30 June 2013

The Sky's the Limit - RidgeAir

RidgeAir was formed in 2007 by Marlborough businessman Norm Clifford and has, for some years, been fronted by chief pilot Ross McCullum. Ross has been flying for the last 20 years and holds an Airline Transport Licence with in excess of 10,000 hours flying time on. Before joining RidgeAir he had had 10 years as an airline pilot with a regional airline in Australia on SAAB 340s and Metroliners. The company is based at Blenheim’s Omaka airfield but also operates from the larger Woodbourne airport.

Chief Pilot Ross McCullum with Cessna 402 ZK-VAD. Photo : RidgeAir website
In October 2007 the company commenced helicopter operations with Robinson R44 Clipper ZK-HDD (c/n 299). A Hughes 369D “500D” ZK-HJF (c/n 510963D) was added to the fleet in September 2008 and the company has also used Hughes 369D “500D” ZK-HOI (c/n 510963D) from November 2011 to February 2013. The helicopters have been used for agricultural spraying and fertilising, fire fighting and lighting, thermal imaging, frost fighting and fruit drying, aerial lifting, power line work, hunting and fishing positioning, remote site access and scenic flying. The helicopters are currently operated for RidgeAir by Tasman Helicopters.

Robinson R44 ZK-HDD at Omaka on 9 December 2010... for photos of RidgeAir's helicopters carrying titles see http://nzcivair.blogspot.co.nz/2009/02/more-on-ridge-air.html

In December 2010 RidgeAir took over Ray Patchett’s Patchett Ag-Air and their Gippsland GA200 Fatman ZK-MAW (c/n 200-9721).

The company quickly diversified into air charter and multi-engine training with the purchase of Cessna 402C ZK-VAD (c/n 402C0076) in February 2008. The Cessna 402 was previously operated by Vincent Aviation. After its purchase RidgeAir upgraded its cabin appeal with new leather seats sound proofing and new avionics. The addition of the twin was precipitated by Norm Clifford’s frustration of “booking and missing inconvenient scheduled flights with regional airlines.” He wanted the ability to juggle schedules in line with his business needs and saw the opportunity to offer corporate travel for others in the same situation in the Nelson/Marlborough regions.  

Cessna 402C at Omaka on 9 December 2010
The plush interior of ZK-VAD. Photo : RidgeAir website

A later acquisition was Piper Pa34-220T Seneca IV ZK-BJM (c/n 34-48048) which arrived in November 2010. Both twins are equipped with modern auto pilots, radar, GPS and avionics and are capable of the latest Performance Based Navigation (PBN).

RidgeAir's Piper PA34 Seneca ZK-BJM at Nelson on 23 January 2014
The interior of Seneca ZK-BJM. Photo Source : RidgeAir website

In addition to the air charter work the twins are engaged on photography and filming work, advanced multi-engine instrument training and two crew airline training and In Command Under Supervision (ICUS) training.

RidgeAir has CAA accreditation, Part 135 “Air Operators Certification” for fixed winged aircraft while Tasman Helicopters, which operates the helicopter services also has Part 135 Air Operator Certification.

In May 2013 RidgeAir announced they are operating Monday and Friday return flights between Blenheim and Christchurch to help people do business in Christchurch. Flights depart Blenheim on Mondays and Fridays at 7am and arrive in Christchurch at 8.10am with the return flights departing Christchurch on Mondays and Fridays at 4.30pm arriving in Blenheim at 5.40pm. The flights require a minimum of one passenger to operate. These flights did not seem to operate on a regular basis.

Following the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016 RidgeAir commenced working with Air Kaikoura and the Kaikoura Aero Club to provide air transport services into and out of Kaikoura after the Kaikoura earthquake.  

Piper PA31 Navajo ZK-LWN was added to the fleet from November 2017 to August 2018. Meanwhile Cessna 402 ZK-VAD was sold overseas in February 2019. RidgeAir still works closely with Air Kaikoura in providing IFR support to their Kaikoura - Wellington operation using the Piper Seneca ZK-BJM.

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