31 July 2014

Oamaru Service Reduced

This from Tuesday's ODT...

Mainland Air representatives will meet today to discuss the future of its Oamaru Air Service. They will likely confirm a change in scheduling, to ensure the service is viable. Discussions concerning rescheduling have come as a result of spread-out patronage on flights, chief executive officer Shirley Kean said. ''At this stage we're just going to have a look at rescheduling,'' Mrs Kean said. ''We're going to ... maybe cut it back to two to three days a week.'' Since June 4, Mainland Air has operated morning and afternoon return services between Oamaru and Christchurch, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Morning flights leave Oamaru at 7.30am, arrive in Christchurch at 8.10am and return to Oamaru at 8.45am. Afternoon flights depart Oamaru at 4.30pm, returning by 6.10pm. A Sunday flight leaving Oamaru at 4pm, landing back again at 5.40pm was likely to be cancelled altogether, Mrs Kean said. Patronage had been ''really good'', but numbers had been too spread out. The service required five passengers on each round trip to be viable. The majority of flights averaged three passengers travelling to Christchurch, but none coming back, Mrs Kean said. From the outset, the company had made it clear if the service did not work for it, it would be scrapped. ''We don't want to pull out,'' she said. ''But if [rescheduling] doesn't work then we're out of there ... If this is not going to work, there's only so long we can keep going.'' She could not confirm a time frame to trial new scheduling before making a final decision on the service's future. Mainland Air's passenger mix was dominated by business travellers and local travel agents had been actively promoting it for holiday-makers. Wednesday and Friday had been the most popular travelling days.

It seems the service will only operate on Wednesdays and Fridays...

30 July 2014

Palmy's Air Ambulance

Captured at Auckland on Sunday 27 July 2014 was air2there's Beech 200 Super King Air ZK-MYM (c/n BB-1466). The aircraft is Palmerston North based is operated by air2there for a joint venture air ambulance operation with Helipro.

29 July 2014

Air New Zealand's new toy...

I finally got to take my first photos of Air New Zealand's newest toy, their Boeing 787-9 ZK-NZE as it departed Auckland yesterday for a training flight to RNZAF Ohakea... From a distance the 787-9 looks small... however when it was taxiing out from the Air NZ base I was struck by how big it appeared. I was also struck by how incredibly quiet it is! All in all, a spectacular aircraft!

28 July 2014

Oamaru - Is it about to lose another air service?

The Mainland Air Service flights from Oamaru to Christchurch cannot continue under the current schedule, says chief executive Phillip Kean. The five-day-a-week service was introduced by Mainland Air in June, after Mr Kean saw a market for it. However, he said not enough people were booking flights and he was only willing to wait so long before he reassessed the situation and reviewed the schedule. “I’ll give it a bit more time, but the way it’s heading at the moment, we won’t be able to continue, which is disappointing.” The plane departs Oamaru at 7.30am each day, then returns from Christchurch Airport about 9am. Mr Kean said he was happy to listen to views from the public about changing flight times. “We will certainly consider it and if we feel it is going to bring us more customers by flying out at 7am, which we have done before, then we will look to do it. “At the end of the day, whether we continue or not is solely up to the public and if they decide to get in behind us, or provide ideas which may help to attract customers to fly with us,” Mr Kean said. The 10-seater plane was often occupied by only one or two people on the way to Christchurch and there was no guarantee it would return with any passengers, he said. “The number of passengers is largely hit-and-miss; we go up with one or two, then often down with no one and that can’t continue.” Mr Kean said he was disappointed. “It’s definitely frustrating. We have thrown a lot of money into getting this service up and running and made nothing from it.”

Provincial Schedule Changes

Further changes are being made to provincial air services from the 5th of February 2015.

ATR-72s will be used for the first time on the direct flights between Napier and Christchurch with the morning southbound and evening northbound flights being operated by ATR aircraft. The other direct flights will continue to be operated by the Q300s. ATR 72s will also be operating between Christchurch and Tauranga on Saturday afternoons and between Tauranga on Christchurch on Sunday mornings.

As previously mentioned in this blog the Nelson-Palmerston North services and Beech 1900 flights to Kerikeri are being upgraded to Q300s. In addition to these, the late afternoon flight between Auckland and Rotorua and return will upgrade to Q300s. The morning flight was upgraded to Q300s in February of this year. 

Tauranga is also to pick up more Q300s flights to Auckland from late September this year. 

27 July 2014

TEAL's Domestic Route - Wellington to the Chathams

During the course of the Second World War the Royal New Zealand Air Force regularly made use of the Tasman Empire Airways flying-boats ZK-AMA Aotearoa and ZK-AMC Awarua to make a number of maritime patrol flights that searched for enemy surface raiders and checking unidentified vessels. For these flights the civilian boats were armed with 500lb bombs.

On the 25th of November 1940 the German surface raiders the Orion and the Komet intercepted the sighted and captured the steamer Holmwood which was on passage between the Chatham Islands and the Port of Lyttelton. The 29 crew and passengers were taken off, as well as several hundred live sheep, after which the Holmwood was sunk by gunfire. When the ship failed to arrive TEAL’s Short S30 Flying boat Awarua, under command of Captain W. J. Craig was sent from Auckland to search west of the Chathams. The aircraft sighted the Chathams but did not land or overfly them.

In the Aviation Historical Society of New Zealand Journal of December 2007 J W Best outlined the development of the Air Force Base and the first visit of an aircraft to the Chathams.

It could not have been long after this that preparations to get the base established were started. A temporary jetty, a large motorised refuelling barge, a launch, and kerosene flare floats, were provided. Two buoys were placed in Waikato Bay, a small inlet off the lagoon. Petrol (20,000 gallons) and oil (176 gallons) was stockpiled. Two sighting beacons were installed on land as night mooring aids. The base was under the supervision of a local resident, Mr Glennie.

Short S.30 Aotearoa (Capt. J. W. Burgess) left Auckland at 2:30 am on 29 April 1941 to undertake a reconnaissance flight around the Chathams. The flying boat searched some 15,000 square miles without incident then landed in Te Whanga lagoon at 11:19 am. Burgess was taken by launch to the refuelling barge. Only 44 gallons of petrol were taken aboard the S.30 "in ... accordance with instructions" Burgess reported. (This first visit by an aircraft was probably made primarily to test the facilities and equipment at the newly established mooring.) Burgess and his crew stayed less than 1 hour 30 minutes at the Chathams. The S.30 took off at 12:45 pm and arrived at Lyttelton at 4:36 pm. They flew back to Auckland next day (30 April), arriving at 3:55 pm.

A war-time visitor, TEAL's Short S30 Empire ZK-AMA, Aotearoa, was the first aircraft to visit the Chatham Islands on the 29th of April 1941.

Following the Second World War the RNZAF made numerous flights to the Chathams and in 1949 the National Airways Corporation tried to establish an air service to the Chathams using their Short Sunderland flying boats. The early hopes for the NAC’s service did not eventuate and NAC’s early involvement in the Chathams ended early in 1950 when it retired its Sunderlands.

In 1949 TEAL added four Mark IV Short S45A Solent flying boats to its fleet. ZK-AML, Aotearoa II, arrived on the 7th of December 1949, ZK-AMM, Ararangi, on the 29th of September 1949, ZK-AMN, Awatere, on the 23rd of October 1949 and ZK-AMO, Aranui, on the 30th of November 1949. A fifth Mark III Solent ZK-AMQ Aparima was delivered a couple of years later on the 15th of September 1951. The Flight International magazine issue for the 29th of September 1949 described the Solents as having passenger accommodation for 30 to 44 passengers with a crew of seven. With a payload of 17,124 lb, including 44 passengers, luggage, mail and freight, it has a range of 1,450 miles, cruising at 200 mph at 10,000ft.

On 1950 the Minister of Civil Aviation approved of Tasman Empire Airways introducing an air service between Wellington and the Chatham Islands. It was envisaged that six return flights per year would be flown and that if the Company felt that sufficient traffic were offering, additional services might be arranged during the summer and the Canterbury Centennial Celebrations. Approval was given for the Company to be subsidised up to £75 per return trip, the payment to be reviewed after four return trips had been flown. The Government thought TEAL’s service could be tied in with TEAL’s plans for its Wellington to Sydney service saving the cost of positioning an aircraft from Auckland as NAC had done.

TEAL introduced its thrice weekly service from Wellington’s Evans Bay to Sydney on the 3rd of October 1950. In support of this service a flying boat base was established at the sheltered western end of Evans Bay beneath Hataitai Point and terminal facilities for the flying boat operation were built. This was also to become the departure point for TEAL’s service to the Chatham Islands. In the event TEAL found it necessary to position a Solent from Auckland to Wellington for the Chathams’ service rather than use the aircraft that operated the Sydney service. This was due to the heavy volume of traffic on the Wellington-Sydney service, the necessity for the aircraft to carry on to Auckland for maintenance, and the upset to the Sydney schedule if the Chathams service was operated.

TEAL set the schedule for the first Chatham Island flight as follows;

Depart Auckland      0330 hours               
Arrive Wellington     0530
Depart Wellington    0700                          
Arrive Chathams      0945
Depart Chathams    1245                          
Arrive Wellington     1530
Depart Wellington    1730                          
Arrive Auckland       1930

The first flight of the bi-monthly service was flown by Solent ZK-AMM, Ararangi under the command of Captain Cliff Le Couteur on the 15th of December 1950. It carried a full load of 48 passengers from Evans Bay to Te Whanga lagoon including children returning home for the Christmas holidays. It returned to Wellington the same day check with 17 passengers. 

Short S45 Solent ZK-AMM inaugurated the regular service between Wellington and the Chathams on the 15th of December 1950. The same aircraft also flew the last scheduled service to the Chathams on the 7th of April 1954

First day cover for the first TEAL flight to the Chathams operated on the 15th of December 1950

For the period from the 15th of December 1950 to the 13th of April 1951, the Company operated five flights to the Chathams. One of these had to turn back after the weather deteriorated at the Chathams preventing it from landing. The first five flights, including the unsuccessful one, cost £4,419.10.6d to operate which was offset by £3,362.4.3d of revenue. This equated to a loss of £1,057.6.3d. If the unsuccessful flight was excluded, the loss was £119 per trip which was considered reasonable taking into account the positioning of the aircraft from Auckland and when a £75 subsidy per return trip for a flight from Wellington had been budgeted for. If TEAL had been able to fly from Wellington, the flights would have shown a small profit, approximately £200.

Flights continued to operate. A TEAL press release on the 30th of October 1951 advertised its eighth flight which was to operate on the 10th of November 1951. A Solent flying boat will leave Auckland at 4.15 a.m. and Wellington at 7.00 a.m. It will return to Wellington, at 4.30 p.m. and to Auckland at 7 p.m. The aircraft is expected to carry a large cargo which will include sausages, ice cream, oranges and bananas. Six flights a year are operated to the Chatham Islands by TEAL. Since the service commenced the company has operated seven flights which have all carried heavy passenger and cargo traffic. The service is operated on dates which best suit the convenience of Chatham Island residents and government departments and private organisations in New Zealand with interests in the Chathams. Further flights will be made on 5th and 15th December, 30th January, 13th March and 3rd April.

The flight the following month, on the 15th of December 1951, carried a special passenger. Father Christmas flew out to the Chathams by the TEAL Solent to bring Christmas cheer to the Chatham Island children.

The service continued to operate for the next two and a half years. In the 1953/54 financial year the six flights operated made a loss of £ 434.1.10d with costs of £6,029.4.1d and revenue of £5,595.2.3.

Passenger accommodation and the galley on the Solent flying boat service between Wellington and Sydney. Photos : National Library

In April 1953, the Whites Aviation magazine captured the importance of the TEAL air service... Ice cream and sausages are two items on TEAL's cargo list, which are greatly looked forward to by Chatham Islanders. In military jargon the flights made to the Chatham Islands by TEAL Solents could quite aptly be termed 'Operation Sausage." In the two years that TEAL has been operating to these outflung islands, 478 miles east of Christchurch, it is doubtful if there has ever been a service on which several hundred pounds of sausages have not been included in the air cargo carried. 

To the Chatham Islander, sausages are a delicacy, almost on a par with Stewart Island oysters or fresh Spring lamb so enjoyed by the "mainlanders." Half an hour after the local store-keepers have set up their improvised branch premises on the edge of Te Whanga lagoon, there is not a pound of sausages to be brought. Mainland housewives would open their eyes in amazement if they saw the way this favourite food is rushed. Happy shoppers walk off with five-pound bundles of sausages under each arm. Anybody who buys less than that amount is thought to be ill or right off their food. 

But eating sausages is not the only pastime in the Chathams. "Outsiders think we are rather backward,” says Mr C. R. Wishart, Chairman of the County Council. "If they were conscious of our difficulties, things would be different. There is a definite move forward here, although farming has been retarded by the irregular freight trips made by ships."' Sea freight to Lyttleton costs £9 per ton. Coal costs £15 per ton and benzine is 6/3d a gallon and has to be ordered in forty gallon drums. With irregular shipping calls, and the Solents unable to operate into the lagoon during the winter months, housewives sometimes have to place their shopping orders six months in advance. It is not uncommon for the family grocery bill to be in the vicinity of £100. And this has to be paid in advance. 

Every visitor is met at the end of the long jetty by Constable Geary, the sole representative of the law on the Island. Law or no law, policeman or not, he is known to everybody as "Aubrey." As crime is practically unheard of, the Constable also acts as Fisheries and Stock Inspector, Marine Department representative, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Traffic Officer and unofficial Public Relations Officer to visitors. Until recently he was also the local anesthetist, but he passed that position over to the new doctor's wife, who is a trained nurse. 

Everybody tries to be at Te Whanga lagoon when the flying boat arrives. All methods of transport are used to get there. Horses, cars, motor bikes, trailers towed by tractors, and the island's own special brand of horse drawn jogger, all cut a dusty trail for the lagoon. Some of the parties have been on the road for three or four hours. It is a great event. A day for beach picnics and reunions, a day for housewives to meet their friends and exchange gossip. Some have not seen each other since the arrival of the last flying boat, six weeks ago. All along the small, white shelly beach groups gather beside cars and under trees to enjoy this social event. 

A stranger to the Chathams is never lonely for long. Constable Geary sees to that. As "Chairman" of the local welcoming committee he introduces the visitor to different groups, and makes them feel at home. Waitangi, the "capital," is about 1000 bumps away from Te Whanga. In places the road, which winds through paddocks, just comes to an end. With uncanny judgement and without the aid of a compass the driver goes on, turning right and left until contact is again made with the other end of the road. Such detours are frequent. Minor dust storms are common. On the way to Waitangi, the visitor will see the racecourse, run by the oldest jockey club in New Zealand. The big event of the racing calendar is the Chatham Cup, run on New Year's Day. But it is the arrival of the Solent that is really a big day for the island and nobody leaves the lagoon until the aircraft has departed. Air transportation has made a big difference to the lives of those on the Chatham Islands and each flight is eagerly awaited. 

"TEAL" DAY IS REALLY AN EVENT on the Chatham Islands. The islanders receive treasured cargo, such as sausages and ice cream, as well as the more mundane items of freight. The pictures on this page show—above: small boys having a ride and a lot of fun on a Tasman cargo trolley. Below: "setting up shop" presents no problems, and after the Solent is unloaded it doesn't take long for trading to get under-way with improvised stores on the beach.

In 1954 TEAL made the decision to withdraw its Solent flying boats with the exception of ZK-AMO which was kept for the Coral route. TEAL’s plan envisaged this Solent would be based in Fiji and would only come to Auckland for maintenance and over-haul purposes three or four times a year and that was not practical for it to continue the Chathams service during the maintenance visits. The company recognised it would not meet the requirements of the local population “who are more interested in getting two services at a relatively short interval in order to enable islanders to come to New Zealand for a short period or to enable Government officials and others to come from New Zealand to the Chatham Islands for departmental purposes.” TEAL operated their last service to the Chathams on the 7th of April 1954. The flight was operated by Short S.45 Solent flying boat ZK-AMM, Ararangi, under the command of Captain Cliff Le Couteur and Second Officer M. R. B. Wallace.

A second article in Whites Aviation in May 1954 again underlined the importance of the flying boat service...

Last month Tasman Empire Airways made their last scheduled flight of the season to the Chatham Islands, 478 miles east of Christchurch, N.Z. The future of this service is undecided at the moment, but a statement by the Government will be made in due course. The pictures on this page show something of the character of the islands and a flight there is an illuminating and entertaining experience. 

Mr A. Prichard, a well-known figure in New Zealand Civil Aviation Administration circles, sits at the wheel of a Land-rover, a vehicle ideal for the rough, almost non-existent roads of the island. "Prich's" specialty is surveying aerial landing facilities, but most will agree he can put his hand to anything. 

The flying boat lands in the Te Whanga Lagoon, about seven miles from Waitangi, which is the most settled part of the Island. Passengers are brought ashore in a civil aviation launch and a whale boat; with quite a social gathering at the jetty. 

Captain C. Le Couteur, who pioneered the TEAL service to the Chathams in 1950 (second from left) chats with some island personalities. First on the left is Dr. R. G. Howes, Mr J. Jury, Chathams Fishing Co., and Constable Knight. 

A general view of the wharf at Waitangi showing the radio station on the hill. Although shipping is fairly regular, the flying-boat service makes residents feel in touch with the mainland. 

By reason of its climate, cold and very damp, the men are inclined to look a little rugged to the eyes of a mainlander - especially a woman - but kind hearts beat under the sturdy woollen shirts and the local bar is still a good place for a drink and a yarn. 

The flying boat service operated by TEAL to the Chatham Islands is a golden link with New Zealand. One has heard the expression. "no man's land," well this certainly does not apply to the Chatham Islands. This wind-swept group of islands consisting of Chatham Island, or Whare-Kauri and Pitt Island or Rangiauria, with several detached high islets and rocks is definitely a man's land. For them there is plenty of fishing for blue cod and hapuka and good shooting for black swan and duck on the many lakes. 

For the women there is plenty of work. The Chatham Island housewife cannot run round the corner for a loaf of bread, she bakes all her own. Mrs Ruth Knight, cheerful wife of the local constable, maintains her family are spoilt. "They get fresh bread every day. Sometimes I bake in the morning other times I might not get around to it until the afternoon, but every day there's a freshly baked loaf on the table, and don't they love it." Mrs Knight's approach is typical of the cheerful and philosophical manner in which the European women tackle their jobs as housewives on the lonely Chatham Islands. A spell on the islands would certainly bring many a whining mainlander up with a round turn. To the women of the Chathams the flying boat service, that TEAL has been operating for three years, is a golden link with the mainland - New Zealand. It comes as rather a surprise to hear the islanders speak of New Zealand as another country. They talk eagerly with the newcomer and one hears the wistful note in the re-mark-"we hope to get up to New Zealand next year." 

Mrs Ruby Patterson, wife of the commissioner, has been a resident for seven years and loves the life. "I just wouldn't want to change, we have become so attached to the island." A rather shy though very friendly woman, Mrs Patterson soon makes you feel at home and is anxious to introduce you all round. When I made the flight down recently she and Mrs Knight were busy cutting home-made bread for sandwiches on an improvised table as the passengers came off the flying boat. Cheerfully they spread out their wares for everybody to share and Constable Knight supervised the boiling of the billy. Newcomers leaving the flying boat are given the "once over" by the islanders, the native population looking at you fixedly but shyly. It can be rather disconcerting. Everybody is anxious to show you the island's good points and assure you that the climate is really quite good. Indeed the day we were there it was warm and sunny and preferable to the weather we had been having in Auckland. 

However, it is the winter months which are the hardest. Rain falls frequently and no month receives less than 2 inches, the wettest months being from May to August. July is the coolest month with an average temperature of about 45 degrees, and January is the warmest with 58. The population is 520, of whom 290 are Maoris. Sheep grazing and fishing are the main activities. At Waitangi there is the largest settlement with a post office, store, hotel, radio station and wharf. There is also a cottage hospital here, run by four Catholic nursing sisters. 

The resident doctor lives close by the hospital and makes his calls in a Landrover. It was Dr. Ron Howes who drove us from the Te Whanga lagoon over to Waitangi where we enjoyed a most hospitable lunch turned on by his wife. Judy Howes is a slim little redhead, full of fun and good humour. A nurse before she married, she has adapted herself to the local conditions and is now a better shot with a gun than her husband. Mrs Howes has plenty to do with running her household and helping her husband in his work. A big diesel stove, which she calls the "Beast," heats the house and takes care of her baking. Residents of the islands for nearly three years, Judy and her husband flew up to Wellington last November to spend some precious leave. It was two years since she had been off the island, and in her own words, "it's too long." Hungry for news of the latest fashions, shops and restaurants, this bright little helpmate of Dr. Howes, laughingly told us that the only fashions worth modelling on the Chathams were sou'westers and thigh boots. 

On the log books a flight to the Chathams is just another flight, but to the islanders it is an event. Everybody who can get away waits for the arrival and it becomes a real social gathering. Nobody goes home until the flying boat has skimmed the lagoon and is lost in the distance. To those of us who made the trip for the day there was something heart-pulling in the way the crowd gathered at the waters edge to wave a last vigorous goodbye. The women are very loyal to their menfolk, but it is obvious they too, would have liked to be aboard the flying boat, winging their way to a place where they can go window shopping, have morning tea and go to the pictures with another woman friend, buy food that they have not had to cook themselves, and above all see other people. Little things in them-selves but very important when you can't have them. The pioneer spirit of New Zealand women is not dead on the Chathams. The women there are a courageous little band, hewing out a life for themselves and their families under difficult circumstances; predominently cheerful but human enough to be wistful of their mainland sisters. If you told them all these things they would not believe you and laughingly tell you that "it's all in a day's work." They are too busy thinking of others to turn the eye inward. Our hats are off to you, girls. You're doing a grand job and aviation is, we think, helping you quite a bit. You certainly deserve all the assistance and the bright spots modern air transport can give you. DKD. 

Cooking is a very important talent on the Chatham Islands, where shops round the corner just do not exist. Mrs Judy Howes, the local doctor's wife, knows all the finer points of her big diesel stove (left) which she has nicknamed "The Beast!" The arrival of the TEAL flying boat is looked upon by the islanders as a social event and a picnic lunch is provided for everybody. Cutting up homemade bread for sandwiches are Mrs Ruby Patterson (left) and Mrs Doreen Knight. 

After TEAL's withdrawal the Chathams' air service received some flights operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force and later by the Australian airline, Ansett Airways (see http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2014/07/ansetts-service-to-chatham-islands.html) before the RNZAF re-established a more regular air service (see http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2014/07/ansetts-service-to-chatham-islands.html)

The Chathams was, however, to receive another visit by a TEAL Solent flying boat. On the 17th of October 1956, Short S45 Solent ZK-AMQ Aparima returned to Auckland. A couple of days later, on the 19th of October 1956, TEAL flew a charter direct from Auckland to the Chathams rather than bring an Ansett flying boat across the Tasman for one flight. This was the last time a TEAL aircraft visited the Chathams.

ZK-AMQ, the last Short Solent to visit the Chatham Islands on 19th of October 1956

Subsequently TEAL's Shorts Solents were withdrawn from service and their fates were

ZK-AML         Aotearoa II     Sold to Aquila Airways, UK
ZK-AMM        Ararangi         Sold to Aquila Airways, UK
ZK-AMN         Awatere          Scrapped after a fire sometime before withdrawal
ZK-AMO         Aranui            Retained for use on Coral Route. Preserved at MOTAT.
ZK-AMQ         Aparima         Retained for use on Coral Route until October 1956
Scrapped at Mechanics Bay 1957

25 July 2014

A couple of discoveries...

I hadn't got around to sorting out the photos from my last visit to the airport a few weeks ago until tonight and I was surprised to find a couple I hadn't noticed...

Air New Zealand's Airbus 320 ZK-OJS now features the company's new colour scheme. It is seen here at Auckland on 6 July 2014.
Previously ZK-OJS appeared in the simple black scheme as seen here at Auckland on 28 February 2014...
and in the blue scheme as seen here at Auckland on 13 April 2013.
Malaysian Airlines' Boeing 777-200 9M-MRD on approach to Auckland on 6 July 2014. It was shot down over Ukraine eleven days later on 17 July 2014 with 298 people killed

24 July 2014

Sounds Air's Wanganui Service

Sounds Air is looking at doubling its Wanganui-Wellington service. The company is trialling a new service into Wanganui, aimed at getting Wellington commuters to the River City as well as making better connections to its South Island ports. At the moment the company's Cessna Caravan plane flies from Wanganui in the morning with a return flight in the evening. But from September 1 there will be a flight from the capital to Wanganui in the morning with a return flight mid-afternoon. Andrew Crawford, Sounds Air managing director, said the change of schedule essentially doubles the flights to and from Wanganui. "The new service will fly down to Wellington in the morning with a return flight back to Wanganui that same morning," Mr Crawford said. "At the moment there's no avenue for Wellington people to get a day flight to and from Wanganui so this is what this new service will bring," he said. "The beauty of this new service will mean it dovetails into connecting flights to Nelson, Blenheim and Picton. So it means someone can leave Wanganui on the first flight and be in Nelson by 9am. Until this new service they wouldn't get into Nelson until 2pm." He said the company had had inquiries from Wellington people wanting to make that Wanganui connection. At the moment Sounds Air flights leave Wanganui at 6.45am Monday to Saturday, arriving in the capital at 7.25am. Return flights are scheduled Monday to Friday and again on Sunday, leaving Wellington at 6pm and arriving at 6.40pm. From the start of next month, the first Sounds Air flight will leave Wanganui at 6.30am with a return flight from the capital at 9.30am. That will be followed by a Wanganui-Wellington service leaving at 3.30pm and a return flight leaving the capital at 7.30pm, operating on the same days as the current flights. Mr Crawford said the schedule will remain over summer then be reviewed. That review will also decide whether to locate pilots in Wanganui permanently. He said it was a "bold move" but one that he believed will work. "We did the same thing with our flights from Wellington to Nelson and it made a huge difference." He said the revised flights from Wanganui and Wellington would also provide an ideal 'over-and-back' connection to Nelson, Blenheim and Picton. Mr Crawford said the Wanganui service was holding its own. "We could do with more passengers but it's slowly building which is positive," he said. Sounds Air took over the Wanganui-Wellington route when Air NZ axed its daily service in December last year and started its service on January 21. The airline has flown Cook Strait for 25 years.

23 July 2014

Tauranga on Tuesday

There was a bitingly cold wind at Tauranga and not a great deal to photograph... only one new photo...

Sunair's Cessna 172 outside the Tauranga Aero Club on 22 July 2014

A new one for me was Bell Jetranger ZK-HBG at Tauranga on 22 July 2014

Eurocopter EC 130 ZK-HKV at Tauranga on 22 July 2014

A much improved shot of Cessna 525 Citation CJ4 at Tauranga on 22 July 2014 

22 July 2014

A LOT of memories

John Mounce sent in these two pictures of Air New Zealand aircraft on lease to LOT, the Polish airline...

Boeing 767-200 ZK-NBJ went to LOT three years in a row... It is photographed here at Auckland on 9 May 1992 
Taken at Shannon Airport in Ireland on 31 October 1999 Boeing 737-300 ZK-NGD

21 July 2014

Changes to Mapping Company

I have just found the article below which was in the Hawke's Bay Today newspaper on the 4th of May 2014. As a follow on from this NZ Aerial Mapping was placed in receivership on 2 July 2014.

Long-established Hawke's Bay company NZ Aerial Mapping says it will remain in the region despite a decision to move some parts of its business to Auckland and sell its Hastings Aerodrome headquarters. The aerial photography and mapping company has put its buildings,hangars and land at the Bridge Pa Aerodrome on the market as it consolidates its engineering and flight operations activities in Auckland. The company has had a presence at Bridge Pa since the 1930s and says it will continue to run its production and sales operations from Hastings. Managing director Mark Roberts said the shift of some parts of the business to Auckland followed the company's 2012 acquisition of Great Barrier Airlines. "Although the two businesses are different (an aerial survey company and a commuter airline) there are synergies to be made," Mr Roberts said. "Some benefits have already been extracted, however, it is now time for the group to implement the combining of the engineering and flight operations of both businesses," he said. "Due to the types of planes the group owns and regular passenger transport operation being flown, it was decided the new facility is best based in Auckland and therefore the Bridge Pa facilities become surplus to requirements." It is understood some NZ Aerial Mapping staff have been offered the option of either moving to Auckland or taking redundancy. Bayleys Hawke's Bay, which is selling the property, says it offers an exciting opportunity for plane owners or an aviation industry business. The site is one of only two such facilities in the area. The 7465sq m freehold section includes a number of buildings, three hangar workshops, a fuel tank and a dangerous goods store. Tenders for the property close on May 22. "An opportunity now exists for an investor to take over this property in a sought-after area and potentially elevate the business to a new level," Bayleys agent Paul Garland said. The other Bayleys salesman involved in marketing the property, Daniel Moffitt, said the strength of the local horticultural market could present an opportunity for a horticultural aviation company to take on the facilities. "A new owner could also consider subdividing the hangars to extend capacity for operators, particularly those specialising in horticultural aviation given the demand of the surrounding market," he said. Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the district had been working to attract new aviation businesses, and he was confident the facility would find a new owner. "I don't like any business moving off but at the moment we're substantially gaining more than we're losing so I'm quite happy about that," he said.

20 July 2014

NAC - The First Civil Operator to the Chathams on Sea and Land

While NAC has only had the briefest of connection with the Chathams it holds the status of being the first civil operator to the Chathams on both land and sea.

During the years 1946 to 1948 the RNZAF operated a number of flying boat services to the Chatham Islands using their Catalina and Sunderland flying boats. These flights prompted calls for a regular air service to the Chatham Islands. On the 7th of October 1948 Cabinet gave  the National Airways Corporation authority to operate a flying-boat service between Wellington and Chatham Islands and return once every six weeks, on trial, for a period of six months. Any losses incurred were to remain with the National Airways Corporation until the end of the period It was agreed that if it was subsequently decided to continue the service that at the end of the first year's operation the question of whether NZNAC would be reimbursed or not would be considered.

Initially there was some question as to whether these flights would terminate on the Chathams’ Te Whanga Lagoon or Lake Huro. RNZAF crews that had previously visited the Chathams in adverse weather conditions were very much against the continued use of the lagoon. However, there were no mooring, launch and jetty facilities at Lake Huro let alone road access and so Te Whanga Lagoon was confirmed as the landing site. As this question was determined NZNAC also looked to ensuring adequate services at Evans Bay, including provision of launches, mooring, refuelling, “sweeping” the landing and taking-off areas as well as the provision of a place for checking in passengers. The Corporation asked Aeradio and the RNZAF to provide the same radio communication facilities for their flights as had been provided for previous Air Force flights.

NAC operated a survey flight to the Chatham Islands with Short Sunderland ZK-AMG, Mataatua, on the 9th of February 1949. 21 seats were available on the outward flight, but the Sunderland was full for the return trip on the same day carrying Public Works Department carpenters and secondary school students returning to New Zealand for the new school year. The fare was set at £11 each way with each passenger allowed 35lb of luggage. The flight was scheduled to leave Evans Bay at 8.15am arriving at the Chathams at 11.45am. The return flight was scheduled to leave at 2.45pm arriving at Wellington at 6.15pm before the Sunderland positioned back to Auckland.

Evening Post, 5 February 1949

This first flight was expected to mark the beginning of the regular six-weekly service to the Chathams, however, the service proved to be more sporadic. A return flight was operated on the 9th of March 1949 but the flight scheduled to operate on the 1st of June was cancelled due to insufficient traffic. The next flight was operated on the 17th of August 1949, but a week before the flight operated there were only 13 passengers booked - 10 bound for the Chathams and 3 on the return flight! At this time NAC wrote to the Director of Civil Aviation noting that “even allowing for a full complement of passengers each way on the Sunderland aircraft, the Corporation will still lose approximately £400.0.0 per trip when operating these flights to the Chatham Islands, and therefore it is necessary to recover as much revenue as possible on each flight operated.”

Over the summer of 1949/1950 more flights were operated. Wellington’s Evening Post suggested that the Chathams as a holiday destination - Holiday seekers who would care to spend a month at the Chatham Islands over Christmas will have an opportunity to do so by flying-boat. A Sunderland flying-boat is making two special flights from New Zealand to the Chathams over the holiday period. She will carry passengers from Wellington and mail from Auckland and Wellington. The first flight leaves Auckland at 2.30pm on December 22, and Wellington at 8am the following day, returning to Wellington at 5.30am from the islands. The second flight will be made at the same times on January 26 and 27. The Sunderland will arrive at Wellington from Auckland at 5pm on December 22 and January 26, and departs for Auckland from Wellington at 6.15 pm on December 23 and January 27.

NAC had three Short Sunderlands registered to them... Above ZK-AMG, which made the first flight to the Chathams and below ZK-AMK. Both photos were taken at Hobsonville in Auckland.

In 1950 NZNAC retired the Sunderlands from its fleet, the flight on the 27th of January 1950 being the last flight the Corporation operated to the Chathams. The flight in ZK-AMK was under the command of Captains Allan Henry and Brian Layne. 

Captain Brian Layne's logbook with the last NAC flight to Chathams recorded on 27 January 1950.

The NAC air service to the Chathams proved to be costly. The four flight carried 135 passengers and incurred losses of £436.17.11 in March 1949, £640.12.5 in August 1949, £439.12.1 in December 1949 and £360.6.9 in January 1950. The Minister of Finance approved the reimbursement of these losses to the Corporation.

Location of the three landing sites on Chatham... From left to right, Point Waikato flying boat base, the current Tuuta Airport and Hapupu airstrip which was used by the RNZAF and Safe Air's Bristol Freighters and Tasman Air's Piper Navajo. 

NAC was later to become the first civil operator of land-based flights to the Chatham Islands. This was made possible after the opening of Hapupu Airfield.

In 1956 the Barker Brothers looked at developing an airfield at Hapupu despite the Chatham Island County Council thinking the site was too inaccessible. The Minister of Civil Aviation wrote to the Barkers stating that “If you are prepared to proceed at your own or local expense without Government support at this stage in constructing the NW-SE airstrip, then conditional on the Hapupu site being finally chosen for the aerodrome for Chatham Islands I will be prepared to recommend to Government reimbursement of agreed on and substantial cost of construction of the airstrip up to 60% of the cost with a top limit of Government subsidy of £2,000.” 

On the 25th of August 1956, the Barker Brothers replied that they had already commenced preparation of the Hapupu airstrip and this was ready for use by May 1957. The first flight into Hapupu was made by the Civil Aviation Administration’s Douglas DC-3 ZK-AUJ on the 15th of May 1957. The first flight was flown by Captain Hewitt with First Officer George, Navigator Duke, Radio Officer Vaughan and Flight Engineer Young making up the rest of the crew. Also on board were Messrs Halley and Andrews of C.A.A. and Mr Pritchard of the Ministry of Works.

The survey party were quite impressed with the 4000x400 feet airfield which had been developed by the Barker Brothers. It was built along a slight ridge of sand and shell composition and the survey party considered it had “a well-drained surface, with a thick sole of grass. Despite previous rains, only tyre marks with slight tread indentations were left by the heavy aircraft.” While the survey party were happy with the airfield the Chatham Islanders were less happy as Te Hapupu was more than 30 miles from Waitangi, the Chathams’ main population centre. For half the overland distance there was no road at all so most traffic took a short cut through Te Whanga lagoon using horse-drawn joggers or tractor-drawn trailers. Nonetheless it was reported that half the population were at Te Hapupu to see the DC-3’s arrival.

During the previous two summers Ansett Airways of Australia had operated a series of flights to the Chathams. These had proved expensive and so for the summer of 1957/58 NAC were chartered by the Department of Island Territories to operate five Douglas DC-3s flights between Christchurch and Te Hapupu with an additional flight if necessary. The cost of chartering the DC-3s was estimated at £425 per flight, with an approximate net expenditure of £1000 (after revenue from ticket sales) for 6 flights as opposed to a net expenditure the previous year of £3,000 for flights operated by the flying boats. Flights were scheduled to operate on the 14th and 18th of December 1957, and the 26th of January, 2nd of February and 1st of March 1958 with a fare of £17.17.6 being charged for adults and a half fare for school children. The first survey flight was flown by Douglas DC-3 ZK-APA with the subsequent five charter flights being made by ZK-APK.

The operation of these flights proved to be very successful, with a profit of £600 being made on the Chatham Islands service for the first time. However, there were aspects of the operation of the flights that proved to be problematic. Prime among these was the remote location of the airfield and the difficulty of accessing it, the journey to the airfield taking up to 3 hours. The DC-3’s, while cheaper to operate than the flying boat, could only carry 14 passengers to Hapupu and 19-20 passengers on the return trip. It was felt that if further flights were to be operated it was highly desirable to install a radio beacon as well as radio communication from the airstrip to the aircraft. The cost of this equipment was estimated at £10,000. There was also the question of the recouping of costs for the construction of the airfield with the Barker Brothers wanting the Government to buy the airfield while the Government was willing to pay a £2000 subsidy plus a £10 landing fee for commercial flights. Despite the commercial success of these first flights they were not repeated.

The following year it was the RNZAF who operated the summer flights to the Chathams and who continued to operate a regular service. In announcing the RNZAF service the MP for Lyttleton Norman Kirk said the flying-boats offered the best solution to many of the islands transport problems. Asked why flying-boat service had been preferred to land planes, he said that the Te Whanga Lagoon had an area of 86,000 acres and offered multi-directional landing facilities not available at Hapupu which was a grass airstrip.  "The access to the strip is 31 miles, most of which is swamp and fern country and negotiated by tracks and four-wheel drive vehicles, and even these experienced considerable difficulty in driving the last 15 or 20 miles." he said, "This trip necessitates travelling in old clothing and changing into other clothes at the airstrip. This usually takes place in the bush." The lagoon, he said, offered a more regular service immediately with no costly development involved.

NAC was to operate two further DC-3 charter flights to the Chathams. The first of these was on Sunday the 26th of June 1966 when ZK-APA made a trip to the Chathams to bring trawler crew members back to the mainland. The July 1966 issue of NAC's Skylines magazine gives more details of the logistics behind the flight. Its not every day that the Chatham Islanders see an aircraft on their soil. However, on Sunday June 26 an NAC DC3 made the trip from Christchurch. Under charter to a fishing company, the flight was made for the purpose of returning a launch crew to New Zealand. However, the outward flight to the Chathams was used as a survey flight as required by DCA. DC3 ZK-APA left Christchurch at 0800 for the three hour trip to the Chathams. The return flight, which did not have the advantage of a strong tail wind took four hours. The aircraft was under the command of Capt. D. C. Emett with Capt. A. R. Westlake assisting. Mr. J. Hawthorn was on board as Flight Clerk and our Air Safety Officer, Capt. L. Dobbs, and Capt. I. R. Ferguson of DCA were carried as observers. Owing to the distance to be covered (470 miles), special engineering arrangements were necessary. Extra survival equipment was installed life-rafts emergency packs and Gibson Girl radio. Weight factors meant the cabin seating was reduced to 18. In addition, an engineer, Mr. T. Mosely, accompanied the flight and handled refuelling at the Chathams. Emergency picketing equipment, off-centre control locks and wet weather clothing were also carried. The complexity of these arrangements will give some idea of the work which goes into arranging an out-of-the-ordinary flight such as this. 

The flight proved to be a bonus for the Post Office with 300lb of mail being able to flown for the Post  Office courtesy of the charterer. On the return trip the aircraft carried 30lb of mail. The Press reported that the National Airways Corporation DC3 was chartered to bring two fishermen back from the Chatham Islands. The two men were the only passengers on the flight which was estimated to cost more than £300. The flight was chartered by Mr G. A. Blaikie, a Bluff fisherman, who owns the crayfishing vessel Kingfisher which will spend 10 weeks fishing in the islands. Marine Department regulations required a crew of five on the outward journey, but only three on the return.

Captain Emett's account of the flight was published in the August 1966 issue of Skylines... A low pass over the paddock, wind right down the strip, about 10 to 15 knots judging by the wind socks; no obstructions; looks OK; a climbing turn onto the downwind leg and call for "Wheels down." As the touchdown point passes under the left wing tip, turn in again towards the field. "Quarter flaps please, Tony." Speed coming back. "Make it a half." Speed about 90 knots now. "Three-quarters please, Tony." And as the flap goes down, check the air-speed; height OK; low over the titree; paddock looks good; check back on the control column; grass coming close. That's it! Wheels firmly on the turf - a bit too firmly for a "pansy" landing, but no bounce - well, what the heck, this is a proving flight and we've checked that the surface is hard! And so, for the first time in many years a National Airways DC3 has landed at the Chatham Islands. 

The Chatham Islands have become very topical lately with suggestions being made that a better service to and from the Islands would benefit their economy. Then there are counter suggestions that spending large sums to benefit the relatively few islanders is not in the best interests of the majority of New Zealanders. Back and forth go the arguments, but in the meantime, boats from the main islands are establishing an export business in crayfish tails from the Chathams, worth perhaps half a million pounds in overseas exchange. So big business and export crayfish may be a better reason for establishing a service to the Chathams, and it was certainly the prime cause of our flight. 

A new fishing boat had been taken to the Islands and two of the delivery crew had to get back to Invercargill as soon as possible. So a DC3 charter was arranged and the Department of Civil Aviation drew up a list of requirements which we would have to meet to ensure the safety of the operation. Because the Corporation did not intend carrying a navigator on this type of charter, the crew were required to demonstrate their ability to reach the Chathams and return, using "pilot navigation" techniques. Captain Tony Westlake took care of the pilot navigation department most efficiently and I think we made a favourable impression upon Captain Ian Ferguson from the Department of Civil Aviation and Captain Les Dobbs, NAC's Safety Officer, who had been sent along as observers. Accurate navigation is required be-cause there are two points en route which are of major importance to the crew. The first is the "critical point" which is a position between the airfield of departure and the destination airfield, from which it would take the same time to fly to the destination as it would take to return to the departure point. This distance varies according to the prevailing head or tail wind. The second, more important, is the "point of no return" which is more or less self-explanatory. For our purposes we had to establish a distance between Christchurch and the Chathams for which, if we suffered an engine failure we could return on one motor to Christchurch. Once we had travelled beyond that point we were committed to a landing at the Chathams if an engine failed. Our DC3 was equipped with a drift sight which gave us our drift angle and ground speed. This enabled us to compute the wind. Using radio compass bearings from broadcast stations at Wellington and Napier, positions were established and radio reports were made each 2 of longitude along our track, and thus we were able to keep a close check on our progress, proving that the flight was a reasonable undertaking for a two-pilot crew. 

Once we had arrived at the Hapupu airstrip the other members of our crew came into action. Tom Mosely prepared for refuelling and John Hawthorne, our cabin attendant, worked out that with ten passengers and their baggage we could carry 620 gallons of fuel without going over our maximum permitted weight. So Tom began the task of refuelling from 44 gallon drums with a willing Chatham Islander operating the hand pump. The fuel slowly passed through a funnel lined with chamois leather into the aircraft tanks. The chamois leather is essential because it prevents any water which may have condensed in the drums from passing into the aircraft tanks. This process gave us the chance to take stock of our situation and to have a chat with the people who had come to farewell our passengers. It transpired that to reach the airfield from the "capital city" Waitangi, requires a journey by tractor and trailer across a large shallow lagoon, which apart from the inconvenient transport, takes a long time. It seems that there are plans for a sealed strip near Waitangi, but the chap I was talking to had the opinion that the peat soil at Waitangi, the undulating country and the lack of nearby shingle for stabilising the strip, would make it prohibitively expensive. He was all for the Hapupu strip and building a causeway over the lagoon, but the Hapupu strip also has its disadvantages. Ian Ferguson said that for our trip the Chathams weather was the best that he had experienced, and with the wind straight down the strip we had no problems. But if the wind had been across the strip, the dense belt of trees on the western side acting as an escarpment would have added to the problem by producing low level turbulence. It would be easier by Friendship, both for the cross-wind performance on the tricycle undercarriage and for the ease with which it meets the fuel and single engine requirements. But the strip isn't sealed and it isn't very long. Therefore, with DC3 aircraft the Corporation and the Chatham Islanders must accept the fact that at times an aircraft may travel almost to its "point of no return" and then turn back to Christchurch or Wellington if the pilot in command is at all doubtful of the unpredictable Chathams weather. Given a good day it's an out-of-the-rut trip and most enjoyable—especially the crayfish. (One of our passengers supplied one each to the crew!) 

The second flight followed on the 22nd of July 1966. NAC's Skylines magazine reported, The aircraft was under the command of Captain A. R. Westlake, with Captain R. L. Anderson assisting. The Engineer was Mr. J. Walker and Flight Clerk Mr. R. Coventry. ZK-APK left Christchurch at 0800 hours for the flight. The purpose of the charter was to take some of the fishing company's men over to the islands and to bring others back. Also on the return trip was the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Kirk. The aircraft took hospital supplies to the Chathams, and a sick person was carried on the flight back. The aircraft returned to Christchurch at 1630.  

For links to other air services to the Chathams see...