10 January 2021

The Nelson Aero Club's West Coast Newspaper Run

Nelson Aero Club

The Nelson Aero Club was formed on 28 September 1932 and flew from what is now Saxton Field before moving to the current airport site in the late 1930’s. 

The Aero Club's first move into twin-engined charter work was with the purchase of Miles M65 Gemini 1A ZK-AUA in February 1952. This was the first of the classic aircraft the Club operated. The Gemini had previously been operated by Northwest Airlines Ltd on an air service between Nelson and Takaka. It was with the Club until May 1954. The Gemini was replaced by De Havilland DH.84 Dragon ZK-AXI and this was with the Club for 10 years from  May 1954 to May 1964. By this time the Club had acquired De Havilland DH.89B Dominie ZK-AKU which was added to the fleet in June 1963. 

The de Havilland twins, de Havilland Dragon ZK-AXI at Nelson

and de Havilland DH89B Dominie ZK-AKU.

In February 1966 the Aero Club took delivery of a four year old Piper PA23-160 Apache ZK-CHU which had logged only 1800 hours of flying. The Apache had been previously owned by the Perano whaling company in the Tory Channel and was used for whale-spotting before the commercial whaling industry in New Zealand ended in 1964. The Apache's purchase was financed by the sale of Dominie ZK-AKU and Piper Tripacer ZK-BSD. The aircraft was used for charter and ambulance work. It did, however, also airline service being leased to Golden Coast Airlines who used it on their air services from Nelson north to New Plymouth and Hamilton and south to Karamea, Westport and Greymouth.

The new Piper Apache with, from left, Mr A W Hellyer, the club president, Mr M Dunn, chief flying instructor, and Mr A J Bradshaw who flew the plane from Blenheim.

Purchased by the Nelson Aero Club, Piper Apache ZK-CHU seen here at Omaka. 

With the demise of Golden Coast Airlines in September 1970 the Nelson Aero Club immediately took over the newspaper service from Nelson to Karamea, Westport and Greymouth and in October 1972 received their own non-scheduled licence. This service carried the Nelson Evening Mail to the West Coast towns and also the Westport News, which was printed in Nelson, to Karamea and Westport. This was the first non-scheduled service the Nelson Aero Club had operated in its 30 year history. 

Cessna 172E ZK-CGB, Cessna 180 BGO, and Piper Apache ZK-CHU were all used on the air service. The Nelson Evening Mail of the 12th of October 1970 reported the Nelson Aero Club’s managing secretary, Mr N M McLaren saying, “This licence enables us to advertise flight times for the route of our daily passenger service from Nelson to Karamea, Westport and Greymouth. The club has now in effect formed a small airline and we hope people will support it since it is for them. We feel the public should not be left out on a limb without an air service to and from Nelson and the West Coast, especially as some of the places on our flight route are rather isolated.” Golden Coast Airlines (1965) operated a similar service from Nelson until last month, when, because of financial troubles went into abeyance pending takeover negotiations with Capital Air Services Ltd of Wellington. One of Golden Coast’s two pilots, Alan Hackston, will be the principal pilot in the new airline. A well-known and popular figure on the West Coast flight route, he flew with Golden Coast for many years. 

The Nelson Aero Club's "airline" fleet... Piper Apache ZK-CHU being loaded with newspapers at Nelson in January 1972...

...Cessna 180 ZK-BGO at Nelson...

...and Cessna 172 ZK-CGB at Nelson with what the C-Cat Instructor behind supervising tarmac safety

The Nelson Aero Club service operated for almost two years, but during that time it appears that the sector between Westport and Greymouth was cut. Subsidising the air service was a major expense for the Nelson Evening Mail and eventually the newspaper entered into a contract with NAC to fly the newspapers.

The final service was flown on the 18th of August 1972 with the last service being flown in Cessna 172 ZK-CGB by Bryce Nairn. On the last flight was the managing director of “The Mail,” Mr R D Lucas. In the Nelson Evening Mail the next day Mr Lucas said yesterday’s flight was typical of the safe and reliable service to the coast which had been given over the years. The aircraft had not only carried the papers to Westport but had dropped off a passenger at Karamea, had then gone on to take an air ambulance case from Westport to Hokitika and had returned to Karamea after refuelling at Greymouth. 

Loading the final flight on 18 August 1972 is senior club instructor, Mr Bryce Nairn, is at the tail end of a “human chain” consisting of the president of the New Zealand Airwomen’s Association, Mrs Thelma Bradshaw, and another Nelson Aero Club instructor, Mr Max Sceats. Mrs Bradshaw has been assisting part-time with club instructing. Photo : Nelson Evening Mail

Mr Nairn (left) at the controls of the Cessna 172 with Mr Lucas in the front passenger seat. At the rear is a passenger, Miss Thompson. Photo : Nelson Evening Mail

The cessation of the service marked the end of a scheduled air service to Karamea.

From the 20th of August 1972 NAC took over flying the newspapers from Nelson to Westport. Later the contract changed to Capital Air Services and later still Bryce Nairn was to again pick up the newspaper run with his own company, Nairn Air.

So ended Nelson Aero Club's only regular air service. Two months later, in October 1972, the Piper Apache ZK-CHU was sold. 

No comments:

Post a Comment