30 January 2019

Whitianga - Index of Posts and a History of Whitianga Airfield

The following is a list of the airlines that have operated air services to Whitianga and links to posts on these airlines... 

1955-1963
Post written - To be published in 2019


 Peninsula Air Travel
1963-1964
Post to be written


1964-1986
Post to be written


1986-1995
Post to be written



 1995-ca 1999


2009-present



2015-2018


2018-present



Driving into Whitianga from the south, the Whitianga Airport, owned by the Mercury Bay Aero Club, is one of the first and biggest landmarks that attract the eye of people entering our patch of paradise. And while there is a regular flow of air traffic all year round, the summer months certainly see an increase in numbers on or above the grassed runway. For many visiting flying enthusiasts, Whitianga is just a hop, step and a jump from main centres such as Auckland and Hamilton. It is aviation’s version of a Sunday drive for enthusiastic pilots and passengers who love the picturesque view of Mercury Bay before touchdown and after takeoff. So popular has the airport become that hangar space is at a premium and the demand from owners wanting their own private space to park and tinker with their planes currently exceeds supply. The airport is also used by a couple of boutique commercial operators to transport passengers on regular routes as well as offering charter flights to destinations around New Zealand. So where did it all begin? Well, like most things in the greater Mercury Bay area, the Whitianga Airport and the Mercury Bay Aero Club had small beginnings and a keen volunteer labour force to help get it off the ground (excuse the pun). According to notes taken from the aero club’s 40th anniversary celebrations held in 1988, it all started on 30 April 1948 when a number of interested gentleman signed their names to a piece of paper expressing a desire to become members of an aero club in Mercury Bay. What instigated the interest initially was when Mr L Russell and Mr H Rees discovered the government had drawn up a proposal for an airfield in Whitianga during World War II. The thinking at the time was that by having its own airfield, Whitianga would gain better access to the outside world as well as creating an opportunity for those locals wanting to learn to fly. On 1 October 1948, the Mercury Bay Aero Club became an incorporated society and not long after the first organised, albeit unofficial, flying day took place. Two Tiger Moths were flown from Auckland and landed on Buffalo Beach, where local aviation enthusiasts were taken for joyrides around the Bay. When the tide came in, the planes were pulled up onto Albert Street and parked in a paddock behind what was then the home of the Mercury Bay Bowling Club. In the early 1950’s, Norman (Boy) Wells expressed an interest in forming an aerial topdressing strip on his Whitianga farm at the northern end of Racecourse Road. The aero club, keen to get something happening, agreed to form the airstrip on Boy’s farm for an agreed sum of 450 pounds, which was to become the start of the club’s aircraft fund. Soon to follow was the start of another fund by way of things such as debentures and scrap metal drives to build a hangar on the land. A temporary strip licence for dual flight training using an Auster aircraft based in Thames was also sought from and approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. On 26 June 1955, the Mercury Bay Aero Club’s first official flying day took place when 30 club members were taken for dual flight training by Mr BH Packer, an ex-Air Force instructor, who had been duly elected as club instructor. In August 1955, Midland Air Services approached the club to operate an air service out of Whitianga, which was first flown by John Stokes. With the runway complete and a hangar under construction, an aircraft of their own was the next priority for club members. They finally settled on a Tiger Moth purchased from the Waikato Aero Club for the sum of 525 pounds. It was to be the first of several aircraft the club was to purchase over the years. The club decided in 1963 to make an application for a charter licence. This was followed in early December by the arrival of the club’s first commercial aeroplane, a brand-new Cessna 172, registered ZK-CDB. It had seating for four and a cruising speed of over 120 knots. Never happy to simply sit on their hands, the next item on the club’s wish list was purchasing their own airfield and on 4 May 1965 a proposal was put forward to obtain 200 acres of land owned by Mr R Rohrlach. The price was 15,000 pounds. After arranging suitable finance, a resolution was eventually passed at a meeting on 16 February 1966 that the Mercury Bay Aero Club should take the bold step to purchase the land. And so began the formation of the Whitianga Airport as we know it today. In 1984, a committee was formed to look into the feasibility of operating a twin aircraft out of Whitianga, which resulted in the formation of Whitianga Air Services Limited two years later. It was a move designed to segregate the club completely from their commercial operations, leaving the club members to concentrate on getting on with running an aero club. This summary of part of the history of the Mercury Bay Aero club is only scratching the surface of the club’s first 40 years. The making of two airfields and building some outstanding club facilities have been great achievements for a small club. The last paragraph of an anniversary booklet published in 1988 seems to sum it all up perfectly. It reads, “Many pilots have passed through our doors over the years as have a number of instructors. Some have gone onto fame or fortune, some haven’t, but one thing you can be sure of, they all had a lot of fun along the way.”

28 January 2019

Sunair at TRG earlier this month

Instead of doing a pre-Christmas BBQ Sunair do a post-New Year BBQ

Staff and Aztecs gathered at Tauranga on 12 January 2018

Thanks Julie for the pics

ZK-ERM

ZK-EVP

ZK-FVP

ZK-DGS

ZK-TDM

ZK-DIR

Missing were ZK-ECM, ZK-MTY, ZK-PIW (which was flying out of Whangarei on that day) and ZK-PIX. Nonetheless a good haul Julie.


Also captured was Piper PA24 Commanche ZK-PMC

More Auckland bits and bobs

Heliflite Charter and Training's Agusta A109 ZK-IAW at Ardmore on 11 January 2019

My first photo of a Qantas Airbus 330-300, Vh-QPA at Auckland on 19 January 2019

Fiji Airways Airbus 330-200 DQ-FJP at Auckland on 20 January 2019

First photo on this blog of Air New Zealand ATR 72-600 ZK-MVU at Auckland on 20 January 2019

First photo on this blog of Boeing 777-200 ZK-OKI being operated by Air New Zealand at Auckland on 21 January 2019

First photo on this blog of Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 at Auckland on 21 January 2019

Air Napier flights on sale...



Air Napier is advertising flights on its Facebook page and offering them on its website for flights between Gisborne and Napier. On Wednesday and Friday this week a flight will leave Gisborne at 8.00am with the return flight from Napier to Gisborne leaving at 3.45pm. At $299 a seat (or $349 if you want to sit by the pilot) I don't think there will be a lot of takers! 

27 January 2019

Recent Air Ambulance photos

On the 11th of January 2019 I caught up with three air ambulances at Auckland... The NZ Flying Doctor Service's Beech Super King Air ZK-FDR

Life Flight's BAe Jetstream ZK-LFW

and Air Wanganui's Beech Super King Air ZK-MDC

26 January 2019

Yak 52 at TaurangaI

I love Yak 52s... Here is Yak 52 ZK-YIK departing Tauranga on 26 January 2019.
 


25 January 2019

Auckland - Invercargill direct



Air New Zealand plans to launch its first ever direct service between Invercargill and Auckland on August 25. The national carrier will operate the trial service using an Airbus A320 jet aircraft five times a week. Full-price fares start from $89 one way but went on sale on Grabaseat for $59 on Friday. With a flight time of approximately two hours, the new service will be the longest domestic Air New Zealand flight. It will depart Invercargill at 6am on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and arrive in Auckland at 7:55am.  The Auckland-Invercargill service will depart at 7:35pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Air New Zealand Head of Regional Affairs Reuben Levermore said the community has been demanding it. "The Southland community has told us a direct Invercargill-Auckland service is important and we've been working closely with stakeholders to achieve this. "The challenge will be for the community to support the trial of a direct service to ensure it's sustainable, and we're confident they'll do so."


I've booked to try the service... and have a day spare to try out Stewart Island Flights!

A Couple More of MCO

Thanks to Abarth 695 who sent a couple more shots of MCO arriving at Auckland yesterday. He writes, 

I have some photos you may be interested in using of ZK-MCO's delivery flight. The first is quite distorted, by the APU exhaust of a Q300, but it shows the water salute. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time, I had no idea about delivery, just a couple of firetrucks practicing what looked like a salute. Anyway here are the photos:

Arriving into Auckland on delivery, Air Chathams' ATR 72-500 ZK-MCO.
Check the previous post for what it will be used for.
 

And to Abarth 695, being "at the right place at the right time" is part of the adventure of plane spotting. In some ways Flightaware and Flightradar24 takes some of that adventure away.

24 January 2019

MCO enroute to Air Chathams...

Enroute to Auckland for delivery to Air Chahams this afternoon was ATR 72-500 ZK-MCO using callsign Mount Cook 998.

From the Air Chathams' newsletter, Air Chathams has purchased an ATR72-500 to undertake scheduled tours in New Zealand for Tauck Tours. We have secured the contract for these services and are delighted to see the aircraft in our colours with the familiar Chathams Islands logo on the tail. The aircraft, ZK-MCO, will be based in Auckland with charters due to begin in February 2019. The first flight under Air Chathams colours will be on the 8th of February from Wellington to Blenheim. It will not currently be used for Chatham Islands or Norfolk Island flights.


Thanks to Daniel for these two fantastic photos of MCO on final approach to Auckland's Runway 23 today, 24 January 2019
 


You can read more about MCO going to Air Chathams and see photos and read the interesting comments at the following links...



23 January 2019

Golden Bay Air's ZUG



Golden Bay Air's Gippsland GA8 Airvan ZK-ZUG was seen enjoying the Nelson today. The factory new Airvan arrived in the country from the factory as VH-BFN on the 28th of December 2018. Since then it has been painted in Golden Bay Air colours and readied for service at Repaircraft in Nelson.


New to Golden Bay Air's fleet is Gippsland GA8 Airvan ZK-ZUG as seen at Nelson on 23 January 2019


21 January 2019

A Glimpse at the Hauraki Gulf Operators

I have managed some plane spotting while staying in Auckland over the last few days... I was especially delighted to get photos of the new Hauraki Gulf operators...

Winning the prize for the most upmarket aircraft, are Barrier Air's Cessna Grand Caravans. Here ZK-SDC is on approach to Auckland on 21 January 2019. Barrier Air operate scheduled services from Auckland to Great Barrier Island and Kaitaia.

One of Fly My Sky's four Britten Norman Islanders, ZK-EVO, on approach to Auckland on 21 January 2019. Fly My Sky operate scheduled services from Auckland to Great Barrier Island and Whangarei.

One of the two operators, Air Auckland operates two Cessna 172s from Ardmore to Great Barrier Island and Whitianga. Above ZK-CXP and below ZK-MDV at Ardmore on 21 January 2019
 

The second new operator is Waiheke Wings which operates transfer flights from Waiheke Island. Cessna 172 ZK-CBZ was at Ardmore on 20 January 2019

Waiheke Wings is a subsidiary of Auckland Seaplanes. Their DHC Beaver ZK-WKA was at Ardmore on 20 January 2019 and wins the prize for the most exotic aircraft operated in the Hauraki Gul

The only operator not flying into Auckland is Sunair which operates services from Whangarei, Whitianga and Tauranga to Great Barrier Airline. Piper Aztec ZK-PIW was at Auckland on 12 January 2019

20 January 2019

Jetting into Auckland

Jettting into Auckland later this afternoon was Alliance Airlines' Fokker 70 VH-QQX which is operatng a Tauck Tour of New Zealand. Does anyone know if this is the last of the Alliance contract or part of the Air Chathams' contract?
Photos taken on 20 January 2019
 


19 January 2019

Getting Closer to Delivery

Many thanks to Cody for allowing me to use these flights of ATR 72-500 ZK-MCO which is soon to join the Air Chathams fleet. Yesterday it did a divestment flight in preparation for handover.

ATR 72-500 ZK-MCO in Air Chathams colours at Nelson on 18 January 2019