11 September 2022

Novel Ideas - Patchett Tours


In September 1964 David Patchett established Patchett Tours Ltd, whose objects were described as “tour organisers and incidental.” In the same month he applied for two licences, a passenger service licence for sightseeing trips within 30-mile radius of Christchurch using a 9-passenger minibus and also to transfer Air Service Licence No. 246 in the name of B. G. Chadwick to Patchett Tours Ltd and as part of this transfer to amend the terms and conditions of the licence to permit the operations of one Cessna 180 or 185 on wheels or floats.

In regards to the minibus application the Transport Licensing Authority said “The applicant had hit on a novel idea that showed imagination and vision, but it was premature,” The Authority dismissed Patchett Tours’ application for minibus for sight-seeing trips as “the applicant had not been able to show sufficiently that there was an unsatisfied demand.”

Meanwhile the Christchurch Press of the 12th of October 1964 reported that It will be possible to fly from Christchurch to Akaroa in 15 minutes by amphibian aircraft if plans envisioned by Mr D. J. Patchett, of Patchett Tours Ltd., come to fruition. Mr Patchett expects delivery of a Cessna float plane from the United States about Christmas or early in the New Year and will use it for general charter work and to fly fishermen or hunters to previously inaccessible areas. His company had taken sportsmen into the mountains, lakes and back country mainly by vehicle, although occasionally by plane, said Mr Patchett yesterday. With an amphibian such operations could be extended more easily. Within a 200-mile range of Christchurch there were dozens of lakes. The pilot of the four-seater Cessna will be a retired United States Air Force colonel, Mr P. B. Mudge - “one of the best men we could possibly get,” said Mr Patchett.

The licence was granted in October 1964 but by October the following year the import licence for the Cessna had still not been granted. Meanwhile, after returning to the Air Services Licensing Authority, Patchett Tours were granted a licence to operate a de Havilland Dominie in addition to the Cessna 185 amphibian for private charter and scenic tours. De Havilland DH89B Dominie ZK-AKU was purchased from the Nelson Aero Club and was registered to Patchett Tours on the 5th of November 1965.

Patchett Tours' de Havilland DH89B Dominie ZK-AKU at Christchurch in 1965/66

In Taking Off, Richard Waugh, Peter Layne, Graeme McConnell and Bruce Gavin’s history of New Zealand’s pioneering 1945-1970 small airlines, Peter Mudge recounts that he did about 300 hours in the Dominie. Generally flights were routed Christchurch-Franz Josef-Milford-Dunedin then up the coast to Christchurch. However, the air operation did not really take off and the Dominie was sold and registered to the Rotorua Aero Club on the 8th of September 1966.

While the air operation had ceased the ground transport business continued. In 1968 the two wings of the company were split. The ground transport business became Patchett Tours (1968) Ltd which eventually was renamed as Pacific Tourways which continues to operate today. The company's website acknowledges its beginnings stating, Pacific Tourways was established in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1965 as a small, family-owned limousine and minibus transportation operation. It is here that we began building a base of friendly, professional, and safe transportation options across the South Island. From there, our passion for New Zealand led us to quickly transition into the group tour market, with the aim to share our love of the country with people from around the world. Since then, we have kept pace with the growth of the industry and expanded to the North Island, opening a branch in Auckland. Now, Pacific Tourways boasts a fleet of over 70 modern tour coaches and more than 100 staff across our two branches, making us the largest group-touring fleet in New Zealand. Despite our growth, we remain a family-owned business and work hard to keep our reputation for providing caring, personal service.

Meanwhile the air operation, Patchett Tours Ltd was sold to Keith Wakeman and J Reid and it was absorbed into Keith Wakeman's existing air operations. In October 1969 the Air Services Licensing Authority was concerned about Patchett Tours’ operations and told Keith Wakeman to “put his house in order” as it was not running its services in accordance with the terms of the licence with only 47 hours having been flown on taxi, charter and local flying services in the previous two years. The company was told, Unless Patchett Tours accepted full responsibility for the aircraft, the administrative services and the supervision of technical aspects of all its operations there was no assurance that the terms of the licence were being complied with. The complicating factor was that Keith Wakeman owned two other companies, Okair Aviation and the Christchurch Central Flying School. Keith Wakeman told the Authority that Patchett Tours, the Christchurch Central Flying School, and Okair, Ltd, were “pretty well one and the same.” He was the managing director of all three. If he had sought to have the licence transferred at a public hearing, an objection would have come from the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company and its associated companies. The Mount Cook company, he said, was the monopoly airline in the South Island which would like to have every other operator eliminator Mr Wakeman said his company had a Dominie and a floatplane. When Mr Lusk said that according to the civil aviation register both planes were registered under Okair, Ltd, Mr Wakeman said that they had been transferred to Patchett Tours two days ago. Okair, Ltd, was formed three or four years ago, before he took over Patchett Tours, said Mr Wakeman. Okair comprised himself and his wife and its objects were the buying and selling of aircraft. Asked how he had been able to keep going if 47 hours of commercial flying was all that Patchett Tours had done in two years, Mr Wakeman said he bought and sold aircraft.

The Mount Cook company suggested Mr Wakeman had used landing strips at Queenstown, Mount Cook and Te Anau/Manapouri in breach of the licence. Mr Wakeman said that landings had been made at these places only to pick up fuel.

In April 1970 Patchett Tours returned to the Air Services Licensing Authority seeking an amendment of their licence by the addition of one PA18 aircraft on wheels or floats and the removal of the restriction on their licence that prohibited their aircraft from using the airports at Queenstown, Te Anau and Manapouri and required “that the operation of the aircraft on floats from Christchurch to the waterways at Mount Cook, Queenstown and Manapouri be limited to flights with hunting, shooting and fishing parties organised by the licence holder and personally conducted by an employee of the licence holder.” On the 19th of May the Air Services Licensing Authority refused the application repeating the direction it gave to the company the previous October “to set its financial house in order before it would consider the application.” The application was opposed by Mount Cook Airlines whose counsel (Mr B. McClellan) described Patchett Tours as a “fly-by-night company with no worth-while organisation behind it” Keith Wakeman said in evidence that the restrictions imposed on the company's licence made it useless to promote any activity. He said recent expansion and projected expansion of the tourist industry left room for his kind of service in the South Island without prejudicing the position of Mount Cook Airlines. Counsel for Patchett Tours said that his clients had done a great deal to reorganise their affairs to the satisfaction of the authority. The company took a responsible attitude in its affairs, and Mr Wakeman was one of the most experienced airmen in the country. He said the objecting company had started in a small way; the shortage of charter aircraft in Christchurch was contrary to the public interest.

In September 1970 Patchett Tours again returned to the Air Services Licensing Authority. The Authority granted an amendment to the licence to allow the company to use its existing fleet on the condition that no more than seven passengers are carried. Until them the company’s licence restricted it to having only one aircraft in the air at any one time. Patchett Tours’ counsel told the Authority that apart from the Canterbury Aero Club, Patchett’s was the only licensee running a charter service from Christchurch with aircraft which were domiciled there. In the last few years three licensees had ceased charter work at Christchurch. Mount Cook Airlines, Ltd, which objected to the application, although authorised to carry out air taxi and charter services from Christchurch did not have a light aircraft available at Christchurch airport. Mr Young said that for the Mount Cook company to accept charter work at Christchurch airport it would have to bring an aircraft from elsewhere in the Dominion and this was not an economical proposition. The law should allow something better than that. Keith Wakeman said that there had been a reduction in charters offered at Christchurch airport in recent years. He said the Canterbury Aero Club was not specialised in charter work and carried it out only as a sideline. He submitted that a locally-domiciled operation should be allowed charter work to scenic spots throughout the South Island. For Mount Cook Airlines, Mr B. McClelland said the applicant company did not make a profit: its only assets were its aircraft. It owed several thousand dollars, and by any standard the company was in a very parlous state. Mr McClelland said Patchett Tours would not have a chance of succeeding in business with the fleet it had even if the licence was amended immediately. Over several years it. had been clearly shown that there was no room for any extensive aerial charter work from Christchurch. More importantly, the Air Services Licensing Authority amended Patchett Tours’ licence to allow it to land on any airport at Mount Cook, Queenstown, or Te Anau-Manapouri, but the company was not allowed to set down or pick up passengers.

On the 25 of February 1971 "Patchett Tours Limited" changed its name to "Christchurch Charter Flying Services Limited" that was later to trade as Air Charter (Christchurch) http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2014/09/air-charter-christchurch.html returning to the name of Brian Chadwick's origin operation https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2022/01/brian-chadwicks-air-charter.html.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Steve - always find your historical research really interesting and I appreciate the work you put into pulling these together. Peter