11 July 2021

Southland Air Taxis - Flights Anywhere Anytime

Southland Air Taxis was the commercial division of the Southland Aero Club. Over the years Southland Air Taxis used a variety of aircraft for air charter work, scenic flights aerial photography work and air ambulance work from both Invercargill and Te Anau to all licensed aerodromes in New Zealand. The Club also flew hunters and trampers to the remote beaches of Stewart Island 

A Southland Air Taxis brochure from the 1960s

Southland Air Taxis only operated one regular service. In the early 1960s NAC' was still using Taieri aerodrome at Dunedin which was restricted to Douglas DC-3 aircraft. Following NAC's introduction of Fokker Friendship services from Christchurch to Invercargill on the 13th of March 1961 Southland Air Taxis inaugurated a daily return flight between Dunedin and Invercargill. 

The early morning air taxi service from Invercargill to Taieri and return commenced operating on the 24 March 1961. The daily service was flown by one of Southland Air Taxis' two Cessna 172 aircraft ZK-BZT and ZK-CAA.. With the introduction of the new NAC timetable there was no early morning air connection between Dunedin and Invercargill. Southland Air Taxis' flight left Invercargill at 7.45am Monday to Friday, to arrive at Taieri at 8.50am giving Invercargill passengers an early morning service to Dunedin. The return flight left Taieri at 9.10am and to arrive in Invercargill at 10.15am enabling Dunedin people to connect with the NAC Friendship service to Christchurch which provided a faster and more comfortable service than the DC-3 service out of Taieri. The single fare was £3. Children under four were carried free. Three passengers can be carried.

NAC's Friendships began operating through Dunedin's new Momona airport opened on the 23rd of May 1962 and one wonders if the service endured.

The two Cessna 172s used on the the Invercargill-Taieri service in 1961. ZK-BZT taken at Timaru...

and Cessna 172 ZK-CAA taken at Invercargill

The other regular charter operation the Southland Aero Club operated was flying supplies to support the lighthouse keepers and their families on Dog Island and Centre Island in Foveaux Strait. Dog Island is a small island  off the entrance to Bluff Harbour, and lying about 5.5 km south-east of Stirling Point. The island is approximately 1 km long and ranges in width from about 150 to 300 metres.  Centre Island is a small island located 25 km north of Stewart island's northernmost point, Black Rock Point, and 15 km southwest of the Southland town of Riverton on the South Island mainland. Airstrips were constructed on both islands during the 1960s and after their completion Southland Air Taxis commenced operating fortnightly supply flights to the two islands. Regular supply flights continued until the lighthouses were automated and the lighthouse keeper and their families moved off the islands. In March 1975 the Southland Aero Club added Cessna U206F Stationair  ZK-DRV to its fleet. Unfortunately this aircraft had an unfortunate end on the 4th of December 1979 when it experienced an engine failure and ditched in the sea near Dog Island. The pilot Rob Brabazon, the sole occupant, was uninjured and swam to the island. 

Southland Air Taxis' Cessna 206 ZK-DRV at Invercargill. Photographer unknown

Southland Air Taxis' Cessna 172 ZK-CCI at Timaru

In 1979 the name of the commercial division of the Aero Club was changed to Southland Air Charter. During the late 1970s and early 1980s Aero Clubs started to divest themselves of commercial operations or lose their work to specialised charter operations. This enabled them to focus on the traditional flying training anc club activities. The Southland Aero Club was no exception. While it continued to operate charter and flightseeing work much of this was picked up by Southern Air.

Aircraft used included:

ZK-BZT         Cessna 172B                 c/n 17248253
ZK-CCI         Cessna 172D                  c/n 17249669
ZK-CIS         Piper PA-28-235 Cherokee          c/n 28-10630
ZK-CXM Cessna 177B Cardinal         c/n 17701462
ZK-DGI         Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee E c/n 28-7225402
ZK-DIP         Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee Cruiser c/n 28-7325458
ZK-DRV         Cessna U206F Stationair c/n U20602517

Southland Air Taxis' Piper Cherokee 235 ZK-CIS at the old Te Anau airstrip 

1 comment:

  1. That blue scheme does look quite smart on the 172. Very interesting post Steve, I never knew Dog and Centre Island had charter operations of the past - I was always curious as to why those strips existed.