29 April 2012

East Air - People not Places

In April 1984 East Air Limited applied to the Air Licensing Authority for a Category B air transport licence to provide an air transport service from Napier to Gisborne and return with a fleet of one Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain, one Piper Pa31-325 Navajo or one Cessna 402B aircraft. Pilots included manager and chief pilot Allan Klenner and Jim Tait. Gary Peacock (owner of Air Napier) was company secretary and Maurice Dempsey the Marketing Manager.

East Air's first aircraft, Piper Navajo ZK-DCE, taken at Christchurch on 24 December 1984

Partenavia P68 ZK-NMK taken at Napier on 6 August 1984

The service started a week later than first anticipated on the 16th of April 1984 with Piper Pa31-310 Navajo ZK-DCE (c/n 31-261) flying the first service with Cessna 402B ZK-DSG (c/ 402B0559) arriving in Napier shortly after. As well as the Navajo and Cessna 402 the airline leased Partenavia P.68B ZK-NMK (c/n 114) in the first few months. The service initially operated under a temporary licence before becoming the first completely new company to commence operations under the 'deregulation' of air transport. Initially three return flights were flown each weekday, this later being reduced to two flights each weekday.

Later in the year Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain ZK-EVD (c/n 31-7405241) replaced the Navajo and Partenavia. From the 1st of October 1984 East Air extended its services to include a Gisborne-Rotorua sector. One of the features of East Air’s service was that the airline offered fruit juice and a snack of biscuits or cakes.

Almost a year after the airline folded East Air's Piper Pa31 Chieftain was still in the company colour scheme carrying the People not Places subtitles. Photo taken at Ardmore on 2 November 1986

As well as expanding to the west the company also had the opportunity to expand to the east to the Chatham Islands. After working on the Chathams flying crayfish for various operations Craig and Judy Emeny decided to form their own Chatham Island based operation by purchasing a Cessna 337F Skymaster ZK-TAI (c/n 337-01456) from Air Rarotonga in November 1984. The aircraft was flown by Craig Emeny and operated under East Air’s licence. The aircraft made its first flight to the Chathams from Christchurch on the 8th of November. On the 10th it made a return trip to Gisborne and on the 11th it made its first flight to Napier. Meanwhile East Air saw the potential for an air service to the Chatham Islands and launched their own regular twice weekly passenger and cargo air service from Napier on the 18th of February 1985. The following month, in March 1985, Air Chathams obtained its own licence and started operating unscheduled charter flights in its own right with the Cessna 337. These were focussed on the carriage of crayfish to the mainland but also included other charter flights to and from the Chathams. Rather than being in competition with East other Air Chathams and East Air had a co-operative arrangement until East Air subsequently folded.

Cessna 337 ZK-TAI was operated under East Air's licence by Craig Emeny before the formation of Air Chathams. It is seen here on maintenance at Hastings of 20 February 1985.

Late in 1985 East Air sought approval from the Air Services Licensing Authority for further expansion, applying to conduct a Category "A" air transport service to and from the Chatham Islands from Auckland, Napier, Wellington and Christchurch using a Hawker Siddeley 748 as well as adding New Plymouth to their Napier, Gisborne, Rotorua service. East Air was keen to promote tourism to the Chathams in conjunction with a new lodge being built there and it suggested to Government authorities that it might be able offer an unsubsidised service to the Chathams with the larger Hawker Siddeley 748, but also acknowledging there wasn’t room for Safe Air and East Air operating two large aircraft to the Chathams.

However, the application was never decided as on the 5th of December 1985 East Air suspended its air services and two days later it announced that was to go into voluntary liquidation. The move was precipitated by Natwest Finance repossessing the company’s Cessna 402. The collapse saw the five full-time staff out of work. Alan Klenner, the company’s managing director, told Napier’s Daily Telegraph, “There was no single reason for the collapse. A number of factors were involved - basically we’ve just run out of money. The company was trading well at present, but an accumulation of expenses meant it could not continue. We spent a lot of money evaluating the Chathams service and a lot of money on the 748 project.”

28 April 2012

25 years ago - April 1987

25 years ago I moved to Timaru... there wasn't so much 3rd level traffic there... in fact for the month of April 1987 I only took one third level aircraft

Pacifica Air's Beech Super King Air ZK-CGS getting some maintenance at Christchurch on 29 April 1987. Photo : S Lowe
 Meanwhile, in Timaru the next three years were keeping up to date with the Timaru locals and visitors...

Cessna 180 ZK-BJY at Timaru on 3 April 1987. BJY saw service with West Coast Airways http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2011/06/west-coast-airways-last-airline-to.html, Southern Scenic Airways http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2010/08/southern-scenics-people-and-planes.html and Tourist Air Travel http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/shower-of-spray-and-were-away-nz.html. More recently Wildnerness Wings from Hokitika have operated it. Photo : S Lowe

Also at Timaru on the 3rd of April 1987 was Cessna 172 ZK-CSU (above) and the local aero club's Piper Tomahawk ZK-EIY (below). Photos : S Lowe

Regular visitors to Timaru for maintenance were Transavia PL-12/T300A Skyfarmers ZK-TRR (above) on 3 April 1987 and ZK-TRS (below) on 24 April 1987. Photos : S Lowe

A couple of classics... Above, Cessna 150 ZK-BWI at Timaru on 20 April 1987 and below Piper Pa18A-150 Cub ZK-BJG on 25 April 1987. Photos : S Lowe

And the photo of the month just because I love Maules, ZK-FNG at Christchurch on 18 April 1987. Photo : S Lowe

26 April 2012

2 Jetstreams and a Metroliner

Captured on the taxi at Wellington on the 21st of April 2012 was Vincent Aviation BAe Jetstream 31 ZK-JSH. Vincent Aviation seem to have taken over the Wellington Life Flight air ambulance operation... Life Flight's website says "We operate a Jetstream and a Fairchild Metroliner." Photo : S Lowe

Also out this week was Airwork's BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECJ. It was registered to Airwork on 24 February 2012. ECI followed it to Airwork on 3 April, and ECR on 19 April. Photo taken at Auckland on 23 April 2012 by S Lowe

Also noted at Auckland in the hangar was Airwork's Fairchild SA227-AC Metroliner III ZK-LFT which is now void of all Life Flight logos. This photo was taken at Auckland on 28 July 2011 by S Lowe.

Napier Farewells Air Chathams

Air Chathams will operate its last flight to Napier today.

Air Chathams first introduced a scheduled service to Napier in October 1991 when Beech 99 ZK-CIB was used to offer a twice times weekly scheduled service to Wellington and a weekly service to Napier. Metroliners later operated the Napier service but with the introduction of the Convair in 1996 Napier was dropped.

A Napier service, using the Convair, was reinstated on the 4th of October 2007 when Auckland was added to the airline's destinations. The Convair called into Napier on east bound flights to the Chathams. Hopes that the service would grow never eventauted, and there has been a consistently low volume of passenger and freight traffic through Napier over the years. The airline feels it can no longer sustain it, hence the decision to withdraw the service with the forthcoming winter timetable. In future the Thursday Air Chathams flight will operate Chathams-Auckland and return direct.

Air Chathams' Convair 580 ZK-CIE at Napier. Photos : John Wegg

25 April 2012

Feilding Fliers

Driving back to Auckland I caught a few new aircraft...

Jabiru J160 U/L ZK-BGY at Fielding on 22 April 2012. Photo : S Lowe

The Wanganui Manawatu Gliding Club's Piper Pa25 Pawnee ZK-CIG being readied for its gliding duties. Photo taken at Fielding on 22 April 2012 by S Lowe

Rans S-9 Chaos ZK-KOS was in the circuit. Photo taken at Fielding on 22 April 2012 by S Lowe

A new Cessna 152 for me was Air Manawatu's ZK-KTZ. Photo taken at Fielding on 22 April 2012 by S Lowe

On its third NZ registration is Partenavia P68C ZK-LAK. It was previously registered ZK-FUZ and then ZK-KAP. It is now part of the Air Manawatu fleet. Photo taken at Fielding on 22 April 2012 by S Lowe

Another new one for me was Zenair Zenith CH-200 ZK-UDY. Photo taken at Fielding on 22 April 2012 by S Lowe

24 April 2012

Choppers at Chch

Guimbal Cabri G2 ZK-HCS taken at Christchurch on 19 April 2012 by S Lowe

A couple of Garden City Helicopters' Robinson 22s... Above, ZK-HHH and below ZK-HZT. Photos taken at Christchurch on 19 April 2012 by S Lowe

Garden City Helicopters' Eurocopter EC 120 B ZK-IQT at Christchurch on 19 April 2012. Photo : S Lowe

Mount Hutt Helicopters' Kawasaki BK117 B-2 ZK-IPT. Photo taken at Christchurch on 19 April 2012 by S Lowe

23 April 2012

Hokitika Rotary Oddballs

The last couple of trips home I have caught a couple of helicopters equipped with rather unusual equipment...

Aerospatiale AS 350B2 ZK-HQG of Southern Lakes Heliopters equipped with a large camera. Photo taken at Hokitika on 17 March 2012 by S Lowe

McDonnell Douglas 500N ZK-HDN of Central South Island Helicopters looks like it is going to a jousting tournament...  Instead it is involved in geophysical survey work. The helicopter is equipped with a large stinger which has the sensor at the end of it. This allows it to detect the magnetic variances without interference from the aircraft. There is also gear inside the helicopter to measure and record the magnetic signals from the earth and rock below picked up by the sensor. Photos taken at Hokitika on 18 April 2012 by S Lowe

Ritchie Air Services Postscript

Thanks to Peter Lewis who has sent me a photo of the Ritchie Air Services de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth ZK-BFM, taken at Invercargill on 22 September 1962, just five weeks before its demise on the 27th of October 1962 on Centre Island in Foveaux Strait. The original post has been updated.

22 April 2012

"Reliability and Service" - Te Anau's Ritchie Air Services

Ian Ritchie was born in 1921 and learnt to fly with the Royal New Zealand Air Force during the Second World War. His war service saw him flying Blenheims, Beaufighters, and later, Mosquitos on night and low-level bombing raids over Germany. After the war he did some part-time commercial flying and instructing. In 1950, in partnership with Ron Bush, he established Gore-based Southland and Otago Aerial Topdressing Ltd.

In 1960 he formed Ritchie Air Services which, based in Gore, offered an air transport service as well as operating the first training school for agricultural (topdressing) pilots in New Zealand. Operations started with de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth, ZK-BFM, and later in 1960 Cessna 180 ZK-BQJ was added to the fleet. Soon after, the Gore branch of the Southland Aero Club was formed into the Southern Districts Aero Club and Ian Ritchie was its first Chief Flying Instructor.  

The de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth ZK-BFM, taken at Invercargill on 22 September 1962, just five weeks before its demise.

Cessna 180 ZK-BQJ at Invercargill. Photographer unknown.

On Labour Weekend 1960 and over the summer of 1960/61 Ritchie Air Services started operating scenic flights from Te Anau. This was the forerunner to the company receiving, in 1961, a licence to operate air charter and air taxi services not only from Gore, but Te Anau, Manapouri and Milford Sound as well.

The arrival of the first twin-engine aircraft, de Havilland DH89B Dominie ZK-ALB in July 1961 provided greater capacity and passenger acceptance and regular flights began Te Anau and Milford Sound soon after. In June 1962 the company’s base was relocated to Te Anau and the tourist flights over the scenic route between Te Anau and Milford Sound became the major feature of the company’s operations. There were timetabled departure times from Te Anau to Milford Sound and return. These were primarily tourist flights and were been dependent on loadings and the weather.

Ritchie Air Services' first de Havilland DH89B Dominie, ZK-ALB. Photographer unknown.
De Havilland DH89B Dominie ZK-ALB in a later colour scheme at Christchurch, ca 1968. Photographer unknown.. 
...and on a scenic flight
Ritchie Air Services timetable as at December 1962. Source : South Island Travel Guide December 1962

In October 1962 the Tiger Moth was destroyed in an accident at Centre Island in Foveaux Strait. This aircraft was replaced with another Tiger Moth, ZK-BRC, which went on to be part of the Mount Cook Airlines fleet for many years. While the scenic flying became the main focus of the airline it continued to remain busy with aerial topdressing, supply dropping and flying whitebait out of the remote West Coast bays.

A second de Havilland DH89B Dominie, ZK-AKY, was added to the fleet on the 18th of May 1964. It was sold to Ritchie Air Services by NAC, complete with spares, for the princely sum of £1000 pounds.

Newly arrived from NAC, Dominie ZK-AKY in NAC colours with Ritchie Air Services titles on a publicity shoot. Photographer unknown.
Reflecting Ritchie Air Services ownership by Tourist Air Travel Dominie ZK-AKY carries TAT title on the tail and Ritchie Air Services titles on the fuselage. Photo taken at Dunedin on 8 October 1965. Photographer unknown.
De Havilland Tiger Moth ZK-BRC and De Havilland Dominie ZK-AKY at Te Anau on 17 March 1966

The company merged with NZ Tourist Air Travel Ltd on the 11th of December 1964 but Ian Ritchie continued to run the Ritchie operation as well as being a director of NZ Tourist Air Travel. The company also kept its own identity and soon after the merger Cessna 206 Super Skywagon ZK-CHQ was added to the fleet.

Ritchie Air Services' Cessna 206 Super Skywagon ZK-CHQ
Cessna 206 Super Skywagon ZK-CHQ at New Plymouth for repairs after an unfortunate landing in 1963.
Photographer unknown
On the 12th of March 1965, the Cessna 180, ZK-BQJ, was on a scenic flight from Te Anau over Milford Sound when it crashed near Gertrude Saddle, Fiordland. Sadly, the pilot and his three passengers were found dead the following day. The aircraft was subsequently replaced with another Cessna 180, ZK-BMS.

In August 1966 Ian Ritchie severed his links with the operation and joined the Civil Aviation Authority in Wellington. NZ Tourist Air Travel was taken over by the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company Limited on 1 January 1968 and by this time the Ritchie name had all but disappeared.

Ian Ritchie- founder, managing director, chief pilot and chief flying instructor
Bill Black- pilot
Eion Buckham- pilot
Gary Cruikshank- pilot
Russell Gutschlag- pilot
Ken Leahy- pilot
Noel Mangin- pilot
Roy McIvor- pilot
David Wilkes- pilot

ZK-BGI Cessna 180 c/n 180-31018 leased
ZK-BMS Cessna 180 c/n 180-31975
ZK-BQJ Cessna 180 c/n 180-32372
ZK-CHQ Cessna 206 Super Skywagon  c/n 206-0314
ZK-BFM de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth c/n 86233
ZK-BRC de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth c/n DHNZ115
ZK-AKY de Havilland DH.89B Dominie c/n 6653‘Tui’
ZK-ALB de Havilland DH.89B Dominie c/n 6655

Taking Off Pioneering Small Airlines of New Zealand 1945-1970 by Waugh, Richard, Gavin, Bruce, Layne, Peter and McConnell, Graeme. Craig Printing Limited, Invercargill 2003. Particularly Pages 177-192 Chapter 11 ‘Hokonui Highflier- From Tiger Moth to Tourist Airline’ written by Peter Layne

This basis of this post was originally compiled by Bruce Gavin and I have added some more to it.