14 June 2024

And now ZK-CID goes - The end of Metroliner Operations in NZ



Departing Auckland for Sydney and then on the Melbourne's Essendon airport as 3C 934 this morning, the 14th of June 2024, was Air Chathams' Fairchild Swearingen SA227AC Metroliner III ZK-CID. Its departure marks the end of Metroliner operations in New Zealand.

Fairchild Swearingen SA227AC Metroliner III ZK-CID (c/n AC-692B) was born at the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation's plant in San Antonio, Texas in October 1987 being placed on the US register as N2707D. 

The following year it moved to England being registered as G-BOJN to UK Airways Ltd of Hurn, on  the 23rd of March 1988, Combined Lease Finance PLC of Hurn on the 11th of January 1989 and Ali Finance Ltd of London on 21st of December 1989. During this time it was leased to UK airline, Air Metro.

On the 3rd of March 1990 it was restored to its American registration with the Fairchild Aviation Corporation before coming to New Zealand as part of Air Nelson's major expansion process. It was registered to Air Nelson Ltd on the 5th of September 1990 as ZK-NSS on the 5th of September 1990. 

It arrived still wearing its Air Metro colour scheme and went into Air Nelson service with the word "metro" being replaced with "nelson" and the "am" logo on the tail being modified as "an".

Shortly after entering service with Air Nelson, Metroliner ZK-NSS at Nelson on 9 September 1990

What became the more simplified scheme for ZK-NSS and Air Nelson sister ship ZK-NSQ at Nelson on 28 November 1990

The two British ex-Air Metro didn't stay in the Air Nelson fleet long. While in the UK the local aviation authorities had insisted that the two Air Metro two stall avoidance systems and this made both NSS and NSQ heavier and thus reduced their payload... they were usually restricted to 16 seats. On the 12th of March 1991 ZK-NSS was registered to Airpost Ltd, of Auckland for their mail service. 

Whilst on the Air Post operation, Metroliner ZK-NSS at Wellington on 15 January 1992

In 1997 a joint venture between Airwork NZ Ltd and Chatham Islands Seafoods Ltd began running scheduled services between the Chatham Islands and Wellington on the 9th of October 1997 using Airwork’s Fairchild Metroliner ZK-NSS under the name Chatham Airlink. Twice weekly flights were offered until May 1998 when flights operated on demand. The demand was not there  and the service eventually petered out soon after.

During the CAA's 1996 grounding of Air Chathams, Airwork were chartered to operate AIr Chathams' services. Metroliner ZK-NSS was at Chatham on 12 April 1996. The following year it returned as a competitor before eventually being bought by Air Chathams

Back with Airwork as a freighter ZK-NSS at Auckland on 26 November 1996

In 1999 Origin Pacific Airways expanded their regional network and entered a strategic alliance with Auckland-based Airwork NZ Ltd from the 31st of May 1999. This enabled Origin to utilise Airwork’s Fairchild Metroliner 23 aircraft, and their Fairchild Metroliner IIIs, ZK-NSS, POA and POB. These aircraft were primarily used at night on NZ Post mail flights. All the Airwork aircraft were used at some point on Origin Pacific’s daytime passenger services. ZK-NSS remained in an all white scheme.

Metroliner ZK-NSS on an Origin Pacific flight departing Nelson on 25 June 1999

While in Airwork ownership the aircraft was reregistered to Airwork (NZ) Ltd of Auckland on the 29th of September 1999, to Airwork Holdings Ltd, Auckland Airport on the 8th of August 2003 and Airwork Flight Operations Limited on the 8th of January 2009. 

Meanwhile, in 2003, it received a new mission being configured as an air ambulance for Life Flight New Zealand.

ZK-NSS as an air ambulance for Life Flight at Auckland on 23 September 2014

Following Air Chathams picking up the Auckland-Whakatāne route from Air New Zealand on the 28th of April 2015 there was a need for additional Metroliner capacity and ZK-NSS was registered to Air Chathams Limited on the 8th of April 2016 with the registration being changed to ZK-CID on the 27th of April that year. In entered service with Air Chathams on the 3 of July 2016 flying the afternoon Auckland-Whakatāne-Auckland-Whakatāne services.

Metroliner ZK-CID departing Whakatāne on 9 November 2016

ZK-CID on finals at Auckland on 28 March 2022

ZK-CID was last used on the Whakatāne scheduled service on the 4th of November flying Whakatāne-Auckland as 3C 823, the return 3C 822 and its final Whakatāne-Auckland service 3C 831. 

Following its withdrawal from passenger services it operated freighter flights, mainly between Wellington and the Chatham Islands with an occasional flights between Auckland and the Chatham Islands.

The final freighter flights operated by ZK-CID in Air Chathams' service were operated without fanfare on the 19th and 20th of February 2024 when it flew from the Chatham Islands to Wellington as 3C 212 and the return sector as 3C 221 (on the 19th) and then the final sector as 3C 212 on the 20th of February 2024, this flight being the final Metroliner revenue earning flight in New Zealand. It then positioned back to Auckland as 3C 934. 

Air Chathams' last Fairchild Metroliner, ZK-CID, at Chatham Island on 12 January 2024 between freight flights to New Zealand. Photo : R Deerness

Air Chathams' Fairchild Metroliner III, ZK-CID, the company's last Metroliner, at Wellington on 1 February 2024 was operating a freight service, 3C 221 to the Chatham Islands

With today's departure the Metroliner flies into New Zealand aviation history. 

A list of the Metroliners that have operated in New Zealand can be found in the second half of this post... https://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com/2023/11/40-years-of-scheduled-metroliner.html


  1. Thank you for all the information

  2. My favourite Metro. I was in San Antonio doing another type rating and actually met the guy who did the original test flight on the aircraft. He could still quote all the differences made for UK Certification.

  3. ZK-NSS, POB, and POA all were used as air ambulance locally and to the Island's for medical repats.