30 June 2011

The Sun is Shining on Golden Bay Air

UPDATED - June 2024

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 while the Seneca ZK-ZAG was used for IFR flights.

On 16th of August 2021 Golden Bay Air flew ex-Fly My Sky Britten Norman BN2A-26 Islander ZK-EVO from Ardmore to Nelson. Purchased after the collapse of Fly My Sky the Islander went into the Nelson aircraft engineering company Repaircraft which did a superb job of a complete overhaul and repainting the Islander for service with Golden Bay Air. 

On the 19th of November 2022 ZK-EVO flew its first Golden Bay Air services, operating the morning Takaka to Wellington service as GBY121 and the return GBY211. The airline's owner-operator Richard Molloy told the Golden Bay Weekly he is "thrilled with the new plane...it's been a long path to this point. The new plane has been totally overhauled from tip to tail, including new avionics and instrumentation. "The increased available payload allows the equivalent of two-four more seats' capacity. Golden Bay's Airvan remains as the mainstay of the fleet and the Islander generally only used when a larger load necessitates its use or if the weather dictates an IFR flight is required. 

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

The arrival of the Islander saw the sale of Piper Seneca ZK-ZAG. It operated its Golden Bay Air final services on the 28th of August 2023 flying from Takaka to Wellington as GBY121 and the return service GBY211. The aircraft was exported to Australia on the 3rd of November 2023. 

Golden Bay Air's Britten Norman Islander ZK-EVO on short finals for Wellington's Runway 34 on 19 April 2024

A look inside Golden Bay Air's BN Islander ZK-EVO. Photos : Golden Bay Air

And a look inside... Photos : Golden Bay Air

In February 2022 major storms closed the Heaphy Track and it remained closed until October 2023. This had a major impact on the demand for flights between Takaka and Karamea. Traffic bounced back, however, and by 2024 Golden Bay's service from Takaka to Wellington, Karamea and Nelson were operating as more or less daily scheduled services for most of the year. Flights between Karamea and Nelson normally operate via Takaka unless loads are such that a direct flight is warranted.

Golden Bay Air route structure and timetables as at 1 May 2024

In July 2021 3rd Level New Zealand 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.


  1. I remember the original golden Bay Air; owned by Kerry Page and operating a 206 ZK DVI until written off in an accident on D'Urville Island. Then operated Cherokee 6 for around 6 months or so until wound up. This would have been around 1988