30 June 2011

The Sun is Shining on Golden Bay Air

UPDATED - November 2022

Golden Bay Air had its origins in a company called Zephair Limited which was founded by Richard Molloy and Lisa Sheppard in November 2005. Flights begab between Wellington and Takaka beginning on the 12th of January 2006 under the name of Capital Air. A change to the company name was made in September 2006 when Zephair Ltd was renamed Capital Air Bookings Ltd.

The company mainly used Piper PA-32R-301 Saratoga, ZK-ZIG on the service (c/n 32R 8013045) but Beech 58 Baron ZK-WLV (c/n TH 698) was also used. The aircraft were based in Wellington and crewed by instructors from the Wellington Aero Club. Initially flights operated twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays, with additional flights over long weekends. In 2006 these flights ran until Queens Birthday weekend and then ceased over the winter months restarting in late September. In following years the flights ran from late September until late April with the frequency of flights increasing, especially during peak summer periods. During the peak season up to six flights were scheduled per week with additional flights operated on demand.

Piper PA32 Saratoga ZK-ZIG at Takaka on 30 November 2007
Also used occasionally on the service was Beech 58 Baron ZK-WLV which was photographed at Hokitika on 7 June 1996

Capital Air, 1 September 2007

As well as the flights to Takaka, Capital Air also operated charter and scenic flights from Wellington

Same plane - different titles! Above, Piper Saratoga ZK-ZIG with Capital Air titles at Wellington on 16 April 2009 and below, with Golden Bay Air titles as it gets airborne from Wellington for Takaka on 4 February 2010.

In May 2009 Capital’s Air base was moved from Wellington to Takaka and the company was renamed Golden Bay Air Ltd to reflect its increasing commitment to the Bay. In making the move to Takaka the company also sought improvements to the Takaka airfield. These works included maintaining the cross runway and the provision of a GNSS instrument approach. The company also advocated the cross runway being sealed and a loop taxiway being established. Co-owner Lisa Sheppard told the Golden Bay Weekly that this could enable the introduction of “a bigger aircraft – maybe a 10-seater.” said Ms Sheppard. With the move to Takaka Golden Bay Air increased the number of flights to Wellington by 20%, added a scheduled service to Karamea for trampers on the Heaphy Track and, in October 2009, and added Piper Pa28-161 Warrior II (c/n 28 8016367) to the fleet. The company also introduced a shuttle service to Wainui in Abel Tasman National Park and Browns Hut at the start of the Heaphy Track to connect with their services.

Piper Warrior, ZK-EQS, at Takaka on 14 February 2010.

From the 22nd of September 2010 Golden Bay Air introduced a year-round Takaka-Wellington service. At that time the timetable indicated that from the 22nd of September to the 18th of December the company would operate a single flight six days a week. Over the summer break until the end of January two to four daily flights were scheduled, depending on demand, and then from the 31st of January till the 30th of April the company planned to operate two return flights from Sunday through to Thursday, three flights on a Friday and a single flight on a Saturday. Over the winter months the company planned a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday flight offered. The company is also offered a daily scheduled flight between Takaka and Karamea from the 22nd of September 2010 to the 30th of April 2011 with winter flights being on demand.

2010 saw a new GNSS instrument approach being commissioned at Takaka with new RNAV routes to Takaka implemented. The company also built a new hangar and rebranded the Saratoga in the company's new colour scheme maroon colour scheme. The company also moved its Wellington arrival and departure point from the Wellington Aero Club, first to Capital Jet Services and later to the main terminal building increasing the public profile of the air service.

Piper Saratoga ZK-ZIG arriving into Wellington from Takaka on the 10th of April 2012. Golden Bay Air's new colour scheme promises passengers a golden destination

Following an incident with the Warrior ZK-EQS in early 2011, the company imported a more powerful Piper Pa28-181 Archer II, ZK-ZOG (c/n 28 8690010) which was delivered to Takaka in April 2011. This is mainly used for to Karamea and for local flying, however, it has been noted flying the Wellington service when loads are light.

Piper Pa28-181 Archer ZK-ZOG enjoying the Golden Bay's golden sunshine in June 2011.

The company had, for some time, being wanted to introduce a more reliable air service capable of operating in all weathers. With the installation of the new instrument approach Golden Bay Air introduced Piper Pa34-220T Seneca III, ZK-ZAG (c/n 34-8333002) to its fleet in June 2011. The Seneca and the Saratoga will both be primarily used on the Wellington service.

Looking very sharp is Golden Bay Air's Piper Seneca ZK-ZAG awaiting take-off clearance at Wellington on 27 October 2014.

By winter 2011 the company had reviewed its winter timetable and introduced a Takaka-Wellington return Sunday to Friday with a second flight on Wednesdays and Fridays. Golden Bay also began operating flight for pre-booked passengers from Karamea to Takaka, Motueka or Nelson, timed to suit. Flights are operated between the centres if there were at least two passengers wanting to fly. The flights between Karamea and Takaka were listed as a shuttle service and these later were listed as scheduled flights.

Golden Bay Air timetable as at June 2011. http://www.goldenbayair.co.nz/

The Golden Bay sun shining on the Golden Bay Air fleet - Saratoga ZK-ZIG, Seneca ZK-ZAG and Archer ZK-ZOG at Takaka in June 2011.
In April 2012 Golden Bay Air built a small terminal at the Takaka airfield.  

Golden Bay Air's terminal at Takaka on 22 January 2014

The 2016/17 summer season saw the company adding scheduled flights from both Takaka and Karamea to Nelson in support of people tramping the Heaphy and Abel Tasman tracks.  

Golden Bay Air's timetable as at May 2017

On the 28th of December 2018 a factory new Gippsland GA8 Airvan, VH-BFN, arrived in the country for Golden Bay Air. The Airvan was subsequently repainted in the company's colours and registered as ZK-ZUG. After the completion of ratings, training and gaining the necessary approvals the Airvan entered service on the 7th of February 2019 flying a Takaka-Wellington return service. Golden Bay Air's Richard Molloy said "The Airvan will  primarily be used on our Takaka-Karamea-Nelson-Takaka routes and will share the Takaka-Wellington route with our other aircraft. The Airvan seats the pilot and 7 passengers plus great views!" The arrival of the Airvan led to the sale of the Piper Saratoga in June 2019.

Gippsland Airvan ZK-ZUG landing at Wellington on 27 May 2021

Golden Bay Air's IFR aircraft, Piper PA34 Seneca, ZK-ZAG at Takaka on 22 January 2014

The G B Weekly, 16 March 2018

Golden Bay Air sold its Piper PA-32R-301 Saratoga, ZK-ZIG with it being registered to new owners on the 12th of June 2019. ZK-ZIG was Golden Bay Air's first aircraft which had introduced flights between Wellington and Takaka in January 2006 under the name of Capital Air.

Golden Bay Air were forced to shut down with the Covid-19 lockdown on the 25th of March 2020. The airline waited until the country returned to Level 1 before resuming scheduled services on the 29th of June to resume its scheduled services. Initially 5 flights a week were operated between Takaka and Wellington. At present 10 flights a week will be operated but this will increase to 11 flights over the peak summer months. The airline continues to operate regular services between Takaka, Karamea and Nelson. There are often numerous flights being offered on these sectors during the busy summer and mountain bike seasons on the Heaphy track.

Golden Bay Air's timetable effective 26 June 2020

Golden Bay Air's Gippsland Airvan ZK-ZUG arriving into Wellington on scheduled flight GBY 121 from Takaka on 4 December 2020 

Karamea is an important destination for Golden Bay with trampers and cyclists flying to and from Takaka and Nelson as passenger needs dictate with the Heaphy Track providing a significant portion of Golden Bay Air's business. During the summer Golden Bay Air's Karamea flights are daily scheduled services. As New Zealand started to come out of Covid in early 2022 more headaches arose for Golden Bay Air with the Heaphy Track being closed between Heaphy Hut and James Mackay Hut by massive floods in February 2022. To assist trampers in this regard Golden Bay Air is coordinating with Heli Charter Karamea enabling walkers and bikers to bypass the damaged area and complete the whole track from end-to-end. 

Golden Bay Air's Gippsland GA-8 Airvan ZK-ZUG at Karamea on 29 April 2021

A busy day... Golden Bay Air's Piper PA28 Archer ZK-ZOG and Gippsland GA-8 Airvan ZK-ZUG at Karamea on 4 January 2022

In addition to the more regular services Golden Bay Air provides quite a number of scenic flight options from Takaka including flights over Golden Bay highlights including the Farewell Spit and Kahurangi National Park peaks. Scenic flight options are also available from Motueka and Nelson.

The GB Weekly, 18 November 2022

Golden Bay Air scenic flight options

Golden Bay Air's Gippsland Airvan ZK-ZUG on the taxi at Takaka for a scenic on 4 January 2022

Piper PA28 Archer ZK-ZOG at Takaka on 4 January 2022

The main scheduled route between Takaka and Wellington is operated throughout the year with more flights during the summer. The mainstay of this route is the Airvan with the Seneca ZK-ZAG being used for IFR flights.

On the 19th of November 2022 Britten Norman BN2A-26 Islander ZK-EVO entered service with Golden Bay Air, operating the morning Takaka to Wellington service. The Islander, purchased after the collapse of Fly My Sky, had flown to Nelson on 16th of August 2021 where local aircraft engineering company Repaircraft did a superb job of readying the Islander for service with Golden Bay Air. The Islander will be used on Golden Bay Air's routes when loads necessitate or IFR is required. The arrival of the Islander will see the sale of Piper Seneca ZK-ZAG.

Golden Bay Air's Britten Norman Island ZK-EVO at Nelson on 4 July 2022. Photo : Cody Forward

In July 2021 I asked Richard Molloy how he would describe Golden Bay Air... He replied, We are a boutique, family owned and operated air service based in the top of the South Island. We are part of the fabric of Golden Bay now having been operating for 15 years. Many people in the community use our service to commute to Wellington (quite a few living in Golden Bay but working part time in Wellington for government and private agencies) plus also the normal family and friends visiting. We provide flight experiences for schools, voluntary organisations, charities, etc and work experience for local high school students, some of whom have gone off to pursue careers in aviation. We offset carbon in a local reforestation programme. We provide a diverse range of scheduled, scenic and charter flights, as well as shuttles and rental cars to support our full return Heaphy and Abel Tasman track transport and fly-cruise packages from Wellington, Nelson and Takaka. Our routes are incredibly scenic and our pilots love sharing their passion for flying and the area, giving commentary to passengers and chatting with them through the 2-way headsets, so our flights are a real treat for many who haven’t experienced the thrill of flying in a smaller aircraft before. It is important to us that we look after our community and our environment - as well as providing essential transport services for our remote community we are carbon neutral and safety is a core focus - at our Safety Management System certification the CAA called us an exemplar for the industry.

It's no wonder that the sun is shining on Golden Bay Air.

29 June 2011

Glenorchy Air


Glenorchy Air Services & Tourist Company Limited was established as a family business by Janet and Robert Rutherford on the 29th of September 1992. Named after the historic township of Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu the company began operations from Glenorchy with Cessna 185C Skywagon, ZK- CHK (c/n 185-0755). Trading as Glenorchy Air the company later expanded operations to Queenstown and began operating regular on demand tourist flights to Milford Sound. As the business grew a second aircraft was needed and Piper Pa32- 300 Cherokee Six, ZK-DOJ (c/n 32S-40638), was purchased in 1996.

The first aircraft in the fleet was Cessna 185 ZK-CHK seen here at Milford Sound on 14 September 1997
In 1999 Glenorchy Air was used extensively to transport members of the cast, crew and equipment for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy around the southern half of the South Island of New Zealand. This included flying producer Barrie Osbourne on reconnaissance trips to Paradise, Poolburn and Ben Ohau.

Glenorchy Air's Piper Pa32 Cherokee 6 ZK-DOJ at Milford Sound on 10 January 2014.
The Cessna 185, ZK-CHK, was sold in 2003 and was replaced by a Gippsland Aeronautics GA8 Airvan ZK-LOR (c/n GA8-03-034). The Airvan was so registered ZK-LOR to reflect the company’s involvement during the making of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the fact the company continue to provide air tours to some of the locations used in the filming of Lord of the Rings.

Given the company's connection to the Lord of the Rings as reflected in the Gippsland Airvan's registration, ZK-LOR, one wonders whether the company name should be rewritten as GlenORChy Air. The Airvan on a trip to the Glaciers, seen here at Franz Josef on 26th of November 2007.
The company website says Glenorchy Air provides scenic flights from Queenstown and Glenorchy to many destinations around the South Island including Milford Sound, Mount Cook, the Glaciers, the penguin and albatross colonies of Otago's east coast and to New Line Cinemas, Lord of the Rings movies location sites in the southern part of the south Island of New Zealand.

During the 2010/11 summer season the website also showed a Queenstown and Wanaka shuttle air service being offered on demand. In 2013 the company offered a scenic airlink to Treble Cone skifield meaning skiers and snowboarders could be on the mountain in only 20 minutes from Queenstown Airport.

A second Airvan, ZK-JRR, was added to the fleet in 2013.

The second Airvan, ZK-JRR at Milford Sound on 10 January 2014

On the 5th of Augsut 2014 the Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-DOJ was involved in accident near Poolburn killing the pilot and injuring two American tourists. The aircraft was written off and was replaced in 2015 by a third Airvan ZK-ZEA. A fourth Airvan, ZK-ORC, was bought from FlyStark, who operated it as ZK-FSS,  in September 2017.

On the 22nd of October 2018 Glenorchy Air chief pilot and co-owner Robert Rutherford, who with his wife Janet founded Glenorchy Air Services and Tourist Company in 1992 passed away.

The company was bought by Queenstown based company Stokes Aviation on the 1st of July 2019. Stokes Aviation Ltd is owned by James, Richard and Shelley Stokes. James flies for Genorchy Air and is the company's training captain, helps with maintenance planning and is also our CAA flight examiner.

Glenorchy Air's James Stokes

With the new ownership several changes occurred. The first was the rebranding of the aircraft with a smart new "kea livery." GippsAero GA8 Airvans ZK-LOR and ZK-JRR were repainted in new Kea livery for the 2029/20 summer by Daniel Frew at Mercer. Another Airvan will go for a similar refurbishment in winter 2020.

Airvan ZK-LOR at Omaka on 10 December 2019 after being repainted in the sharp new Glenorchy Air colour scheme 

The two repainted Airvans, ZK-JRR and ZK-LOR at Wanaka on 12 December 2019 

Cessna 172 ZK-RNX was sold in August 2019 and a factory new Cessna 206 Stationair HD ZK-JTK joined the fleet in December 2019.

Glenorchy Air's new Cessna 206 Stationair HD ZK-JTK at Queenstown on 12 December 2019. The 206 has been purchased brand new from the Cessna factory in Wichita, Kansas and features the latest Garmin G1000 NXI glass cockpit avionics, comfortable leather seats, noise-cancelling headsets and many safety features, including airbags in the seat belts. The 206 has a 6-cylinder turbo-charged Lycoming engine, producing 310 horsepower at all altitudes, giving it an excellent rate of climb and a cruise speed of around 150 knots, making it ideal for our longer trips.
...and with Airvan ZK-LOR at Wanaka

In 2019 Glenorchy Air placed an order for a new Cessna Grand Caravan EX which was supposed to join the in April 2020, replacing one of the Airvans.

Glenorchy Air’s factory new Grand Caravan EX will be equipped with the G1000 NXI, the latest in integrated glass cockpit avionics. Our passengers will enjoy a 10-seater Executive interior with comfortable leather seats and window seats all around. The Grand Caravan EX has a Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6-140 Turboprop engine which produces 867 shaft horsepower, driving a 4-blade constant speed propeller, which will make it one of the quietest aeroplanes operating in Fiordland.

Glenorchy Air have also expanded their Mount Cook options which was the main reason for purchasing the faster Cessna 206, allowing the Airvans to focus on Milford Sound traffic.

Airvan ZK-JRR at Mount Cook early in 2019 

With the Covid pandemic the arrival of the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX was delayed. It finally arrived in New Zealand in September 2020 and was registered ZK-MMZ. Meanwhile the Airvan it was replacing, ZK-ORC, had  left the fleet in June 2020. A new feature Glenorchy Air now offers are charter flights from Queenstown to Stewart Island. The Covid pandemic continued to interrupt tourist numbers to Queenstown in 2021 and Airvan ZK-ZEA left the fleet in early August 2021. In March 2022 a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX, ZK-PPR was added to the fleet while Airvan ZK-JRR was sold.

Over the years the company has operated a number of aircraft. The current fleet is indicated in bold;

Cessna 172:
ZK-CSU (1999-2000)
ZK-DHV (2003-2006)
ZK-DMH (2002-2003)
ZK-DNS (2010-2014)
ZK-EOI (1998-1999)
ZK-ERK (2003-2005)
ZK-FIG (2004-2010)
ZK-MDR (2010-2013)
ZK-RNX (2014-2019)
ZK-VCT (2001-2003)

Cessna 172 ZK-DNS carries small "Operated by Glenorchy Air" titles. Photo taken at Milford on 10 January 2014
Cessna 177 Cardinal:
ZK-DDK (1999-2004)
ZK-SPA (1999)

Cessna 185 Skywagon:
ZK-CGH (1994-1995)
ZK-CHK (1993-2003)

Cessna 206 Stationair:
ZK-JCS (2004-2005)
ZK-JTK (2019-current)
ZK-MIF (2012-2013)

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX
ZK-MMZ (2020-current)
ZK-PPR (2021-current)

Gippsland Airvan:
ZK-JRR (2013-2021)
ZK-LOR (2003-current)
ZK-ORC (2017-2020)
ZK-ZEA (2015-2021)

Piper PA32 Cherokee 6:
ZK-DOJ (1996-2014)
ZK-MAN (2003)
ZK-WGO (1997-2001)

Being operated into Milford Sound on the 14th of September 1997 was untitled Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-WGO

Mount Cook Airlines - Index of Posts


The Flowering of the Lily - Mount Cook Airlines



Amphibian Air Service to the Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Islands and Stewart Island

Chatham Islands

Fox Glacier, Franz Josef and Hokitika


Milford Sound


Air Services To Milford Sound - Index of Posts

This post is purely to provide links to posts of operators that have operated services to Milford Sound. It will be updated as an when new posts are done or as and when posts are revised. If I have left out any operators please email me or write a comment.

Air Fiordland

Air Milford

Air Wakatipu
No post written

Fiordland Travel

Glenorchy Air

Mount Cook Airlines

Ritchie Air Services

Southern Scenic Air Services

NZ Tourist Air Travel