29 January 2011

Vincent Aviation's East Coast Service - A pilot's account

This post continues the series on operators through Wairoa...

Following the collapse of United Aviation in 1997 Vincent Aviation picked up a number of their courier flights and ran a scheduled courier service in the lower and central North Island. Using mainly their Cessna 402s and Piper Pa34 Seneca ZK-DCP they had an early morning service departing Palmerston North for Wairoa and Gisborne at 5.00 a.m. In the later afternoon/early evening the aircraft flew a Gisborne-Wairoa-Napier-Palmerston North service. There was also an afternoon Wellington-Palmerston North-New Plymouth return service. Their timetable noted, “this is a scheduled freight service and the freight takes priority, therefore it is important that you arrive on time or we may leave without you.” They continued these routes until October 1999.

Bargeld01, who flew for Vincents, has written the following account of these services.

I flew the Vincent Aviation run through Wairoa on many occasions around 1998-2000, mostly in the Seneca ZK-DCP and occasionally in Cessna 402s ZK-VAB and VAD. (ZK-VAC went to Southern Air the day Bargeld01 started with Vincent Aviation)

When I first started this run the pattern we had was…

A Cessna 402 departed Wellington at 1600 to New Plymouth, (Mon-Fri) after the courier showed it was over to Palmerston North to meet with the East Coast Seneca run. The 402 would then take the combined freight back to Wellington arriving from memory about 2000.

The Dominion, 24 December 1998

Vincent's Piper Seneca ZK-DCP during its Gisborne layover on 28 September 1998.

The Seneca would overnight in Palmerston North during the week. We would depart Palmerston North at 5am direct to Wairoa and then into Gisborne, arriving around 6.30am. We would park up for the day before returning in the evening for a 5pm ish departure to Wairoa, then Napier and Palmerston North. The crews would swap over in Palmerston North, the Wellington New Plymouth crew overnighting in Palmerston North and the crew that had started in Palmerston North in the morning would head back to Wellington with the 402.

On a Friday night both aircraft would head to WLG and the Seneca would position back to PMR on Sunday afternoon/evening whenever the crew decided to head up!

The New Plymouth run stopped after a year or so after my arrival and the Seneca continued to ply up the East Coast.

Air Napier also had their Seneca overnighting in Palmerston North and would leave about the same time as us to Napier and then swap freight over to their Cherokee 6, ZK-ELK which would fly Napier-Wairoa-Gisborne, getting in around 7am and spending the day on the ground as well. Then it was the catfight to get out ahead of each other in the evening, ELK typically leaving just prior to the Vincent flight, over the reverse route and again swapping its load to the Air Napier Seneca at Napier for the Napier-Palmerston North leg.

We never really carried that much freight between the two companies out of Gisborne and it was always slightly amusing seeing the two different courier company vans racing up the airport entrance road at Gisborne in the evening! Vincent's carried the NZ Courier freight.

VAB and VAD at Gisborne in between flights circa my period at Vincents (1998-2000). Sorry, poor shots, scanned from an old camera but you get the idea!

Just after sunrise approaching Hawkes Bay one morning between Palmerston North and Wairoa (5.45am ish) in ZK-VAB. (VAB identifiable by the HF aerial from tail down to the nose here in the pic)

We used to give "John" the NZ Courier driver a tinkle on the cellphone when we were departing Palmerston North and he would head out to Wairoa just prior to our arrival to switch the runway lights on for us. The light switch system was set up after some talks between Vincent Aviation and the Wairoa District Council.

One particular flight I recall vividly into Wairoa, was wondering why many runway lights appeared to be U/S on finals. After landing I went for a walk down the runway to investigate… that discovery led to many empty shotgun shells and empty Double Brown beer cans scattered on the runway!!! The lights had become target practice for some drunken sods the night before! After a bit of cleaning of the debris I headed to Gisborne and let the Wairoa District Council know prior to returning through in the evening.

Thanks to Bargeld01 for his recounting of this service... it certainly gives flesh to the operation. One of the problems with these courier operations is that start and finish dates are not recorded for a lot of these courier runs... If any pilot flew these Wairoa flights for N B Macdonald Services, Vincent Aviation, Air Freight or Sunair I'd love it if you were able to check your log books and hear when you flew with these operators on the East Coast services. Steve - westland831@gmail.com

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