20 March 2011

Au Revoir Air National - 3. Jetstreams

To the general public Air National was perhaps best known for its Jetstream operations. From 1996 to 2011 Air National Jetstreams have operated regular services for Ansett New Zealand, Qantas New Zealand and Air New Zealand as well as providing back up services for these airlines when engineering or other needs dictated.

In October 1998 Air National introduced its first British Aerospace J32EP Jetstream, ZK-ECN (c/n 967) to its fleet. The aircraft was named “City of Rotorua” and began operating Auckland-Rotorua flights on behalf of Ansett New Zealand Regional. In September 2000 ECN was registered to Tasman Pacific Regional Airlines, operating with Tasman Pacific Connection titles and with their colours on the tail.  (see http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2010/09/qantas-new-zealand-took-off-10-years.html and http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2010/09/tasman-pacific-connection-qantas-new.html). It returned to Air National in July the following year after the collapse of Qantas New Zealand.

ZK-ECN, the Spirit of Rotorua, at Rotorua on the 15th of September 1999

On the 8th of February 2008 an Air National flight hit the headlines when a knife-wielding hijacker demanded to be flown to Australia. Air New Zealand Link flight NZ2279 operated by Air National with Jetstream ZK-ECN was on a flight from Blenheim to Christchurch when Asha Ali Abdille, a 33 year old Somalian refugee, demanded to be flown to Australia. As the events unfolded she stabbed two pilots in mid-air, injured a passenger and threatened others. The plane landed safely at Christchurch whereupon she was arrested by armed police.

ZK-ECN continued to operate with Air National until October 2010 when it was sold in Australia.

Ready for export, ex ZK-ECN in her new Australian registration VH-OTH before leaving Auckland. Taken on the 27th of October 2010.

The second Jetstream, ZK-ECP (c/n 878), was added to Air National’s fleet on the 30th of July 1999. Like ECN it too had 10 months with Tasman Pacific Connection.

Above, BAe Jetstream 32 Enhanced Performance ZK-ECP as she first arrived in New Zealand at Hokitika on 17 September 1999 while on a rugby league charter. Below, ECP reflects her time with Tasman Pacific Connection at Nelson, being in their colours but being back in Air National service, on 2 November 2001

ECP, above, in what was the standard scheme at Hokitika on 10 September 2006 on a typically fine Hokitika day. Below, ECP has adopted an Origin Pacific blue belly, as seen at Christchurch on 25 July 2008. 

In January 2006 Air National commenced support services for Air New Zealand Link’s Eagle Air between Auckland and Kaitaia providing twice daily return services on weekdays. Later that year, in August, Air National also received a contract to fly Air New Zealand Link’s new Christchurch-Oamaru service as well as offering additional flights between Christchurch and Hokitika. To facilitate this, and other back up work for Eagle Air, Air National obtained three additional Jetstreams.

The first of these, ZK-ECI (c/n 946), had several personas in New Zealand. It began as ZK-REY operating for Ansett Regional from March 1999 to the end of August 2000. It too saw service with Tasman Pacific Connection who reregistered it as ZK-TPC. Following the collapse of Qantas New Zealand it was unused for some time before being picked up by Origin Pacific who registered it ZK-JSU in May 2006. Following the subsequent collapse of Origin Pacific it again languished until purchased by Air National in July 2006. It was registered ZK-ECI and named “Spirit of Waitaki” and flew the inaugural Christchurch-Oamaru service on the 6th of August 2006. The Oamaru flights ended on the 31st of December 2009.

ZK-ECI, the Spirit of Waitaki, at Oamaru on the 7th of December 2009 shortly before the air service to Oamaru ended

The other two Jetstreams had a similar journey through New Zealand companies. ZK-ECJ (c/n 969) began life in New Zealand as ZK-RES with Ansett New Zealand Regional. It retained this registration with Tasman Pacific Connection before becoming ZK-JSR with Origin Pacific. It was registered to Air National as ZK-ECJ in July 2006.

On the taxi for Wellington's Runway 16 is Jetstream ZK-ECJ on the 16th of November 2007

ZK-ECR (c/n 968) also did service with Ansett New Zealand Regional and Tasman Pacific Connection as ZK-REW before going to Origin as ZK-JSQ. It was also registered to Air National in July 2006.

Jetstream ZK-ECR arrives at Hokitika on the 4th of September 2007.
At various times Air National’s Jetstreams ran regular services for Air New Zealand Link between Auckland and Taupo, Wellington and Wanganui, Wellington and Westport and Wellington to Blenheim and onto Christchurch as well as the routes mentioned above and for back up work for Eagle’s Beeches that were on maintenance or went unserviceable. With the economic recession of 2009-2010 these regular flights all but disappeared with the Christchurch-Hokitika flights being the last regular sector Air National operated, though there was also a weekly return Christchurch-Blenheim-Auckland service when the Christchurch-based aircraft was swapped over.

A sad line up of Jetstreams taken at Auckland on the 15th of February 2011 after Air National's grounding. In the top photo the company's Piper Aztec ZK-ECM can also be seen.

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