05 December 2020

New East Cape Flyer


There's no Koru club, no duty free, no departure gates and no bustling terminal. When you board an Air Ruatoria flight you’ll likely meet your pilot at his caravan, share a cup of tea, then walk over parched grass to reach your little plane. The nation’s newest commercial air company is the realisation of a childhood dream for Mahanga Maru. The 56-year-old Wellington-based consultant was raised in the small East Coast town. It was a bustling place in Maru’s childhood, before the 1980s downturn took its toll, and he would spend days roaming the countryside and looking skyward at the plethora of small aircraft coming and going from the town's aerodrome. “It’s a bit of a risk starting an aviation business in the Covid environment. Some of my mates think I'm mad. The idea is to test the market and see how it goes,” he said. Maru got his pilot’s licence at 23 and got a job at Air Gisborne doing charter work, instructing students, fish spotting and flying air ambulance flights, before heading away to university. The idea of starting a local scenic flight business in Ruatoria was first hatched in the 1970s, when three farmers applied unsuccessfully for government approval. “I’d always thought it was an idea worth trying. I always kept my licence up to date and I got to the point of thinking ‘well I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time so why don’t I give it a crack’,” he said. “It’s a remote place that not many people go to. That can be a strength. I’d like to get a bit of activity back in the place. It’s a pretty poor area,” Maru said. He will lease a four-seat Cessa 172 which will be based at the Ruatoria airstrip for the summer. Maru will be living in a caravan on the airstrip too. The airstrip was created in the 1960s by a farmer with a home-made grader. The clubroom, still extant, was an old house that was dragged across the Waiapu River by a bulldozer. ”The aero club in the 60s and 70s had about 80-odd members. They owned three aircraft. It was a very active club, bigger than the Rotorua club at the time. I watched the planes fly past and fell in love with it,” Maru said. The airstrip was upgraded earlier this year after receiving $100,000 through the Provincial Growth Fund. “I’ll be living the dream. The advantage I have is that I grew up there, so I have the knowledge and can tell people about our maunga, our river and our people. It’ll be a cultural experience,” he said. “Mostly it's about giving people access to a part of the world they wouldn’t have access to before”. Air Ruatoria will offer a range of scenic flights, including sights like Mt Hikurangi, Whangara (of Whale Rider fame) and the Rocket Lab launch pad near Mahia. The flights will cost between $199 and $299 per person.

Source : https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/destinations/nz/gisborne/300172147/air-ruatoria-come-fly-with-me-east-coast-style

For a TV clip see https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/ruatoria-man-decides-start-his-own-airline-v1

For more information see : https://www.air-rua.com/

Two operators have offered a regular service to Ruatoria...

Marshall's Air Transport - http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2013/04/rural-east-coast-flyer-marshalls-air.html

Aotearoa Airlines - http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2012/02/gisbornes-aotearoa-airlines.html

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