11 December 2022

Island Aviation - Connecting the Hauraki Gulf


In 2013, Chris Sattler, a German national who is now settled in New Zealand. established Auckland Seaplanes Ltd. Aviation was always a passion for Chris and before going to university he was in the German Air Force. He then worked in the finance industry, where he specialised in airline finance. Auckland Seaplanes Limited operated two Beaver floatplanes from the Auckland waterfront. Chris' aviation interests expanded in December 2017 when he became a half owner of Waiheke Island's Reeve Airfield. On the 3rd of September 2018, he founded Waiheke Wings Limited which was officially launched on 14th of December 2018 as the only commercial flight operator on Waiheke Island using two Cessna 172s.  

On the 11th of October 2021, he established a new company, Island Aviation Limited. Then, on the 13th of July 2022 Chris Sattler announced that Auckland Seaplanes will be rebranding as Island Aviation in the coming weeks to better reflect the growing role of wheeled aircraft and our ability to connect the Auckland region with Waiheke, Great Barrier, the Coromandel and beyond

In the announcement of Island Aviation that will include both Auckland Seaplanes and Waiheke Wings, Christ Sattler said, We are in the final process of adding two 10-seater twin-engine aircraft to our fleet that is purpose-made to serve those destinations both in scheduled and charter flights. The twin-engine configuration will also give us the capability to connect various airports in Auckland and Waiheke with destinations all around the North Island.  

In April this year, we got recertified at Qualmark Gold Level with an award for environmental performance and we also renewed our pest-free-warrant with Auckland Council and DOC. In May we got re-certified our Carbon-Zero status to underline our environmental leadership in the aviation industry in New Zealand as the first carbon-zero airline back in 2017. We have continued our pest and weed eradication efforts at Waiheke Airport. For the coming summer, we got an array of new products including a Waiheke and Great Barrier Island combo flight to showcase the wide variety of destinations in the Hauraki Gulf.

Meanwhile, according to the statement, Island Aviation will not be operating seaplane services in the next 12 months. Unfortunately, Panuku (one of Auckland Councils' entities) has informed us that they won't have space for a seaplane base in downtown Auckland after the America's Cup, so we will have to suspend seaplane operations until we can find a new base. Given the various stakeholders, this is unlikely before next summer. 

In mid-November 2022 Island Aviation did proofing flights into North Shore airport, Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island's Claris and Okiwi airports with Britten Norman Islander ZK-SFK. Paint shop delays meant the exterior was all white but avionics/ADSB and passenger intercom had been installed. 

Services began on Friday the 25th of November 2022, with Britten Norman Islander ZK-SFK operating both morning and afternoon services from North Shore to Great Barrier Island's Claris airport with Jacob Taylor as Pilot in Command and Ben Yeardley with him as the second pilot. The Barrier Bulletin of the 1st of December 2022 reported that the airlines was fortunate to help three family members to return to Aotea (Great Barrier Island) for the funeral of their grandmother. The other guests on the flight out and back to town were regular travellers between Auckland and the Island. The flight in the afternoon then returned with guests who had been to town for a day trip.

Boarding the first flight... ZK-SFK at North Shore on 25 November 2022. Photo : Auckland Seaplanes Facebook

Island Aviation's Britten Norman Islander, ZK-SFK, at North Shore on the afternoon flights of first day of operations, the 25th of November 2022.

Initially three flights per day are being offered. At 8.30am a morning flight departs from North Shore to Great Barrier Island's Claris airport, returning from Claris to North Shore at 9.30am. At 10.30am a scenic transfer flight from North Shore to Waiheke Island is offered with a return to North Shore at 2.30pm. The afternoon flight from North Shore to Claris departs at 3.30pm, with the return leg at 4.30pm. Islander ZK-PIZ is expected to join the fleet by the end of the year while Waiheke Wings continues to operate Cessna 172 ZK-RNX. 

Chris Sattler said, These schedules will allow passengers from town to spend a full working day on Aotea/Great Barrier and we can add to the flights as demand becomes more clear. We also have a VW van available at North Shore for transport to Silverdale bus interchange or transfers to town at an additional fee and all passengers have the option to help us offset the emissions from the flights with a $2 per passenger per flight contribution. One advantage of operating out of North Shore is that the airport provides free car-parking for passengers and the boarding and check-in process is a hassle-free 5 minutes, with check-in closing only 15 minutes prior to flight departure. During the proofing flights we could showcase the different capabilities of the Islanders quite well by flying at 1500-1700 feet below a cloud layer providing interesting views of the Hauraki Gulf to our passengers. We will complement this service with direct flights from Waiheke to Great Barrier on demand in 4-seater and 10-seater aircraft.

On the 26th of November 2022 the airline commenced its Island-Hopping flights. Chris Sattler told the Barrier Bulletin that six passengers were able to experience 3 hours on Aotea/Great Barrier, visiting Windy Canyon, part of the hot pools walk and Medlands Beach. The guest them departed direct from Claris to Waiheke Airport at about 13:30 and were seated at one of the top vineyeards overlooking Waiheke, Rangitoto, downtown Auckland and the Waitakeres just 40 minutes later. The guests then returned tow town by ferry and were back in their homes by 5-6pm. There is a return flight option to Ardmore or North Shore Airport as well. 

Island Aviation's Britten Norman Island ZK-SFK at Claris on 2 December 2022

On the 12th of December 2022 Island Aviation took delivery of its second Britten-Norman Islander, ZK-PIZ, painted in the company's colours. It was flown from Auckland to Waiheke Island via Ardmore. It entered service on the 20th of December 2022 flying from Waiheke Island to North Shore before operating a return North Shore-Great Barrier Island service.

Island Aviation's second Britten Norman Islander, ZK-PIZ, in full Island Aviation colours at North Shore on 22 December 2022

On Christmas Eve 2022 Britten Norman Islander ZK-SFK came out of maintenance in Island Aviation colours. 

Island Aviation's Britten Norman Islander ZK-SFK at North Shore about to depart on a service to Great Barrier Island on 28 December 2022

The two islands that Island Aviation serves have two different markets with differing needs. Waiheke Island is relatively close to Auckland and is served by fast ferries which take about 45 minutes to downtown Auckland. In the summer, however, the ferries are often full and this can cause disruptions for the local tourist industry and people travelling to events on the island. The island is served by numerous helicopter companies but this is an expensive option. This makes the transfer flight option very important. Because of its proximity to Auckland it has not been able to sustain a scheduled service to Auckland since the advent of the fast ferries and Waiheke Wings, now Island Aviation, is the only air transport operator serving the island. Accordingly the Waiheke Island side of the operation is mainly geared at tourist package deals which might include flights to the island or a scenic flight, a ride on the zipline and a visit and meal to a local vineyard. Around the island scenic flights are an important part of the company's Waiheke operation. The transfer flights are also important and often save people a lot of time. By early January 2023 the Islanders had already done transfer flights to Ardmore, North Shore, Great Barrier Island, Whitianga and Coromandel and also from Great Barrier Island to Kerikeri and from Ardmore to Okiwi. Waiheke Island also has its limitations. The aerodrome is short, has a 2 degrees slope and an offset approach from both the north and south. The strip is also grass. This makes the Islander a perfect twin engine aircraft for the airline but the company does not operate full loads out of Waiheke.

The Great Barrier Island side of the operation is more clearly focused on the regular air service to North Shore. Great Barrier Island is well served by Barrier Air. Island Aviation, which is only licenced for VFR operations at present, seeks to supplement their air service rather than compete with it  serving only North Shore. Island Aviation is looking to develop and operate package deals for tourists who have a short time in Auckland enabling them to see something of the beauty of the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.

Island Aviations' two BN Islanders, ZK-SFK and ZK-PIZ, at Waiheke Island on 29 December 2022

Island Aviation's Cessna 172 ZK-RNX at Waiheke on 29 December 2022. I'm hoping it will receive Island Aviation titles

The non-flying member of the Waiheke Island fleet

Until Easter 2023 Island Aviation's services operated solely as VFR operations but in April 2023 the company was granted approval to operate IFR operations.

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