21 April 2024

ATRs Commence Hokitika Flights

Air New Zealand commenced scheduled ATR-72 services to Hokitika for the first time today with ATR 72-600 ZK-MVQ operating the first return service under the command of Captain Brendan O'Halloran and First Officer Ben Rochford with Dale and Vinay in the cabin. In a nice touch, First Officer Ben Rochford, a son of Hokitika, flew the sector into his Hokitika hometown as NZ5834 with Captain Brendan O'Halloran flying the return sector to Christchurch as NZ5837.

Air New Zealand ATR 72-600 ZK-MVQ at Hokitika on 21 April 2024 inaugurating the weekly Sunday afternoon flights between Christchurch and Hokitika. 

While the ATR-72s have flown in Hokitika before on charters this is the first time it has been used on scheduled services. The 68-seater ATR is the largest aircraft to be used on scheduled services to Hokitika, a big step from the 3-seat Fox Moth with which Bert Mercer launched Hokitika's first air service 90 years ago in December.   

The ATR 72 will operate to Hokitika over the winter on Sunday afternoons. The one ATR 72 flight will are replacing Hokitika's two Sunday Bombardier Q300 flights between Christchurch and Hokitika . 

The flights leave Christchurch at 4.20pm to arrive at 5.05pm and the return flight departs at 5.35pm.

The move is short-lived and will go through to September when the ATR flights revert back to Bombardier Q300s.

Scheduled trans-alpine flights between Christchurch and Hokitika have been operated for the last 55 years. The ATR 72 is the ninth type of aircraft used on regular scheduled flights between the two centres.

NAC Fokker Friendship ZK-BXI flew the first scheduled trans-alpine flights between Christchurch and Hokitika on the 20th of December 19868. The flights were under the command of Captain R W Patterson and First Officer R F Trowsdale with a local woman, Joan Gilbert, as hostess. 

NAC Fokker Friendship ZK-BXG at Hokitika a few days before the DC-3 service ended. The DC-3's wing is to the left of the photo. Photo taken at Hokitika on 2 June 1970 by B Whebell

During the 1972/73 summer holidays NAC chartered a Mount Cook Airlines Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft to operate their Christchurch-Hokitika Hokitika service to relieve the pressure on their network from Christmas holiday travel. The 48 seat aircraft, which had a slightly bigger passenger capacity than NAC's 40 seat Fokker Friendship flew to Hokitika daily for about a month. 

Mount Cook Airlines' Hawker Siddeley 748 ZK-CWJ at Hokitika on a NAC service on the 2nd of January 1973. 

NAC continued to operate a daily Friendship  service into Hokitika until the 31st of March 1978. 

For more see : https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2012/07/hokitikas-nac-de-havilland-days.html

On the 1st of April 1978 the merged Air New Zealand took over the Friendship service to Hokitika continued this until the 30th of October. 1988 when the service was handed over to Air Nelson. The final official Air New Zealand Friendship services were operated by Friendships ZK-BXI which flew the northbound Christchurch-Hokitika-Westport-Wellington sectors. ZK-BXE flew with the southbound Wellington-Westport-Hokitika-Christchurch sectors as NZ703, was flown to Christchurch under the command of Captain David McDonald and First Officer First Officer Francis van Woerkom.

Fokker Friendship Mk 500 ZK-NFH at Hokitika on 18 March 1984 

For more see : https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2012/03/air-new-zealands-hokitika-service.html 

Soon after the Air New Zealand service started Westland Flying Services started flights twice daily flights from Hokitika and Greymouth to Christchurch using a Cessna 402 ZK-DHW. These flights operated three days per week starting on the 5th of December 1979. This was the first time that a schedule was operated through Hokitika that was conducive for business travellers. However, the Cessna 402 was not ideal and patronage did not build sufficiently. The service operated through till the 30th of January 1980. 

Westland Flying Services Cessna 402 ZK-DHW at Hokitika in 1979.

For more see : https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2010/04/hokitikas-westland-flying-services.html 

Air Nelson commenced its service to Hokitika on the 31st of October 1988. A plethora of aircraft types were chartered to operate their Hokitika service until their airline's first Fairchild Metroliner III ZK-NSW started services to Hokitika on the 21st of November 1988. For the next

Air Nelson's first Fairchild SA227AC Metroliner III, ZK-NSW (c/n 508), in full Air Nelson colours scheme at Hokitika on 8 August 1989. 

Over the next 14 years the Metroliner was to become a familiar aircraft in the skies above Hokitika with up to four flights a day being operated to Christchurch. However, another type was operated by Air Nelson in this time. During the winter of 1994, Saab 340s replaced the Metroliner on the first flight out of Christchurch each morning. This proved popular in view of the often difficult alpine passes during the winter.

Saab 340 ZK-FXA doing the morning Christchurch-Hokitika-Christchurch service on 14 June 1994

In 2002 Air Nelson retired its Metroliner fleet in favour of Eagle Air's Beech 1900s. The final flight Air Nelson Metroliner flight, NZ8609, was crewed by Captain Dave Horrell and First Officer A. Virtue in Fairchild Metroliner ZK-NSY on the 11th of August 2002. On that day the Hokitika Air Nelson staff finished, Eagle Air opting for contractors rather than employees.

For more see : https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2012/03/air-nelsons-hokitika-service.html

Eagle Air took over Air New Zealand's Christchurch-Hokitika flights on Sunday the 11th of August 2002. During that afternoon Air Nelson flew the normal afternoon Mertroliner services with Beechcraft 1900D ZK-EAH flying the final early evening flight from Christchurch to Hokitika (Eagle 884) to inaugurate Eagle Air’s Hokitika service. The aircraft overnighted and then operated the morning service to Christchurch.

Eagle Air Beech 1900D ZK-EAA taxis to the terminal at Hokitika on 5 July 2010.

Eagle Air was keen to grow the Hokitika service and from the 12th of February 2007, Eagle contracted Air National to operate a mid-morning Christchurch-Hokitika-Christchurch weekday service using British Aerospace Jetstream 32 aircraft as well as the Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon flights to Hokitika. taking Hokitika to 5 flights a day on weekdays. Air National Jetstreams were operated until early 2011.

Air National BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECN arriving at Hokitika on an Eagle Air flight on 17 December 2009.

Air New Zealand's decision to withdraw the Beech 1900 fleet meant the end of the Eagle service to Hokitika. The final flights were flown on the 1st of May 2016 with Beech 1900 ZK-EAC flying the three return Hokitika-Christchurch services. The final flight out of Hokitika was flown by Tom McGeoch and Alister Dumbleton. A couple of hours later the final Christchurch to Hokitika flight was flown by Captains Chris Mortimore and Trent O'Shea before they positioned the Beech back to Hamilton ending Eagle Air's almost 14 year service to Hokitika. 

For more see : https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2012/06/to-hokitika-by-eagle-air.html

Eagle Air's multiple Beech 1900 flights to Hokitika were replaced by a twice a day schedule using 50- seat Air Nelson's Bombardier Q300s. The Air Nelson schedule saw twice daily Bombardier Q300 flights between Hokitika and Christchurch. Bombardier Q300 ZK-NEG operated the first day of the full Air Nelson schedule on the 2nd of May 2016. Air Nelson continued to operate the Q300s Air New Zealand air service to Hokitika until the the 18th of November 2019 when it ended all operations with the cessation of its Air Operating Certificate. From the 19th of November 2019 the Air Nelson Bombardier Q300 aircraft were transferred to the Air New Zealand Air Operating Certificate.

Air Nelson Bombardier Q300 ZK-NEZ at Hokitika on 4 February 2019

Air New Zealand continues to operate Bombardier Q300s to Hokitika, and from today, for albeit a short time, ATR 72s will join them on the trans-alpine service.


  1. Air NZs ATR 72-600s have 68 Seats, not 66 :)

  2. ATRs also went to HKK when there was an issue with the Q300s. It was like ten years ago now.