June was cancelled as no passengers had booked a flight. The flight on 26 June carried two passengers from Masterton and picked up a further two from Paraparaumu. On the 22nd of July the company announced plans to increase flights between Wairarapa and Auckland via Paraparaumu to four days a week from September 9. This did not come to pass, as Air New Zealand, in the face of fierce competition, slashed its fares by up to 50%. This put Air Wairarapa under the same pressure that had led to the demise of Wairarapa Airlines. Guy Hingston told the Wairarapa Times Age, “This new development by Air New Zealand poses a serious economic threat to the viability of a local scheduled airline. Air Wairarapa has no choice but to consider withdrawing its schedule service.” The final services were operated on 21 August 2002 from Masterton to Paraparaumu and Auckland in the morning before returning direct to Masterton that evening. 

Air Wairarapa did stay in business for a time focussing on the charter market. The company website did announce that Air Wairarapa hoped to start a regular Masterton-Wellington service but nothing came of this and the Chieftain was sold to Sunair in late June 2003.

Guy Hingston, local MP, Judy Keal, and Kapiti Mayor, Alan Milne, at the  launch of Air Kapiti at Paraparaumu on the 17th of June 2002. Photo : Air Wairarapa

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