30 November 2021

A nice pic...


Thanks to Jordan for sending in this superb photo of Milford Sound Flights' Cessna 208 Grand Caravan ZL-MCL at Paraparaumu on 27 November 2021. The Caravan had been in Hamilton with Merlin Labs who have now received their own Grand Caravan, ZK-MLN.

20 November 2021

Where on earth is Whataroa?


A big resource for me doing my airline histories is Papers Past which is so easy to search... it sure beats microfilm and libraries or going through old newspapers. The Press is now on line up to 1961 and so I am having a look at some of my earlier posts and updating them.

NAC's air service to Whataroa is one that has always fascinated me. I imagine a lot of people have never even heard of it. What's it famous for now is the White Heron tours but in the 1950s when NAC served it it was a farming community north of Franz Josef.

I never saw an aircraft on the Whataroa airstrip as a child and I've never found a photo of an aircraft on the airstrip. Nonetheless with a comment some time ago and now the Press being on line I found a little more that gives a bit more of the social fabric of NAC's South Westland air service...


19 November 2021

Flights to Resume

Air Chathams have announced their passenger services from Auckland to Paraparaumu, Whanganui and Whakatāne will resume on the 15th of December 2021.


A close call...


Eastern Airlines was the Gisborne Aero Club's brief foray into operating a regular service. In the last few weeks someone has posted an interesting comment that recounts a lucky escape for the pilot and Piper Aztec ZK-DHB... I love getting such antidotes as they make the airline profiles a living history. The post has been updated and can be read at...


17 November 2021

Cleared for Take Off


The Government’s announcement today that the Auckland border will open on the 15th of December is good news for people flying in and out of Auckland and in particular for regional airlines Barrier Air and Air Chathams.

Barrier Air has even more reason to be pleased with the announcement with their plans to commence flights between Auckland and Whitianga on the 16th of December. Barrier Air’s CEO Grant Bacon assured me today that the flights would commence which is good news for me as I’m booked on the first flights!

A Whitianga to Auckland service was a big punt for the Auckland based regional airline but Grant told me, “Sales are going great, which is fantastic. We have done a lot of marketing on the Whitianga side on radio, Facebook and the local newspaper and it is paying off with many flights now full.

The Mercury Bay Informer, 20 July 2021

The airline will operate the service twice daily Monday to Friday with one flight on Saturdays and Sundays. The airline has also worked with CAA for the recommissioning of the RNAV approach at Whitianga enabling an all-weather operation.

Despite all the challenges of Covid is raising Barrier Air is gearing up for a great summer.

Ian Coates RIP


I received sad news from Greymouth last night that Ian Coates had passed away. Ian was for many years an engine driver for NZ Railways and a great rail historian. However, it was an aircraft enthusiast that I knew him most. He was the one who was responsible for me taking aeroplane pictures... I saw his collection in Greymouth and that inspired me. He also taught me, make sure you can read the registration and that you record the place and date! Ian was a long time member of the Aviation Historical Society and was a great aviation historian as well. He was also a long time non-flying member of the Greymouth Aero Club. He was personality plus and one of life's truly good blokes! There was always a warm welcome at O'Grady St. 

Ian is survived by Jean, his wife of 62 years, and their two sons Ian and Stephen and their families.

And looking through my photos, no photos of Ian... we were to busy photographing aeroplanes

Rest in Peace good friend.

16 November 2021

Originair set to resume Hamilton services


Following the Government's announcement yesterday (15th November) advising Waikato will be moving to alert level 2 at 11:59pm on Tuesday 16th November, Originair is reinstating their full Hamilton services from Sunday 5th of December. These flights are currently being reinstated in their reservation system and will be available to book shortly.

The airline's Facebook page said, "Originair would like to thank all our passengers for their understanding and patience when contacting us via our call center or email as we are experiencing large call volumes and enquiries during this time. We are looking forward to reintroducing these services."

Being Readied for Service

Currently undergoing a complete makeover at Repaircraft`in Nelson is Britten Norman Islander ZK-EVO which is due to go into service with Golden Bay Air. The Takaka-based airline always presents its aircraft impeccably and so I am looking to seeing it wearing the Golden Bay sun.

15 November 2021

A New Route for Air Auckland

Air Auckland's Facebook page has announced direct flights between Whitianga and the Great Barrier Island which will commence in early December 2021. Flights are 30 minutes each way. 

Their Facebook post says, "We are proud of being part of the local community and would like to thank you  all for your support. It has been a very challenging year for everyone, but we are confident that with your support, we could continue to improve. Given the current lockdown situation, we will announce the commencement date soon."

Sunair currently operate an air service between Whitianga and Great Barrier Island on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. From the 16th of December Barrier Air will operate an Auckland to Whitianga service.

Air Auckland currently (when we are not in Level 3) offer air taxi services, when there are passengers wanting to fly, between Ardmore and Whitianga on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and between Ardmore and Great Barrier Island on Fridays and Sundays using two Cessna 172s and a Cessna 206.


Bravo Barrier Air

Barrier Air are continuing to assist the battle against Covid... As well as running two to three freight flights of supplies to Great Barrier Island in recent days it has been flying special mission flights in support of the health authorities. This morning Barrier Air's first Cessna Caravan ZK-SDB was through Hamilton flying Auckland-New Plymouth-Hamilton-Auckland

Barrier Air's Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SDB at Hamilton on 15 November 2021

Bravo battling Delta

The last time I photographed ZK-SDB at Hamilton was on the 13th of February 2016 when Barrier Air introduced a short-lived Auckland-Hamilton service, see https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2016/02/hamilton-auckland-flights-begin.html

14 November 2021

Trans-Island Airways - A story of what might have been

On the 10th of February 1956 South Island Airways ceased operating. Within days the Mount Cook and Southern Lake Tourist Company took over South Island Airways’ licence with the intention of operating service a single-engined aircraft on an Oamaru-Waimate-Timaru-Christchurch service. Their proposal failed to find favour in either Oamaru or Timaru where locals preferred at least a Dominie service.

Five days later it was announced that a group of North Otago businessmen were interested in forming a new company to resume South Island Airway’s services from Oamaru and Timaru to Christchurch and Christchurch to Nelson but also with the addition of possible extensions to the Chatham Islands, Wellington and Auckland. In the light of these plans Rudolph Wigley, managing-director of the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company, was reported as saying, ‘”They can’t do anything, we’ve got the licence; unless they come along with an offer.”

An offer was clearly made for on the 12th of March 1956 Trans-Island Airways commenced operations on the Oamaru-Timaru-Christchurch route operating under a temporary licence. The first flight was flown by Brian Waugh in leased South Island Airways de Havilland DH89 Dominie ZK-BBP. This aircraft was used by Trans-Island until the 14th of May when it was replaced by sister Dominie ZK-BCP.

Prime movers behind Trans-Island Airways were prominent local businessmen Robert Ireland and George McLatchie. Robert Ireland was a flour miller, managing director of Ireland and Company, in Oamaru, and a director of D. H. Brown, Ltd., with varied farming interests. George McLatchie was the managing director of the Otago Co-operative Egg Producers’ Association and a member of the New Zealand Poultry Board. He had been instrumental in the development of Safe Air's Bristol Freighter service to Oamaru that had its beginnings on the 31st of December 1951 (see https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2014/05/eggs-can-fly-oamarus-air-freight-service.html). The two businessmen were appointed trustees to inquire into the setting up of a new company. By the 15th more than £5000 had been received to help form the new company leading to the lodging an application with the Air Licensing Authority to formalise the service.

On the 28th of March 1956 a hearing of the Air Services Licensing Authority was held to consider an application from Robert Ireland and George McLatchie, as, at that time, Trans-Islands Airways Ltd had not been formed. They sought an air service licence to operate: (a) a scheduled Oamaru-Timaru-Christchurch-Wellington (Rongotai) service, Monday to Saturday inclusive, (b) a scheduled Christchurch-Nelson service, Monday to Saturday inclusive, (c) a non-scheduled Christchurch-Hokitika and/or Westport service, twice weekly, (d) non-scheduled charter services from Oamaru and Christchurch to any other aerodrome in New Zealand. At the same time the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company Ltd's application for the abandonment, of the Christchurch-Oamaru scheduled service they were authorised to operate was considered.

In presenting the case for the proposed Trans-Island Airways’ service evidence was given indicating the popularity of South Island Airways’ service. Evidence was given that 200 passengers a month were flying between Oamaru and Christchurch and more than 100 passengers a month were flying between Christchurch and Nelson. By now the fund to support the establishment of a new airline stood at £6525 and the Authority was told it was intended to form a company with a capital of £30,000, £10,000 each from Timaru, Nelson, and Oamaru. This was considered sufficient to operate one Beechcraft D18 and one de Havilland Dominie. The proposed addition of a Christchurch-Wellington (Rongotai) sector was contentious. Trans-Island argued that it would not appear to be economically possible to run the service without that part of the route. The service is a necessary one and the Christchurch-Wellington service will provide the extra utilisation that will make the service pay as well as being an added convenience for those people who live in Oamaru and Timaru. There will be no endeavour to pick up passengers from Christchurch to Wellington or Wellington to Christchurch except so far as may be dictated by seats not taken up by Oamaru and Timaru passengers. The proposed purchase price of a Dominie was £2000 with spares costing an extra £1000. A Beechcraft would cost £15,000, and spares needed would be worth £3000. A sum of £250 would be spent on provisional passenger accommodation, and a car for carrying passengers, fuel changes, wages, advertising and other overheads would come to £8250.

Unsurprisingly NAC objected to Trans-Island seeking rights to operate on the Christchurch-Wellington route. The Press reported on NAC’s counsel argument; Granting the application would create a doubtful precedent by providing what was really an operating subsidy to the new applicant at the expense of the current revenue of an already licensed operator. “If we lose one passenger every day of the year to this service - if they get a licence - the loss to the corporation will be £2500. If three passengers were taken away each day all the year round, you are in effect providing a subsidy of £7500 to another operator. That would be the effect on this particular service. It would be cannibalising on a neighbour, unless there was a sudden upsurge in the amount of business.”

The New Zealand Shipowners’ Federation also objected to the granting of the Christchurch - Wellington sector. “Where the Federation does draw the line is at an endeavour by the applicants to take over some of the passenger traffic and a smaller, though valuable, proportion of the freight traffic between the South and North Islands.” Except at short-lived Christmas and Easter rush periods, existing inter-island sea and air passenger services were capable of meeting public requirements. Referring to “the severity with which airways competition had affected the Lyttelton steamer service,” the Shipowners’ Federation’s counsel Mr Cooke, said that the service had shown a 7 per cent, decline in passenger traffic between 1944 and 1955. Yet during the same period of 10 years air passenger traffic increased by 755 per cent.

In presenting its application Trans-Island had indicated that the four proposed services, were all dependent on the company being granted a licence for the Christchurch-Wellington route. In refusing this on the 18th of April the Authority also adjourned sine die applications for the Oamaru-Timaru-Christchurch, Christchurch-Nelson and Christchurch-Hokitika (or Westport) services and the charter licence from Oamaru and Christchurch. As an interim measure Trans-Island Airways the temporary licences were extended to enable them to continue operating the Oamaru-Timaru-Christchurch service.

On the 12th of May 1956 five members of the Christchurch Parachute Club, as reported in the Press, leapt from a Trans-Island Airways Dominie piloted by Mr B. G. Chadwick flying over the south-east tip of the Royal New Zealand Air Force station, Wigram, early on Saturday afternoon and floated down to make safe landings in paddocks adjoining the airfield. This is believed to be the first occasion that five parachutists have made a jump of this kind in New Zealand.

Trans-Island Airways de Havilland Dominie ZK-BCP at Christchurch. It entered service with Trans-Island Airways on the 14th of May 1956

On the 12th of June 1956 Trans-Island was again before the Air Services Licensing Authority after a successful appeal to the Licensing Appeal Authority. It resubmitted its applications on all the routes previously applied for as well as applying for a non-scheduled passenger and freight service from Wellington and/or Christchurch to the Chatham Islands. Trans-Island’s counsel produced accounts based on the operation of two Beechcraft aircraft. The first account related to the South Island routes alone and the estimated net profit was £83. The second account, based on the South Island routes and Christchurch to Rongotai, showed a profit of £6380. A third account, based on the South Island routes and Christchurch to Paraparaumu, showed a profit of £2800. The final account, based on the South Island, Christchurch, Rongotai and Chatham Island services, showed a profit of more than £8000. ‘‘The more flying that can be done the better will be the position of the company.” The counsel also noted that, Other new factors since the last hearing were an arrangement to carry mails, which promised a net profit of more than £3500 and the intention to apply to run a service to the Chatham Islands.

On the 13th of June 1956 Trans-Island were granted permission for two Christchurch-Wellington flights each way a week on separate days. The Wellington terminus was initially to be Rongotai and then Paraparaumu when Rongotai is closed and the term of the licence was for three years. Five-year licences for were also granted for a scheduled passenger and freight service between Christchurch and Nelson, a non-scheduled passenger and freight service between Christchurch and Hokitika and/or Westport, and a non-scheduled charter service from Oamaru and Christchurch to any other aerodrome in New Zealand.


After Trans-Island Airways received its licences negotiations began for the purchase of a modern, twin-engined American plane, a Beechcraft. It was expected that after modification for New Zealand conditions, the cost of a Beech D18 would be between £15,000 and £20,000. The company announced the new aeroplane would depart Oamaru for Timaru and Christchurch in the morning. It would then leave Christchurch’s Harewood airport at 9.50am. Cruising at 200 miles an hour with eight passengers, it would arrive at Rongotai at 11am. The plane would leave Wellington on the return flight the same day at 3.00pm.

In the first four months of operation Trans-Island’s Dominie service from Oamaru to Christchurch by way of Timaru had doubled the passenger and freight traffic South Island Airways had previously carried. Trans-Island Airways had a contract with the Post and Telegraph Department to fly mails, and this side of the business grew very quickly. The company’s Dominie was also flying from Christchurch to Nelson. The company planned to operate only Beechcraft on its regular services, including the Chatham Island, and that the Dominie would be used only for charter flights and emergency services.

On the 14th of July 1956 Trans-Island Airways was granted a licence for regular passenger and freight flights between Christchurch and the Chatham Islands. A spokesman for the company said yesterday that the service would not begin until two American-built Beechcraft planes had arrived in New Zealand “to give us a spare in case one breaks down at the islands.” At the earliest the regular flights, probably once a week or once a fortnight, would not begin before Christmas. “We are doing it as quickly as we can” the spokesman said. A special strip for the company’s planes is being laid out on the property of Mr R. Barker on Chatham Island. The strip, 3400 ft long, will be completed next month and when it is finished the Civil Aviation Administration will install radio aids. 

In September 1956 Trans-Island Airways Ltd issued a share offer of 50,000 ordinary £1 shares at par. The advertising for the share issue recounted that, The company originated from a meeting of Oamaru businessmen who placed £10.000 in a trust fund to purchase a Dominie aircraft which is now providing a service between Christchurch - Timaru and Oamaru. The £10,000 is being converted into shares as part of the present issue. On the proposed schedule, it is proposed to use American Beechcraft planes. An estimate of the first annual budget shows: Constant overhead costs. £12,652; operating costs, £33,753; revenue, £53,446; net profit, £7041.  

Meanwhile, a Beech D18S had been found in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it was registered to Trans-Island Airways as ZK-BQE on the 17th of September 1956. While awaiting for it to receive two engines and a complete overall, George McLatchie, chairman of the company, learnt to fly to assist Brian Chadwick on the long ferry flight to New Zealand. From Albuquerque, New Mexico, it flew to Denver, Colorado where it had its radio equipment installed and its New Zealand registration was applied. ZK-BQE then began its long flight to its new home to New Zealand flying to New York and Boston before crossing north into Canada stopping at Monkton and Goose Bay, its starting point for the flight across the Atlantic. The first hop was to Narsasserak in Greenland, then Reykjavik in Iceland and to Prestwick in Scotland and to Croydon near London. The flightpath across Europe took it via Brussels (Belgium), Geneva (Switzerland), and then instead of Rome, Sardinia! Gordon Sims' account of the ferry flight in the Aviation Historical Journal records that the Beech set off for Rome, but enroute they encountered a severe electrical storm which upset their navigational and radio equipment so badly they were soon lost. Instead of Rome they landed in Sardinia, and, just as they thought they were out of trouble with the elements, they ran straight into trouble on the ground. The airfield they had chosen to land on was a military base, and on opening the door to climb out of the Beech they were met by soldiers with fixed bayonets and were promptly placed under arrest.  After much arguing with base officials, they were finally allowed to go to an hotel for the night. Next morning the Italians informed them that they were they were to proceed to Rome to pay a fine for not adhering to the flight plan. They took off and flew to Brindisi instead, quickly refueled and flew out of Italy smartly, continuing on that day to Athens. The flight across the Middle East was via Beirut, Bahrain and Karachi in Pakistan. Crossing India the plane flew via Allahabad and Calcutta and then flew via Rangoon and Penang to Singapore. From there they heading to Jakarta and on to Surabaya, also in Indonesia. It was there they ran into more trouble due to the Suez crisis. Gordon Sims continues, that after landing they checked and refuelled BQE. On booking into a hotel for the night, they were quietly informed that the Indonesian authorities would refuel or clear for take off any British or French aircraft, as they were extremely concerned about both countries interference in Middle East affairs. Armed with this knowledge they concocted a plan of withdrawal. On arrival at the airport the following morning, they noted there were no other aircraft on the ground other than BQE and no flying was taking place over the airfield. It was agreed that if no clearance or instructions from the tower were forthcoming they would make a dash for it with minimal risk of an accident. 

Walking openly into the airport, Brian went straight to the Beech starting and running the engines while George went into file their flight plan and get the necessary clearances. When he approached the official George was informed that no aircraft would be cleared without authority from Djakarta. This could take from one hour to one week to obtain. George promptly informed the official that it was no use Brian sitting out there running the engines, that he would go out and tell him to shut them off. With great restraint be casually went out and walked out to the Beech, but once inside quickly slammed the door and Brian commenced the take off run. As BQE has seen and heard to move, a military jeep came across the tarmac, trying to cut off their escape. There was a short "war of nerves" between them and the jeep driver, but they were soon travelling too fast to stop and fortunately the Jeep driver did not press his point. However, they were not entirely out of the woods as they had insufficient fuel on board to clear Indonesian territory and a landing had to be made at Koepang. All the way across there was a fear that the officials in Surabaya would radio ahead the news of their escapade and they would be arrested upon landing. Howerer, as night was drawing in and no one at Koepang seemed aware of the trouble at Surabaya they decided to stay the night. After a rest they filed a flight plan for Darwin. Clearances were easily obtained so they left immediately. Arriving in Darwin they flew via Cloncurry to Brisbane. At Brisbane the ferry flight had a major disruption. On the 9th of November, as the aircraft was departing for Norfolk Island and started to achieve lift, the weight on the undercarriage lessened and the undercarriage collapsed. BQE ploughed deep furrows in the turf for 100 metres before coming to a halt. Initial reports indicated that the damage was only superficial but the incident put a five month pause of the delivery flight and ZK-BQE did not arrive in Christchurch until 9th of April having finally flown from Brisbane via Norfolk Island. On arrival the Press reported that, the white and silver machine has been named Spirit of North Otago in honour of the district which made the company’s venture into passenger aviation possible. It was also reported that, The airline also hopes that it will not be long before it can purchase another Beechcraft to enable it to take up a licence the Air Services Licensing Authority has granted it for the Christchurch-Chatham Islands route.

Meanwhile, on the 3rd of April, just a few days before it arrived and despite the objections of Trans-Island Airways, the Air Services Licensing Authority granted the New Zealand National Airways Corporation an amendment to its licence permitting the corporation to operate a daily scheduled service to and from the Timaru starting on the 24th of April 1957. On the same day NAC commenced its Timaru service the Press reported rumours that Trans-Island would withdraw its proposal to fly a Beechcraft passenger plane through Timaru from Oamaru and Christchurch in the face of the National Airways Corporation’s competition on the Timaru route… The secretary of Trans-Island Airways (Mr K. T. Cusack) denied this and said, The Beechcraft service would probably start about the middle of next month. “We are definitely not pulling out.” Mr Cusack said the service would not be started until the Civil Aviation Administration had given the Beechcraft a complete clearance to fly in all types of weather. It was almost ready for visual passenger flying but the company wished to have it certified for all-weather instrument flying so it would not have to interrupt schedules because of bad conditions. The company plans to fly an Oamaru - Timaru - Christchurch - Rongotai (Wellington) service on Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week and return when the administration grants a certificate. On Mondays. Wednesdays and Fridays the seven-seater plane will fly to Nelson and back through Christchurch. Timaru and Oamaru instead of Wellington.

About the same time the Minister of Civil Aviation announced on that Wellington’s Rongotai airport would be closed on the 1st of August for construction of Wellington’s airport. This, and NAC’s competition out of Timaru, led Trans-Island to reconsider their plans for a service to Wellington. Meanwhile, they were continuing to work towards a non-scheduled service from Christchurch to Hokitika and Westport and from Christchurch to the Chatham Islands as well as to extend the firm’s air ambulance operations.

On the 29th of April 1957 Trans-Island Airways (1957), Ltd, was finally registered with a capital of £30,000. Among its subscribers were: from Oamaru, G. L. McLatchie 500, George Elvidge 1000, J. A. McKenzie 875, Knight’s Motors Ltd. 1125, Taylor’s Lime Co., Ltd., 2225, Stringer and Company, Ltd., 1125, Ireland and Company, Ltd., 1625. and from Wellington Holm and Company, Ltd., 1625.  

On the 10th of May the Beechcraft flew a proving flight from Christchurch to Nelson. Nelson newspaper coverage reported that, A direct inland air route from Christchurch to Nelson for a new passenger service - designed to be the fastest civil transportation in New Zealand - has put the two cities only 45 minutes away from each other. The American Beechcraft plane of Trans-Island Airways flew here from Harewood this morning on a proving flight before it begins the service on Monday, May 20. The company plans return trips from Christchurch three days a week… Enroute cloud over the Wairau Valley forced the Beechcraft above 12,000 ft before it could get into Nelson. “The old Dominie could never get up here. With instruments the Beechcraft can go straight through on timetable and not have to worry about having to do a roundabout,” said the pilot, Mr Brian Chadwick. Trans-Island Airways’ seven-seater plane will be competing with the National Airways Corporation on the Nelson run. The company’s 200 miles an hour Beechcraft will not only be faster than the corporation’s planes but will fly direct from Christchurch without a stage through Paraparaumu, and in less than half the time. The fare will be £5 18s, compared with the NAC fare of £6 2s. When the new Nelson passenger, freight, and mail contract service - opens in 10 days, the plane will fly from Oamaru through both Timaru and Christchurch. 

The Beechcraft D18S ZK-BQE finally entered service on the 13th of May 1957 with Captains Chadwick and Waugh flying a Christchurch-Timaru-Oamaru return service. The first Nelson service was flown on the 27th of May 1957. With the introduction of the Beechcraft Trans-Island’s Dominie, ZK-BCP, was retired from service.

Trans-Island Airways' Beech D18 at Christchurch with its passengers before the first scheduled flight to Nelson on the 27th of May 1957

First day cover for the Beech D18's in augural Christchurch...

and the return Nelson-Christchurch.

De Havilland Dominie ZK-BCP at Christchurch

While it was one step forward for the beleaguered airline there was another step backwards with the Civil Aviation Administration advised Trans-Island that the use of their Beechcraft aircraft for the Chatham Island service was unlikely to be approved, reversing the earlier approval. The CAA’s Divisional Controller of Operations, Mr L Taylor, wrote to the airline saying, You are advised that this administration finds that the evidence so far available, and the study made of the operational requirements both for the route and the aerodrome for the Chatham Islands, indicate it is unlikely the use of such an aircraft for this purpose would be approved by the administration.” The year before, in a letter dated May 9, 1956, the airline was advised the Beechcraft would be approved for the Chathams run subject to certain operational requirements concerning crew, fuel, navigational equipment and radio aids. The airline protested that a crew of three would not leave a paying load. The administration had asked for two pilots and a flight navigator. On May 14 the administration said that two pilots would be sufficient. Fuel requirements would be modified as soon as a radio beacon was installed at the Chathams. With these assurances the airline purchased a Beechcraft and £2500 of radio gear, specifically to comply with the requirements of the Chathams run. On June 5, 1956, the administration informed the airline that it was suggested that the application for its air service certificate should omit reference to the Chatham Islands service because of uncertainty about airfields and navigational aids. “We want that route because we have spent a lot of money, on it and because it is only just we should be allowed to operate since we have a licence to do so.”

Beech D18 ZK-BQE at Christchurch

Back in South Canterbury NAC’s arrival into Timaru immediately impacted on Trans-Island Airways’ patronage. On the 8th of June 1957 a meeting was held of company shareholders to consider whether to discontinue the service. In the days before the Press reported that The chairman of directors, Mr G. L. McLatchie, that the company had been making good progress with this run before the National Airways Corporation was granted authority to operate to and from Timaru. The local company’s service had been building up to an appreciable extent but since the advent of NAC there had been a substantial effect on patronage, particularly with south-bound passengers. Mr McLatchie said that booking offices all over the North Island had naturally diverted business to NAC. This had not only affected his company’s passengers but also freight. Freight had previously been transferred from NAC to Trans-Island Airways at Christchurch, but now consignments were being conveyed to Timaru by NAC and subsequently taken by road transport to Oamaru, he said. Just recently, Mr McLatchie said, the company had begun a Christchurch-Nelson service and bookings for this were excellent. The service was being well patronised by people from both Nelson and Christchurch. The Christchurch - Rongotai schedule, for which the company had been given a licence, had been held in abeyance pending a decision on the future of the Oamaru - Timaru - Christchurch run. lt is unfortunate that a private company of this nature, after initial setbacks, hard work, and much expense should be faced the situation now confronting it,” said Mr McLatchie. "The financial interests of our shareholders must be protected.”

The meeting of shareholders decided to suspend the Christchurch-Timaru-Oamaru air service from the 22nd of June 1957 stating that, Competition from the National Airways Corporation’s recently established daily service to Timaru had made the service uneconomic. “We will apply to the Air Services Licensing Authority for a non-scheduled service between Christchurch and Oamaru,” said the chairman of directors (Mr G. L. McLatchie). Flights would be made when freight and passengers were sufficient to make an economic trip. At present six flights were being made a week, but the company would seek a licence which would allow any number of flights each week, Mr McLatchie said. A new unscheduled service would not stop at Timaru, he said. In the event the company withdrew its application to operate a direct Oamaru-Christchurch service.

An editorial in the Press on the 12th of June 1957 summed up well some of the challenges Trans-Island Airways faced… The people of Oamaru, and particularly the shareholders in its small airline, Trans-Island Airways, deserve sympathy in the circumstances that deprive them of a regular service to Christchurch. Perhaps T.I.A had its hopes raised high by Government officials’ at first; and now it seems that difficulties are put in the way of its development This is not the first of its frustrations. Progress of airfield work at Rongotai has interfered with its Christchurch-Wellington project; and it is meeting with trouble in its attempt to provide an air link with the Chatham Islands. The Oamaru-Christchurch run, it claims, has been made uneconomic by the introduction of the National Airways Corporation service to Timaru. The corporation, which must now be losing money on its Timaru calls, has the resources to wait for business to grow. T.I.A., a much smaller undertaking, can probably afford neither to meet this competition at Timaru nor to maintain a regular Oamaru-Christchurch timetable without getting some business from Timaru. There should be room in New Zealand for airlines independent of the State corporation, and they deserve whatever help they can be given. Timaru is, however, a special case. The wish of South Canterbury people to be joined directly with the main network is understandable. Although the interest of N.A.C. is less obvious, it is probably accounted for by the tourist potential of the Mount Cook area, which could ultimately make Timaru a very profitable port of call. In these circumstances, Oamaru can hardly expect to be given a monopoly of Timaru business to maintain its own service. It may be hoped that T.l.A.’s enterprise will be rewarded by some more economic opening. The hilly country of North Otago and South Canterbury should provide some opportunities for local air carriage, particularly when hydro-electric construction on the Waitaki River is well under way. Oamaru may not have to wait too long for the restoration of its service, or the provision of a better one, running to Dunedin, too. The various authorities concerned in the control of aviation could reasonably be asked to show more sympathy with such independent ventures; and N.A.C. might find it good business to leave some scope for tiny competitors. Among other things, the corporation would gain a standard of comparison for some of its operations.

Meanwhile the airline still had hopes of serving the Chatham Islands. On the 15th of May 1957 the Civil Aviation Administration’s Douglas DC-3 ZK-AUJ made the first flight into the Chatham Islands’ Hapupu aerodrome. On the 21st of July the Press announced that The Minister in charge of Civil Aviation, Mr T. P. Shand, has advised Trans-Island Airways that he considers, its two-engined Beechcralt D18S is capable of flying to the Chatham Islands. The company has a licence to make non-scheduled flights to the Chathams from either Christchurch or Wellington. Mr Shand has laid down that the aircraft should be manned by a crew of two, a pilot and a flight navigator who is also a pilot, and that it should carry enough fuel for the return flight taking into account a possible failure of one of the engines and a reserve of 45 minutes. Captain Brian Chadwick, chief pilot of Trans Island Airways, said The lack of navigational aids on the islands was, he believed, a reason why the department was now specifying the inclusion of navigator in the crew. 

In July 1957 Trans-Island Airways started negotiations for the purchase of a National Airways Corporation Dominie which were surplus after Dominies were withdrawn from the Dunedin-Invercargill route. At this time the company’s Dominie, ZK-BCP, was not operational. De Havilland DH89B Dominie ZK-ALB was subsequently registered to the company on the 20th of August 1957.

De Havilland Dominie ZK-ALB at Christchurch

In September the company announced that it was looking at purchasing “a modernised Lockheed Electra.” Brian Chadwick, the chief pilot, told the Press, If the aircraft, which has been operated on charter services by an American hotel chain, is satisfactory it will be given a full overhaul and flown to Christchurch in time to begin operations by Christmas. "I am hoping to fly the Electra back through the Aleutians and Japan,” said Mr Chadwick. “Last time 1 came back through the Middle East. The North Pacific route should cut the trip from 10.000 miles to 5000 miles.” The Electra will carry 10 passengers and a crew of two. It will be fitted with more powerful engines and propellers of the same type as those fitted to the Beechcraft. Trans-Island Airways has applied for a licence to extend its Christchurch-Nelson run to Wanganui and Rotorua, but expects strong opposition.

The Electra was deemed suitable and Lockheed 10A Electra N10Y (c/n 1138) was placed on the New Zealand register as ZK-BUT on the 14th of October 1957. Again Brian Chadwick flew the long ferry flight and again accompanied by George McLatchie, Trans-Island Airways’ chairman. With no de-icing equipment the ferry flight again came through the Middle East and Asia, Departing from Kansas in December 1957 it made its way to Miami via Nashville. It then made its way across the Caribbean Sea via Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Martinique and Trinidad. The first stop in South America was Cayenne, (French Guiana) and thence to Belem (Brazil). On its overnight stop in Belem thieves broke into the Electra and stripped it of everything which of value. Brian Chadwick said in a letter to “The Press”: “Even the emergency life rafts were forced open and the emergency rations stolen. They took a box of tinned food we had, and included in that were our maps for crossing Africa. After that the only map I had to get across to Africa was a school atlas.” They flew down to Natal and then on to Fernando de Noronha, a small island 200 miles off the coast. From there the plane took the 2,541km flight across the Atlantic to Freetown (Sierra Leone). The flight across Africa was via Lagos, Maiduguri (both Nigeria), then 1336 km to El Fasher and on to Khartoum (both Sudan). From Africa the route across the Middle East was via Aden (Yemen) and Salala (Oman) to Karachi Pakistan. Through Asaia the Electra tracked via New Delhi and Calcutta (both India), Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Jakarta and Bali (both Indonesia). The route over Australia was via Darwin, Longreach, Coffs Harbour and then on to Norfolk Island and Christchurch arriving on the 29th of December 1957. 

A couple of photos Lockheed Electra ZK-BUT in her original scheme at Christchurch

Unfortunately for the airline it was one step forward and one step back. A couple of weeks after the arrival of the Electra new pilot Bob Harman was doing a pre-flight inspection of the Beech D18S ZK-BQE when he discovered something was wrong. A engineering check discovered a cracked spar. The aircraft was grounded, and as the company did not have the necessary finances to repair it, it never saw service with Trans-Island again. It was finally sold in 1960 and service with Alice Springs-based operator Connellan Airways as VH-CLI. With the Electra not yet flying NAC Dominee ZK-AKY and Buchanan's Piper Apache ZK-BLP were leased and to cover for the lack of aircraft.  

Beech D18 ZK-BQE at Christchurch

The Lockheed Electra was registered ZK-BUT and named Spirit of Tasman Bay.” It entered service on the Christchurch-Nelson route on the 27th of February 1958. The airline continued to operate the Christchurch-Nelson service thrice weekly and continued to talk about services to the Chathams, Hokitika, Wanganui and Rotorua never eventuated. 

In June 1958 it was announced that Trans-Island Airways and Coastal Airways had formed an ‘association’ “with the object of a more economical operation. Coastal Airways purchased Trans-Island’s two de Havilland Dominies for their services to Northland. The intention was that all major engineering maintenance work for the two airlines would be done at Christchurch by Trans-Island Airways while other servicing would be “correlated” as much as possible. Coastal Airways did not last long and so the ‘association’ didn't come to much. 

On the 28th of July 1958, after negotiations with NAC, Trans-Island returned to Timaru offering “a limited feeder service” to connect with National Airways flights to the North Island. NAC operated midday return flights from Christchurch to Timaru and passengers from Timaru could not connect with the Viscount service to Auckland from Christchurch in the mornings or with other early North Island flights. On Mondays and Thursdays the Electra aircraft departed Christchurch at 3.30pm to arrive at Timaru at 4.10pm. .On Tuesdays and Fridays the Electra departed Timaru at 8.15am to arrive at Christchurch at 9.00am. “National Airways were very helpful and co-operative, and gave the scheme their blessing,” said Captain Chadwick. “If this is well received in Timaru we will no doubt extend our run to give Oamaru a service again.” In preparation for the Timaru service the Electra was repainted.


Trans-Island Airways' timetable as at 1 October 1958

A couple of photos of repainted Lockheed Electra ZK-BUT at Christchurch

The beginning of the end came for Trans-Island Airways on the 18th of February 1959 when the Lockheed Electra, being flown from Nelson to Christchurch by Brian Chadwick, ground-looped on landing. He was reported as saying, “As the plane touched down, the tail swung off the runway onto the grass and I could not keep her steady and the wing dipped.” The pilot and his five passengers were uninjured but the undercarriage, a tail fin and one wing of the aircraft were damaged. Initial reports indicated that repairs would be completed within a week proved over optimistic.

Services continued using de Havilland Dominees ZK-ALB which had returned from short-lived Coastal Airways. Services were temporarily suspended on the 1st of April 1959 with a Christchurch-Nelson return service operated on that day. The Press of the 16th of April reported Trans Island Airways' company secretary, Mr A. N. Stone, saying, The direct air link between Christchurch and Nelson would be resumed in four or five weeks’ time. The airline is not operating its usual daily return service to Nelson while engineering work is being done on two of its three planes. “We have not gone out of business,” Mr Stone said, commenting on a report that the company had suspended its flying operations because it had “no planes.” A Dominie aircraft was used by Trans Island Airways for six weeks to fill in while its Lockheed Electra and Beechcraft passenger planes were being brought up to 100 per cent, condition, but it was found to be uneconomic. “It looks as though a month from now the Beechcraft will have completed its overhaul and be flying; about five or six months for the Lockheed, for which a new wing is coming out from the United States.” Mr Stone said.

De Havilland DH89B Dominie ZK-ALB at Christchurch, either late 1958 or early 1959.

The Dominie flew a final charter flight on the 30th of April 1959 and this proved to Trans-Island Airways' final flight. On the 8th of May Trans-Island Airways Ltd was placed in the hands of a receiver, appointed by the Bank of New Zealand, which was the first debenture holder for £4000. Second debenture holders appointed a receiver on the 1st of May to recover £10,000. A spokesman for the airline said that the company wished to put its affairs in order so it could go back to flying again. However, it would not be possible to do that until receivers had liquidated the amounts of their demands and it was seen what was left. “The company is still quite willing to carry on.” Trans Island Airways purchased two multi-engine aircraft from the United States to use on several services for which it was licensed but was hindered by a series of mishaps to the aircraft themselves, arguments with the Civil Aviation Administration, competition and lack of capital.

On the 21st of November it was announced that the liquidated Trans Island Airways, Ltd., had estimated liabilities of £8927 to unsecured creditors in addition to the subscribed capital of £30,000. The company’s secretary, Mr A N Stone, said, “The main cause of the insolvency was through accidents to the aircraft, causing a loss in revenue. Basically, though, the shortage of starting capital - £30,000 - started the trouble. This went in the purchase of the two aircraft. “Having embarked on a programme of passenger services they had to maintain the high standards set down by the Civil Aviation Authority. And when faced with accident losses they did not have the resources to meet their debts,” said Mr Stone. In 1956 the company’s Beechcraft was purchased from the United States for £16,500, and while in transit it crashed at Brisbane. The total cost of bringing it back up to standard was £9000. It was in the air for eight months when a crack developed, attributed to the Brisbane crash, in the main spar and the plane was grounded. The cost of repairs was £4500. In February, 1958, the Lockheed Electra aircraft purchased from the United States for £16,500, was grounded after a taxiing accident, and because of the state of the company’s finances it was not repaired. Its estimated value now was £1000, with a £3000 accident insurance. The company suffered a loss of £12,000. Mr Stone said that an air passenger service was unlike any other business. In most businesses overhead could be trimmed to turnover. “Although the company had sufficient ground establishment to maintain three aircraft in the air they were forced to use two pilots, two engineers, and one office staff with wages coming from the one operational aircraft,” he said! “If the company had had sufficient capital the Beechcraft could have been in service in January, 1958. But they were not able to make fullest use of assets.” On the incoming revenue from one aircraft it was not possible to maintain it in the air every day of the week, said Mr Stone. “We could have maintained all scheduled services on two aircraft.” The receiver appointed by the bank in May of this year, Mr F. Nicholls, said that the Beechcraft was being repaired and would be sold to Connallan Airways, Ltd., in Alice Springs, Australia. It should realise £12,500. The Lockheed aircraft would have to be sold “as is, where is.” 

The two De Havilland Dominies ZK-ALB and ZK-BCP were sold to the Marlborough Aero Club and to Brian Chadwick respectively, Brian Chadwick establishing new charter operation, Air Charter. The Electra was used by Rescue Fire at Christchurch until it went to MOTAT in Auckland where it is displayed as Union Airways’ Electra ZK-AFD.

A case of will the real ZK-AFD please stand up... An engineless Lockheed Electra ZK-BUT painted as Union Airways' Lockheed Electra ZK-AFD at MOTAT in September 1981

The newly registered Lockheed Electra being worked on at Ardmore on 13 December 2019

Of the pilots Brian Waugh went to Hokitika-based West Coast Airways while Brian Chadwick, as noted, started his own charter company. Tragically, on the 12th of February 1962 he went missing with four passengers in de Havilland Dragonfly ZK-AFB. Despite a large scale search and rescue operation and repeated searches through the years, no trace of the aircraft or its five occupants has ever been found. 

The story of Trans-Island Airways is a story of what might have been: if the Beech hadn’t had the accident at Brisbane; if the Beech had entered service before NAC started serving Timaru; if the Wellington service had started; if the Chathams service had started; if the West Coast service had started; if the Electra hadn’t ground-looped; if they had he capital they needed. It was, I think, the most ambitious post-War attempt at starting an air service in New Zealand right through until the launch of SPANZ.

Aircraft Operated

De Havilland DH.89B Dominie

ZK-ALB (c/n 6655)

ZK-BBP (c/n 6668)

ZK-BCP (c/n 6648)


Beech D18S

ZK-BQE (c/n A.73)


Lockheed 10A Electra

ZK-BUT (c/n 1138)