30 September 2019

Mainland Air's New 172s

Mainland Air have recently added two Cessna 172s to its fleet... above Cessna 172 ZK-ELT and below ZK-ETT at Dunedin on 28 September 2019.

On the same day Mainland Air's Piper Chieftain ZK-KVW was enjoying the Dunedin sun... 

...while Cessna 152s ZK-NSC above and ZK-NSM were doing training

29 September 2019

Mt Cook Airline ATR72-212A (600) ZK-MZA delivered

Mt Cook Airline has taken delivery of its 24th ATR -600 series aircraft with the arrival at Christchurch 27 September 2019 of ZK-MZA MSN 1576. Delivered by Southern Cross International as SXI1944, the ATR embarked from Toulouse 21 September 2019 with stops at Heraklion, Riyhad, Muscat, Nagpur, Penang, Bali, Darwin and Brisbane. 

ZK-MZA departing Brisbane 27 September 2019. 

28 September 2019

Air New Zealand, Mount Cook and Air Nelson Integration.

Air New Zealand has made the decision to align all aircraft operations under a single Air Operating Certificate. From 19 November 2019 Air Nelson Q300 aircraft will be operating under the Air NZ AOC with Mt Cook ATR operations to follow in mid-December. The most significant change for other users of the New Zealand aviation system will be the change to utilising ANZ flight numbers and “New Zealand” as the callsign for all of these operations.

Air Nelson Q300 aircraft previously operating with callsign “Link xxx” will now use “New Zealand 8xxx” and be filing ATC plans as ANZ8xxx.

Mt Cook ATR aircraft previously operating as “Mt Cook xxx” will now use “New Zealand 5xxx” and be filing ATC plans as ANZ5xxx.

For those of you who operate at airfields served by these aircraft please note the change and when you hear “New Zealand” inbound don’t assume that it is a jet.

Air New Zealand Airbus A321-271NX (NEO) ZK-NNG enters service

Air New Zealand's 7th (and final) Airbus A321-271NX (NEO) ZK-NNG MSN 8908 has entered service with the airline operating its first commercial service as NZ729 from Auckland to Melbourne 27 September 2019. 

This example, configured to carry 214 passengers, conducted its first flight on 04 September 2019 followed by two additional flights before embarking from Finkenwerder 16 September 2019 for night stops at Muscat and Kuala Lumpur then onto Auckland via Cairns, arriving Auckland before sunrise 19 September 2019. 

The next NEO for delivery, Airbus A320 ZK-NHD MSN 9207, is expected late November 2019.

We caught up with ZK-NNG as it was towed from the Air NZ Jetbase to the international terminal for its first revenue service. 

Seeing Double in Kaitaia

Barrier Air offered its first double Friday night flight to Kaitaia yesterday evening. Due to increasing passenger numbers on its Auckland-Kaitaia service the airline has added an additional Friday evening service to and from Kaitaia as required. Whenever the 6.15pm departure from Auckland is full the airline will add a 6.30pm departure from Auckland.

Grant Bacon reports, "we had a successful trip up to Kaitaia for the inaugural double evening flights. The weather was great up north. We used Caravans ZK-SDC and ZK-SDD. The two northbound flights were full and we were 3/4 full on the return."

Barrier Air's inaugural double Friday evening service to Kaitaia... Cessna 208 Grand Caravans ZK-SDC and ZK-SDD on the ground at Kaitaia on Friday evening, 27 September 2019

An interesting selfie Grant

The Friday evening schedule is now:

GBA619   Auckland - Kaitaia   Dep 1815 Arr 1920 
GBA621   Auckland - Kaitaia   Dep 1830 Arr 1935*

GBA620   Kaitaia - Auckland   Dep 1935 Arr 2040
GBA622   Kaitaia - Auckland   Dep 2000 Arr 2105*

*As the first flight gets full, the second flight will be added on a as required basis.

A big thanks to Grant Bacon for the photos and comment

27 September 2019

Originair Operating Today

Originair is operating again today using Air Wanganui's Beech Super King Air ZK-MDC. The King Air positioned from Whanganui to New Plymouth and then operated a southbound flight from New Plymouth to Palmerston North and on to Nelson. A service was then operated from Nelson to New Plymouth before the King Air positioned back to Whanganui. Flights are also scheduled to operate next weekend with the King Air.

Originair last operated flights on 22 April 2019, again using Air Wanganui's ZK-MDC 

More Nelson Flights

Sounds Air chief executive Andrew Crawford hopes to double the 15 flights a week his company does between Nelson and Wellington as soon as Jetstar pulls out, reclaiming business Sounds Air lost to Jetstar's heavy price cutting on the route. "We're a small airline, we could not be offering flights at $19 or $39 which is what turned people's heads, and to be fair, why wouldn't it? "We seem to have an expectation in this country that aviation is cheap and that everyone is getting ripped off, but that's just not the case, and it's been proved because Jetstar can't keep going with these ridiculously low fares; they leave and we go back to reality. "At one stage Nelson had five or six airlines flying in there and very soon we will be back to two." Crawford said New Zealand was extraordinarily well catered for with air services, compared with countries like the U.S "where it's nothing to drive three or four hours to get to an airport."

26 September 2019

Air Chathams' Cautious Expansion Plans

Regional New Zealand could be in for relief, as Air Chathams investigates further expanding its network. The privately-owned airline has 15 aircraft, and has progressively taken over axed Air New Zealand routes. That includes Auckland to Whanganui, Whakatāne and Kāpiti Coast. The flights are on top of its longstanding services to the Chatham Islands from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Hamilton to Nelson was one of the new routes of interest, alongside a Masterton to Auckland service. Air Chathams CEO Craig Emeny said the airline wouldn't consider picking up the regional routes Jetstar will leave later this year because Air New Zealand was too tough a competitor. However, Emeny said the airline was in the very early stages of considering new regional flying. Emeny added it was early days, and any possible routes wouldn't launch until 2020. The Masterton to Auckland leg was last serviced by Air New Zealand Link, using a Beech 1900D, but it was axed in 2014 after the national carrier decommissioned its smaller Beech fleet. Kiwi Regional Airlines briefly flew between Hamilton and Nelson, before folding after less than a year. Its sole Saab 340 was sold to Air Chathams.  Emeny said the potential new routes would likely be served by one of its three Saab aircraft, which has 36 seats. There has long been chatter Virgin Australia or even its budget offshoot Tigerair could enter the New Zealand domestic market. Virgin, in particular, already operates ATR turbo-prop aircraft, the same type used by Air New Zealand. But times are tough for Virgin. The Australian carrier is planning to cut 750 jobs and reduce costs by $75 million a year. Virgin also owns Tigerair, which is currently running at a loss too. In that climate, it's highly unlikely Virgin or Tiger would look to start domestic operations in New Zealand - as it would require a significant upfront investment and the likelihood of intense competition from Air New Zealand. 

Boeing 737-300F ZK-FXJ

Arriving at Auckland during the predawn hours of 24 August 2019 was former Bluebird Cargo's Boeing 737-36E(BDSF) TF-BBF. On delivery to Airwork Flight Operations, the 737 had arrived at Brisbane on the morning of 23 August 2019 from Brunei and Darwin and departed in the first hour of the 24th heading to across the Tasman. 

It has since rolled out of the operator's hangar marked as ZK-FXJ and entered service on the evening of 25 September 2019 flying from Auckland to Christchurch as "Airpak 71", returning north as APK74.

However, it is understood the 737 will ultimately be destined for duties other than Parcelair operations so watch this space. 

On the move at Auckland to conduct engine runs 24 September 2019

25 September 2019

Haere Rā Jetstar Regional

Jetstar has announced it is axing its regional services in New Zealand at the end of November. The routes being cancelled are between Auckland and Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North, as well as Nelson and Wellington. Customers booked on regional services after November 30 will be offered options including a full refund. Jetstar's services between Aoteatroa's main centres, as well as its international routes, are not affected. The regional services the airline is dumping use Bombardier Q300 turboprop aircraft and were launched in December 2015. They currently fly 130 return services a week, during peak season. Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans said the decision came about due to an increase in costs and a drop in demand. "We understand there will be disappointment in regional centres at today's announcement," he said. "The New Zealand regional market is facing some headwinds, with softer demand and higher fuel costs and we don't see the outlook changing any time soon. "We have given it a real go. However, despite four years of hard work - including becoming the most on-time of the two major regional airlines and having high customer satisfaction - our regional network continues to be loss-making." Jetstar will continue to operate its domestic jet services between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown, as well as its Trans-Tasman and pacific services. The airline says all 70 affected staff will be offered other positions within Jetstar or across the wider Qantas group.

Source : https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/travel/2019/09/jetstar-pulls-out-of-new-zealand-regional-market.html

Jetstar will quit flying to regional centres - dealing a blow to those who have benefited from lower airfares as a result of competition. The airline is talking with 70 staff about the move to come into effect from December 1. Jetstar has been flying to Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth and Palmerston North for the past four years. The presence of the budget offshoot of Qantas has been critical in dragging down the cost of notoriously high fares on regional routes. Given the uncertainty of turboprop services beyond November 30, Jetstar customers booked on regional services after November 30 will be offered options including a full refund. About 20,000 passengers were booked on Jetstar flights beyond that date. Air NZ quickly pounced on their rival's news - offering discounted fares for affected Jetstar customers. The airline had lost $20 million flying the regional network last year. House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said Jetstar's decision was a big blow for regional New Zealand. The move was incredibly poor timing leading up to the Christmas holiday period. "November 30 - it's just before the December, New Year period, which sees a large movement of people," he said.  "It is a very difficult time for people to re-position themselves because of the lack of availability. And then what is going to be the cost of that, so that's hard. "It's certainly not good for people in the regions where Jetstar currently flies. And that's also going to potentially impact from a tourism point of view. Thomas said there was going to be an impact from an inbound point of view because it was going to be harder to get to those regions. "Jetstar carries a significant number of people so those customers are going to have to look for alternatives, in most cases of course will be Air New Zealand. "What we do know is where there has been competition it's been good from a pricing point of view. But also from an availability point of view for travellers." Thomas said: "It's going to be potentially harder for them to fly when they need to but also at the right price because the way airlines price of course is if they haven't got the lowest class of fare they want you to buy the next one up and when you don't have different airlines then there's less of those lower class airfares." The outcome for travellers was likely to be less availability and higher prices. "Where it really hits is for those people who don't have the opportunity of booking well in advance and typically that's people who have for example a family issue, or business travellers who have to book late in the piece." Gareth Evans, Jetstar's chief executive flew to Auckland to deliver the bad news and said his airline had given the regional routes a ''red hot'' go. He said there was never a good time to announce scaling back services but had done it today to give time to consult with staff - most of who would be offered jobs in New Zealand - and passengers who could make alternative arrangements. He said given the state of the market and the cost of running the regional operation, there were few prospects of any turnaround in the near future. The airline's jet operation here accounts for 83 per cent of its business. 

Air NZ pounces on rival's misfortune
Affected Jetstar customers will be able to purchase an Air NZ seat-only fare for the same route on the same day (schedule permitting) for no more than $50 each way. "We know how important air services are for regional New Zealand and that's why we're stepping in to support Jetstar customers with a special discounted fare," Air NZ chief revenue officer Cam Wallace said. Air NZ would commit to not increasing its lowest lead-in fares on the regional routes "until at least the end of 2020, subject to fuel prices remaining stable", Wallace said. "That means fares starting at $39 each way will remain for Napier and New Plymouth to Auckland, as well as Napier, New Plymouth and Nelson to Wellington. Lead-in fares for Auckland to Palmerston North and Nelson will continue to start at $49 each way." 

Struggle from the outset
Jetstar has struggled to make money on the regional services from the outset - and is blaming the increasing cost of running ''thin'' routes and a softening domestic market. Competitor Air New Zealand - which will benefit from Jetstar's withdrawal - has also reported a slowdown in domestic traffic. The company said today it had made losses for all four years of operation in New Zealand and it decided to pull back because it did not appear that those losses would be mitigated in the future. Jetstar flew up to 130 flights a week on the regional network using Q300 aircraft from Auckland to the four centres and between Wellington and Nelson. The airline says it will continue to fly its main trunk jet routes. Evans said the New Zealand regional market was facing some headwinds, with softer demand and higher fuel costs - and the airline didn't see the outlook changing any time soon. ''As a result, we're announcing a proposal today to end our regional services, with the final flights on 30 November this year," said Evans. "We have given it a real go. However, despite four years of hard work, including becoming the most on-time of the two major regional airlines and having high customer satisfaction, our regional network continues to be loss-making. "We understand there will be disappointment in regional centres at today's announcement." "We're immensely proud of what our regional team has achieved to help Kiwis see more of their country for less. Last year 25 per cent of our regional customers paid less than $50 for their flight and 75 per cent paid under $100." Regional customers have been very loyal, Evans said. ''We'd like to thank them, and all our regional stakeholders including airports, local councils, businesses and tourism organisations, for their support." Jetstar will continue to offer up to 270 domestic jet services a week on its jet services between Auckland,Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown and up to 100 international flights a week on the Tasman and to Rarotonga. "From the end of October, we're doubling our Queenstown to Wellington services to six per week and we'll continue to look at opportunities for our domestic trunk routes and international flying," said Evans. The airline will today begin a consultation process with about 70 affected employees on the proposal and expected to announce a final decision before the end of October. Alternative employment options would be available for all affected Jetstar regional employees – made up chiefly of pilots and cabin crew – across Jetstar and Qantas Group businesses in New Zealand and Australia. Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Hamish Saxton said a proposed reduction or removal of Jetstar flights was likely to result in a reduction in capacity and frequency for the flights between Hawke's Bay and Auckland. "The arrival of Jetstar to the region brought with it increased capacity and a greater frequency of flights, so effectively Jetstar adding to the Air NZ services to Hawke's Bay allowed more people to travel more frequently," he said. Saxton said that with a competitor airline comes the need to compete on schedules and airfares. "What that will mean in terms of airfares after November remains to be seen." The airline has about 50 pilots, most of whom are members of the New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA). NZALPA President Andrew Ridling said that NZALPA has already begun work with its Jetstar Regional Pilots' Council and Jetstar Regional pilots. "We're working through Jetstar Regional's proposal which will form the consultation process. Our first priority is to support our members and best represent and protect the interests of the affected pilots and their families,'' said the association's president Andrew Ridling. NZALPA has been told by the company that it will look to redeploy Jetstar Regional pilots within the Qantas Group, either here in New Zealand or in Australia, and redundancy would be available to those pilots for whom redeployment was not acceptable. "This really is an unsettling and uncertain time for Jetstar colleagues and friends and our staff and the wider NZALPA membership have come together to do all we can to support affected pilots and each other," said Ridling.

Airliner to Accommodation

An aircraft that has spent around 50 years taking travellers to the sky is set for a different type of retirement on the ground in Whanganui. Air Chathams' aircraft ZK-CIF has been bought by Castlecliff resident James Barron, who plans on turning it into accommodation. The project began to take off several months ago with Barron eyeing up different options online before landing on the Air Chathams ZK-CIF Convair 580. "I'd gone to bid on a smaller one earlier on Trade Me and that ended up going for a pretty ridiculous price. "A freighter that Air Chathams is disposing of came up and we entered negotiations, and that's when [Air Chathams general manager] Duane Emeny said they've also got the CIF, which is fully kitted out. "I think when they realised we were talking about doing a serious project and not just cutting the nose off and making a 10 metre square man shed, they wanted to help the old girl get a really good retirement."  The aircraft began life with Belgian airline Sabena in 1956 and spent around 12 years in Europe before being taken to the United States. For almost the next four decades the aircraft was used for travel in the United States and was mostly based in Texas and Alaska. In 2005 Air Chathams bought the aircraft and initially tasked it with flights in Tonga and Fiji as part of Chathams Pacific. The CIF was then used to take travellers between Whanganui and Auckland. It was fully repainted in Air Chathams' colours in 2016. Barron said he is now looking at costs to get the aircraft from Auckland to Whanganui for conversion work. "We've engaged in feasibility discussions with different levels of [Whanganui District] council, and Whanganui and Partners have been great. They see the potential for something different and striking in Whanganui as well." When it comes to what the inside of the 52-seat aircraft may look like after conversion, Barron said he's leaving it up to the experts. "Largely, we're getting a motorhome conversion crew to have a look at it and give us their advice." Emeny said the company had to make a decision around two aircraft in its fleet. "One required major corrosion repair that could not be justified for the amount of use we would recover from the aircraft.  "The other was cargo only and surplus to requirements, so rather than purchasing additional engines and accessories we decided to part out that aircraft to support the remainder of our Convair fleet." It's the only occasion the company has sold any of its fleet to a private buyer in the last 10 years. Emeny said he was excited to see an Air Chathams' aircraft given a unique second life, especially in Whanganui, where the company has a great deal of civic pride. The Convair 580 is to be placed near Karaka St, where it will have a connection to its former life, as it sits under the Castlecliff flight path.

Source : Whanganui Chronicle, 25 September 2019

Convair 580 ZK-CIF at Auckland on 30 December 2018

Air Chathams now have three Convairs in their fleet, ZK-CIE in full passenger configuration, ZK-CIB in Combi configuration and ZK-KFL as a pure freighter.

24 September 2019

Kaikōura Keen for an Air Service Again

A plan for growing Kaikōura's air services is well under way. The town's aerodrome was listed in a Kaikōura District Council document as a key development project, among others with the potential to boost growth in the district. The council, which owned the aerodrome, had now laid the groundwork for expanding emergency and passenger air services to and from the seaside town. It said the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake highlighted the need for greater resilience in air services. The Civil Aviation Authority has now granted approval for the aerodrome and heliport proposal that built on developing existing infrastructure, provided the council met certain conditions, such as improving some safety aspects of air operations. The Kaikōura deputy mayor, Julie Howden, said the council's "resilience package", included plans for the aerodrome after the quake proved it was a major transport hub. Commuter airline Sounds Air provided temporary services to and from Christchurch and Blenheim after the quake. Ms Howden said it was a great service - alongside that provided by the Kaikōura Aero Club, South Pacific Helicopters and Wings Over Whales, which proved the limitations of the aerodrome, and the need to develop it. "NCTIR (the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance) also had an area to work out of, but another trigger for the aerodrome is our financial sustainability (project) which the government has helped to fund us. "The airport and harbour are areas we've looked into and done reports on. It's a mix of everything and looking into the future and what we think will be required." Ms Howden, said and she would like to see scheduled services continued, such as the emergency services set up by Sounds Air. "Down the road into the future, maybe it would be nice to have Sounds Air back, or a future alternative for tourists to fly in and fly out. "In saying that, the aero club and Wings Over Whales do currently provide charter services, but it would be nice to get slightly larger aircraft in here." She said there was some capacity to extend the runway, but beyond that, further expansion would encroach on private land. "I wouldn't like to comment on whether that could be done or not, but as I say, the Sounds Air Caravans were able to get in, but it wasn't ideal as they could have done with a bit more runway." Ms Howden said the council was not planning to build a new airport, given the cost, but wanted to develop what it had. The CAA said on completion of an aeronautical study, triggered by the council's application, that it was satisfied the proposed action would not impact the "safe and efficient use of airspace", but may affect the safety of people or property on the ground. It has instructed the council to provide the authority with an annual report of traffic volumes, to set up an aerodrome/airspace user group and develop an aerodrome operations manual. The CAA also instructed that helicopter take-offs and landings should be restricted to the two proposed new areas.

A history of Kaikōura airfield can be found here : http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2014/11/kaikoura-airfield-history.html

A history of Sounds Air's services to Kaikōura can be found here : http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2015/01/sounds-airs-kaikoura-service.html

Wrong setting on the camera so a little blurred... and if you think the runway is short it is... it is only 700 metres long and so Sounds Air took only a maximum of 10 passengers in or out.

The Kaikōura terminal

22 September 2019

On the Inaugural International

A huge thanks to Don Colway for writing this review of Air Chathams' new air service to Norfolk Island...

There cannot be too many places left on Earth these days where two and a half hours can be spent on an international flight in a 60 year old Convair 580. Air Chathams AucklandNorfolk Island service is now one. 

I had had the privilege of being on their first scheduled flight (Flight 3C 401 on 6 September 2019) and what an experience it was. Air Chathams has a thoroughly deserved reputation of really looking after their passengers and on this occasion they certainly did.

Air Chathams had their own counter at Auckland with some Air Chathams staff behind the counter. As we lined up for check in we were all given an Air Chathams baseball cap ( which came in very useful on the Island). There were a few teething issues with check in, but I’ve seen far worse on regular international flights.

In due course we were treated to the sight of Convair 580 ZK-CIB being towed towards the International Terminal. When Convairs come into Whanganui they look huge but in among 777s and 787 CIB looked tiny. CIB was being used as at present there is heavy passenger traffic to and from the Chatham Islands so ZK-CIE is handling that route.

Boarding was by way of a bus out to where CIB was parked. All handled very smoothly.

One disadvantage of CIB is that because of being a combi freighter not all the seats rows have windows and initially we were quite disappointed to find we were in one of the windowless rows. However, the disappointment soon evaporated in the sheer excitement of the moment.

Flight level 240 - 24,000 feet en route to Norfolk

The seats still had huge legroom and space and were about 150% better than the very middle seats we had in a crowded 10 seat per row 777-200 LR for 16 hour flight with Qatar recently.

38 of the 39 seats were full on the first flight - Photo : Don Colway
Up front doing the flying were Craig and Duane Emeny (father and son) - the airline's CEO and General Manager. After take off we were allowed to move around and from time to time were able to find a window.

Father and son... Craig and Duane Emeny on Norfolk - Air Chathams photo

The two and a half hour flight seemed to go quickly aided by coffee, tea and of course the ever popular “Tim Tams” (What would Air Chathams be without Tim Tams?). Of course there was also the sound of those wonderful Allison turboprops and the company of other passengers fill in the time..

The flight was met by a local Polynesian dance group and a few local VIPS.

Air Chathams' first scheduled international service. Convair 580 ZK-CIB on Norfolk Island on 6 September 2019. Don Colway photo

A week later we returned (Flight 3C 402 on 13 September 2019) and guess what the windowless seats again. However, we were assured that once airborne we could move to window seats which we did and remained there until approach to Auckland. Interestingly of the eight passengers in the windowless area only four of us moved.

Convair 580 ZK-CIB back at Norfolk for Don's return flight home on 13 September 2019 - Don Colway photos

Again fantastic and genuine cabin service.

Very interesting to also note that the flight was also carrying what appeared to be a fair amount of freight –making good use of CIB’s ‘combi’ capacity…..a direct air freight service to/from New Zealand may be very useful to Norfolk Islanders.

A solid machine - Don Colway photo

All too soon back in Auckland and a few hours wait before boarding a regular SAAB flight back to Whanganui..

“Islanders” were very welcoming and were all very interested that we had come on the new direct service. Many spoke of a real sadness that the Air New Zealand direct service had been dropped and expressed a real enthusiasm for the new Air Chathams service.

I thoroughly recommend this new service especially to my fellow aircraft enthusiasts. How much longer the Convairs will be around is anyone’s guess – like so many things it depends to whom you talk.

One thing is sure they won’t last forever so my recommendation is do this unique flight before it’s too late.

I’m also prepared to bet that readers will fall in love with the Island – we did.

21 September 2019

Jetstream Movements

There have been BAe Jetstream movements in the last few days... Originair's BAe Jetstream 31 was seen flying at Palmerston North. Originair's website shows flights resuming on 4 October 2019 from Nelson to both New Plymouth and Palmerston North.

BAe Jetstream 31 ZK-JSH at Nelson on 18 December 2017
Meanwhile, according to the CAA aircraft register BAe Jetstream 32s ZK-ECI and ZK-ECJ have had a change of ownership and have been reregistered to ANCL Investments Limited, (Air National Corporate). What that means for both aircraft remains to be seen. They were previously registered to air2there.

BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECI at Nelson on 24 January 2018
 BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECJ at Tauranga  on 7 November 2016

16 September 2019

Challenges and Opportunities for Saab Services to Northern Cook Islands

Engineers have inspected the Cooks’ most remote runways as the local airline talks with government about upgrading the Northern Group’s coral runways. It comes after the airline announced it was adding a second Saab 340BPlus 34 passenger turbo-prop to its fleet, later this year. The new aircraft was previously operated by Japan Airlines subsidiary JAC and is presently undergoing maintenance in the USA in preparation for its delivery flight to Rarotonga and induction into the airline’s fleet in October. The second Saab will add capacity initially to the Rarotonga-Aitutaki route with the potential for regional charter flights to Tahiti and Niue. The new aircraft has been the catalyst for Air Rarotonga entering discussions with government about upgrading the runways on Manihiki, Penrhyn and potentially Pukapuka – to allow regular scheduled flights there. Saab flights into the Northern Group would substantially reduce the cost of travel for local people on the back of specialised small-scale tourism to the North, Air Rarotonga chief executive Ewan Smith said. “By operating a larger aircraft it means we can carry almost a full load up there, so if we can supplement local needs with a little bit of tourism it means we can carry 20 to 25 passengers per flight and then we can reduce prices significantly.” At the moment a flight to the Northern Group is around $1300 each way. If the new service eventuates this would reduce by more than half, Smith envisages. Smith says there is a lot of “commentary” about the cost of flying to the Cooks’ outer reaches – but the facts are that it is 1300 kilometres up there to coral runways that can accommodate small aircraft only. “The consequences of that is we are very limited in the payload we can carry – a 15-seat Bandeirante can carry only seven or eight passengers. That’s why it so expensive along with logistical expenses such as shipping fuel up there. Initially the new aircraft will supplement capacity to Aitutaki at peak times. We are also preparing for some regional charter flying to Niue and Tahiti as required.” But Smith said he’s most excited about the positive discussions he’s having with government to open up air travel to the northern islands. “If we can find a commercial solution to open up air access to the Northern Group, without relying on taxpayer subsidies, then it will be a great achievement,” he said. “These new aircraft require a paved runway and we’ve made a commitment to government that if those runways are upgraded then we will offer a weekly scheduled service to the north.” Just a couple of weeks ago the director of Civil Aviation, Dennis Hoskin, and an engineer from the New Zealand company that upgraded the Aitutaki runway back in 2003, visited Manihiki and Penryhn to evaluate the airstrips and to come up with a proposal to upgrade them to accommodate the new Saabs. Final upgrade plans would need to go out for tender if the government decides to pursue the idea. “It’s quite a substantial project and our discussions with government are in the preliminary stages but essentially our position is, we are the air operator here and we’ve said, ‘look, if the infrastructure can be upgraded up there, then we’ll make the commitment to schedule services at much improved economics’.” Smith believes there are seasoned world travellers who are looking for experiential holidays in the world’s remotest places and with a specific Northern Group marketing plan there could be enough custom to essentially subsidise scheduled weekly flights to the north. “These are people that want an authentic experience, they don’t want to stay in hotels. They want to meet the people that live in those places and do what they do. “We’ll develop product around the experience we’ve gained with our atoll excursion with our jet. It’s given us experience and exposure to a boutique market we’ve not seen before. “It’s different to what we see here on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, it’s a different demographic altogether. It’s people who seek places that are very, very different, and very unique.” Founded in 1978, Air Rarotonga celebrated 40 years of inter-island air service in 2018.

15 September 2019

The Air Hamilton Advantage

Air Hamilton was established in August 1981 by Kevin, Lochore, Roderick McAdam, Russell Sharpe, and Grant and Carol Wilkinson. Grant was the manager and chief pilot/instructor while his wife Carol was in charge of the office and reception as well as being a commercial pilot and instructor.. The company offered twin or single-engined pilot training, hire, air charter, scenic flights, aerial inspection and photography and air freight using two Cessna 172s, ZK-WFS and WFT, a four-seat Gulfstream Cougar ZK-SSS, and a six-seat Beechcraft Baron ZK-UPB. Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II ZK-EQA was added to the fleet in October 1981.

Waikato Times, 8 October 1981

With the acquisition of the Seneca the company started an air taxi service between Hamilton and New Plymouth. In November 1982 the company applied to the Air Services Licensing Authority make this a scheduled service with return services operated on weekday mornings and late afternoons. As the company was already operating an air taxi service to New Plymouth and the Licensing Authority agreed that this demonstrated that the service was desirable. Objections by Eagle Airways, which flew the same route in middle of the day, were over-ruled as Air Hamilton proposed to operate its flights in the early morning and late afternoon and this was more convenient for business passengers. Approval was given for the service in late December 1982 and the scheduled service started in January 1983.

Air Hamilton's Piper Seneca ZK-EQA at Hokitika in May 1982

Waikato Times, 5 January 1983

Also in January 1983 the company operated a newspaper service for the Waikato Times to summer holiday makers on the Coromandel Peninsula. From Hamilton the service landed at Pauanui before doing newspaper drops at Tairua, Hot Water Beach and Hahei. After landing at Whitianga newspaper drops were made at Whangapoua and Papa Aroha before that last stop at Coromandel. 

Waikato Times, 5 January 1983

From the 1st of April 1983 competition came on the Hamilton-New Plymouth route with Eagle Air increasing their frequency to three flights each weekday. To counter this and to find additional passengers, from the 15th of May 1983 an extension was made to the Hamilton-New Plymouth service in the form of a connecting Hamilton-Tauranga air taxi service.

Air Hamilton's timetable effective 15 May 1983

Also in May 1983 Air Hamilton took delivery of a Piper Pa28 Arrow IV, ZK-FKJ.
Air Hamilton's Piper Arrow IV ZK-FKJ at Nelson on 15 April 1985

In September 1983 Air Hamilton applied to the Air Services Licensing Authority to reduce the minimum number of flights to New Plymouth from 10 to a minimum of 6 flights per week offering it the flexibility to not operate if there were no passengers.

Air Hamilton's Beech Baron ZK-UPB at Hokitika in January 1982. It was the only twin operated by the company that did not carry Air Hamilton titles.

In November 1983 the company was sold to Chris and Gloria Bowden. Chris had learnt to fly with the Waikato Aero Club in 1973. He later did his commercial pilot's licence with the Canterbury Aero Club in 1979, and instructor's rating the Waikato Aero Club in 1980. He had been chief flying instructor for the Matamata Flying Club for eighteen months prior to taking over Air Hamilton. 

About this time Air Hamilton moved its base to the main Hamilton airport terminal. By this stage the fleet comprised of the Seneca, ZK-EQA, the Turbo Arrow, ZK-FKJ, the Cougar ZK-SSS and Cessna 172 ZK-WFT. Air Hamilton operated from an office inside the main foyer of the Hamilton Airport terminal. The company also carried out multi-engine and single-engine air charter, and advanced training up to single-pilot, multi-engine instrument ratings with students staying in the Bowden's own home. Eagle Air often used Air Hamilton's Cougar (with Chris often flying himself) to do recovery flights/charters when they had an issue on their network. 

Despite the competition with Eagle Air, Air Hamilton continued to operate the scheduled service to New Plymouth twice a day during the week and once a day during the weekend. The service presumably ended sometime in 1984 and that charter and flight training sometime after that.

If you have any information on the final phase of the Air Hamilton story I would be delighted to hear from you - Steve, westland831@gmail.com 

Grumman American Cougar ZK-SSS at Palmerston North on 19 January 1986

Aircraft operated
ZK-DXY - Cessna 172M Skyhawk II (c/n 17265781)
ZK-EQA - Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II (c/n 34-7970134)
ZK-FJB - Cessna 172M (c/n 17265126)
ZK-FKJ - Piper PA-28RT-201 Arrow IV (c/n 28R-7918026)
ZK-SSS - Gulfstream American GA-7 Cougar (c/n GA7-0084)
ZK-UPB - Beech 95 C55 Baron (c/n TE-29)
ZK-WFS - Cessna 172M Skyhawk (c/n 17261457)
ZK-WFT - Cessna 172N Skyhawk II (c/n 17267712)