15 July 2024

Waco over Ottawa

After visiting the Canada Aviation and Space Museum at Ottawa I took the opportunity to overfly the city in Waco UPF-7 CF-LEP on 6 July 2024

Waco UPF-7 CF-LEP at Rockcliffe Airport, Ottawa on 6 July 2024

Airborne over the Ottawa River looking into Quebec

Casino du Lac-Leamy and giant fountain in Gatineau, Quebec, which is on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River

Chaudiere Falls on the Ottawa River... French-speaking Gatineau in Quebec in the foreground, Ottawa in English-speaking Gatineau in Ontario across the river.

Ottawa River

Over Ottawa... Notre Dame Cathedral bottom left, the National Gallery of Canada bottom right and Parliament Hill coming up top

Parliament Hill

Chaudiere Falls

Chaudiere Falls

Parliament Hill again

Ottawa River again

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum at Rockcliffe Airport, Ottawa

14 July 2024

The Inflite Charter Experience


Inflite Charters Limited was established in July 2012 and was an amalgamation of Air National’s fixed wing charter division and two divisions of Airwork NZ, Helilink and Skylink, to form what the company described as, “New Zealand’s largest private air solution company.” Alongside the new branding Helilink continue to provide the non-charter Police and EMS work in Auckland, New Plymouth and Wellington. 

Inflite's initial helicopter operation was based at Auckland’s Mechanics Bay with a Robinson R44 (ZK-HEI), an Aerospatiale AS355 Twin Squirrel ZK-HPA and a Bell 427 ZK-HVN available. 

My first photo of an Inflite aircraft, Aérospatiale AS 355F1 Ecureuil 2 ZK-HPA at Mechanics Bay on 14 August 2012

On the same day I caught Bell 427 ZK-HVN at Ardmore

An early publicity photo of Inflite Charters' Robinson R44 ZK-ICG and Aerospatiale Squirrel ZK-HPA

The fixed wing operation was based at Auckland International and the fleet included two BAe Jetstream 32s, ZK-ECI and ZK-ECJ, which were painted in Inflite's colours. They also used Airwork's  Fairchild Metroliner IIIs.

Inflite's BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECI at Auckland on 26 November 2012

Out in the sun at Auckland on Saturday 11 May 2013 were Inflite Charter 's Jetstreams ZK-ECI and ZK-ECJ

An interesting photo and caption posted on Inflite's Facebook page in August 2015... "Check out Inflite's southern based Metro making a brief stop in Auckland yesterday before returning to our new base in Dunedin."

On the 17th November 2014 Inflite Charters Limited opened a new base at Taupō in conjunction with well-known local operators, Toby and Cushla Clark with Vaughan Nairn as Base Manager. The new operation was be based at the Izard Air complex and offered scenic helicopter flights, lodge transfers, golfing, fishing and vineyard trips in their AS355 Twin Squirrel and Robinson R44 helicopters. 

Taupō operations... Leased Eurocopter AS355 F2 Twin Ecureuil ZK-IHF with small Inflite titles at Taupō on 2 June 2015

Four helicopters registered to associated company Helilink but painted in Inflite colours... Eurocopter AS355 F1 Twin Ecureuil at Taupō on 14 November 2015

...and Eurocopter AS355 F1 Twin Ecureuil ZK-HPI at Taupō on 8 August 2016... 

and finally Robinson R44 Raven II ZK-HXB at Taupō on 20 November 2017.

Eurocopter AS355 F1 Twin Ecureuil ZK-HML at Taupō on 18 November 2018

Eurocopter AS355 F1 Twin Ecureuil at Taupō on 5 January 2020

Further expansion occurred in October 2015, when Inflite purchased Aoraki Mount Cook Ski Planes. At the time three ski planes were operated, Pilatus PC-6/B2-H4s, ZK-MCN (c/n 824) and ZK-MCT (c/n 841)  along with  Cessna A185F ZK-MCV (c/n 18504395). These were registered to Inflite Ski Planes Ltd on the 27th of October 2015. 

Mt Cook Skiplanes and Helicopters' Pilatus Porter ZK-MCT on the Tasman Glacier. Photo from their Facebook page. 

By the beginning of 2017 Inflite's BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECI was painted in Originair colours. In August that year both ECI and sister Jetstream ZK-ECJ were registered to Paraparaumu-based air2there who were operating Originair's services and this formally marked their departing from the Inflite fleet.

Inflite Charters' BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-ECJ at Tauranga, 7 November 2016

Alongside the Jetstream operation Inflite also offered corporate charters chartering a number of locally New Zealand based corporate aircraft.

Advertising for Inflite's corporate charter operations featuring Cessna 680 Sovereign ZK-RXD

Meanwhile, on the 23rd of April 2018, Inflite announced their purchase of Skydive Franz Josef, which at the time was the only skydive operator in New Zealand offering a 19,000ft skydive above the Westland National Park. Skydive Franz Josef's owners, James Meldrum and Craig Clark, initially stayed on with the business. At the time Skydive Franz Josef were operating Pilatus PC-6/B2-H4 Porter ZK-MCK (c/n 809) and it was was registered to Inflite Ski Planes Ltd on the 26th of September 2018. Inflite CEO, Adam Joyce said “This is a very exciting development for us which further expands our product offering in New Zealand and cements our commitment within the tourism industry, particularly in the South Island. The Skydive Franz business is a great fit for us and we are excited to add this product to our amazing suite of unique experiences.” This West Coast is the fastest growing tourism region in New Zealand with total tourism spend was up 12% up for the year to January 2018, which is 5% higher than the growth reported across the whole of the country

Taken before Inflite puchase Skydive Franz's Pilatus Porter at Franz Josef on 27 May 2017. Under Inflite ownership it initially keep the same titles, but this was later amended to read Skydive Franz and Fox Glacier. 

After a stint back on skis ZK-MCK wears a Mount Cook Skiplane and Helicopters logo as seen here doing skydiving duties at Motueka on 23 January 2023. Photo : M Beaven.

In 2019 Inflite dramatically expanded its skydiving portfolio. On the 10th of May it announced the acquisition of Skydive Abel Tasman which had been operated by founder Stuart Bean for almost 30 years. An Inflite press release said, A life-long skydiver who did his first jump at age 19, Bean’s now regarded as amongst the best in the business with more than 17,000 skydives to his name and is also a commercial pilot with over 3000 hours. Bean will remain involved with the business. Says Bean, “I am delighted to have the business transfer to a company with the same culture and values I share with the team in Abel Tasman. My staff are looking forward to the opportunities that a nationwide operator can bring and have really supported me through the process. I believe the company is in good hands with a bright future ahead.” The acquisition of Skydive Abel Tasman adds a dedicated and experienced team of skydive staff to the existing INFLITE team, along with an additional Pilatus PC-6 Porter to its fleet. Nelson Tasman Air offer stunning scenic flights in both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft flying into the Abel Tasman National Park. This business complements Skydive Abel Tasman, located side-by-side at Motueka Airport. Pilatus PC-6/B2-H4 Porter ZK-XIT was registered to Inflite Ski Planes Limited on the 10th of May 2019.

Skydive Abel Tasman's Pilatus Porter ZK-XIK on sky diving duty at Pukaki on 11 July 2020. Photo : M Beaven

Filling in for ZK-XIT on skydiving duties at Motueka on 23 January 2023 was Inflite Mount Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters' Pilatus Porter ZK-MCK. Photo M Beaven

At the same time Inflite announced that Skydive Mt Cook will open in September 2019 in a brand-new purpose-built facility at Pukaki Airport. Inflite CEO Adam Joyce says, “Inflite is embarking on an exciting period of growth. These are significant developments for us and have been in the works for some time. This greatly expands our product offering in New Zealand and cements our commitment to delivering incredible visitor experiences. At Skydive Mt Cook, visitors will be able to choose from 9,000ft, 13,000ft or 16,500ft jumps with views of Aoraki/Mt Cook, Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo, both the East and West Coasts and Te Wāhipounamu - South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. 

May 2019 also saw the announcement that Inflite was partnering with Air Chathams and offering charters using their fleet of 9 aircraft, including 2 x Metroliners (19 seat), 3 x SAAB (34 seat), an ATR72 (68 seat), and 3 x Convair (multirole passenger and freight) aircraft. The statement said Inflite boasts an industry leading reputation for excellence in charter services including the provision of private jet, turbo prob and helicopter charter, VIP transfer services, exclusive scenic flight packages, customised events, commercial air lifting and specialist freight... This expansion has come through Inflite’s appointment as the exclusive GSA (General Sales Agent) for the Air Chathams fleet. “Premium service delivery is core to our business as is the reliability and experience in corporate charters that Air Chathams brings to the sector.  The fact Air Chathams operations span the length and breadth of the country is a great fit for us.  We are excited to expand our charter offering for the benefit of our customers, Inflite and Air Chathams” says Paul Aston, Charter Manager at Inflite. Duane Emeny, General Manager of Air Chathams agrees. “We look forward to further growing our charter capacity in conjunction with Inflite, especially knowing their reputation and dedication to a high level of customer service.  It’s great to take up the opportunity to work together as both companies have extensive experience throughout New Zealand and are flexible enough to meet the demands of the sector in terms of location, size and aircraft capability”. Previously Inflite had used the Australian Alliance Airlines Fokker 50 VH-FKO.

A further skydiving purchase was announced on the 9th of September 2019 with Inflite's acquisition of Skydive Fox Glacier. which was operating Walter powered Fletcher FU24-950 ZK-DJE (c/n 176).  Inflite merged Skydive Fox Glacier with their existing West Coast skydive operation, Skydive Franz Josef and the new company operated as Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier, initially retaining drop zones in both locations. Inflite CEO Adam Joyce said, “We’re thrilled to welcome the team at Skydive Fox into the INFLITE family. The merging of the Skydive Fox and Skydive Franz teams is an exciting development for everyone involved in our West Coast business. This acquisition reinforces our commitment to the region which we plan to further develop over the coming 12 months. Within a very short time skydiving operations from Fox Glacier ended and with it the last regular use of Fox Glacier airstrip by a commercial fixed wing operator and ZK-DJE was deployed on Inflite's other skydiving operations. Meanwhile Pacific Aerospace 750XL ZK-DVE (c/n 159) was added to the Inflite skydiving stable on the 17th of February 2020 and this is largely based at Franz Josef or Pukaki though it has operated from Motueka.

Carrying the titles of all three skydiving operations, Pacific Aerospace 750XL ZK-DVE at Franz Josef on 11 March 2020

A great Dave Paull photo from sister blog https://nzcivair.blogspot.com/ of Inflite's Walter powered Fletcher FU24-950 ZK-DJE alongside the company's facility at Pukaki on 12 November 2022

Heletranz Helicopters and Inflite announced in January 2020 that they had merged following a long-term close working relationship in Auckland. The two New Zealand-owned entities will together become the country’s largest premium aviation operator. Its helicopters and fixed-wing fleet of aircraft now stretch across New Zealand. Sofia and John Ambler have steadily grown their family owned and Auckland based, Heletranz Helicopters, and will further add growth when they open their new private hangar early in 2020. Sofia Ambler, Director of Heletranz Helicopters added, “We’re very excited having bought into INFLITE, we have worked closely together developing a great partnership over the last couple of years which has resulted in our successful merger...Our whole team is very excited about the future for INFLITE and Heletranz Helicopters as a combined business” says Adam Joyce, CEO of INFLITE. “Joining forces enables us to offer a greater range of options for our customers throughout New Zealand, and puts us in a strong position for future expansion. The opportunities ahead for our sector are enormous, with demand for premium travel and adventure tourism growing fast. We have enjoyed a great working relationship based on shared values and priorities for a long time, so this came as a natural extension of that. Our locations, aircraft fleets and people are very complementary.” The two companies, though merged, continue to operate under their own identity. 

December 2020 saw Cessna 185 ZK-MCV leave the Mount Cook Skiplanes and Helicopters' fleet ending a long history of Cessna 185 skiplane operations from Mount Cook and the West Coast.

20180907 Inflite's Mount Cook Skiplanes and Helicopter's only Cessna 185 skiplane, ZK-MCV, at Mount Cook on 7 September 2018. Photo : Ryan Hothersall

In February 2024 announced that they would offer helicopter flights from Franz Josef covering famous landmarks, including Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier, Aoraki/Mount Cook, and New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier from a new, dedicated base in the illustrious West Coast. ‘A return to Franz Josef has been on our roadmap ever since we purchased Skydive Franz Josef in 2018,’ says INFLITE Group CEO, Adam Joyce. ‘The past few years slowed our plans, but we are now excited to re-launch operations from Franz Josef in the form of INFLITE Franz and Fox Helicopters. The cherry on top being that world-exclusive glacier landing on the famous Tasman Glacier. Mount Cook Ski Plane’s operations had taken place from Franz Josef and Fox Glacier since around 1965. After a 10-year absence of bookable flight packages, it is thrilling for the company to commence operations again, initially with helicopters and building to a future with ski planes. ‘Yes, we do have plans to bring the infamous Ski Plane back to Franz Josef,’ shares Joyce. ‘So, we can offer our amazing Ski Plane & Helicopter Combo, The Ultimate Alpine Experience from both Aoraki/Mt Cook and Franz Josef. 

The following aircraft have been registered to Inflite or its operations

Agusta A109S
ZK-HBH/6 (c/n 22013)

Air Parts (NZ) Fletcher FU24-950
ZK-DJE (c/n 176)

Bell 427
ZK-IRP (c/n 56078)

Cessna R172K Hawk XP
ZK-MXP/2 (c/n R1722915) 

Cessna A185F Skywagon II
ZK-MCV (c/n 18504395) 

Eurocopter AS350 BA Ecureuil
ZK-IEQ (c/n 2164) 
ZK-IEV (c/n 2040)
ZK-IEY (c/n 1448)

Eurocopter AS350 B2 Ecureuil
ZK-HBT/6 (c/n 1027)
ZK-HDG/3 (c/n 7863)
ZK-HGQ/5 (c/n 3140)
ZK-HJZ/4 (c/n 1230)
ZK-HYO/5 (c/n 4409)

Eurocopter AS350 B3 Ecureuil
ZK-HYZ/4 (c/n 8624)

Eurocopter AS350 D AStar
ZK-HBR/2 (c/n 1386)

Eurocopter AS355 F1 Twin Ecureuil
ZK-IAV (c/n 5041) 

Eurocopter EC120B
ZK-HHT/6 (c/n 1502)
ZK-IRO (c/n 1553)

Eurocopter EC130 B4
ZK-HBZ/4 (c/n 3766)
ZK-IGW (c/n 4925)
ZK-IGX (c/n 4925)
ZK-IZI (c/n 4148)

Eurocopter EC130 T2
ZK-IGW (c/n 9542)

Pacific Aerospace 750XL
ZK-DVE/2 (c/n 159)

Robinson R44 Raven II
ZK-IHE/2 (c/n 13299)

Pilatus PC-6/B2-H2 Turbo Porter
ZK-MCK (c/n 809)
ZK-MCN (c/n 824)
ZK-MCT (c/n 841)
ZK-XIT/2 (c/n 653)

Aircraft wearing Inflite branding but not registered to Inflite. There are probably more...

Bell 427
ZK-HVN/2 (c/n 56017)

British Aerospace Jetstream 3201
ZK-ECI (c/n 946)
ZK-ECJ (c/n 969)

Eurocopter AS355 F1 Twin Ecureuil
ZK-HPA/2 (c/n 5010)
ZK-HPI (c/n 5211)
ZK-HPZ (c/n 5107)

Robinson R44 Raven II
ZK-HXB (c/n )
ZK-ICG/1 (c/n 11111)

11 July 2024

Great Barrier Island Scenic Flights


Island Aviation has announced that it will introduce on demand local scenic flights from and around Great Barrier Island. This follows on from the operators popular scenic flights from and around Waiheke Island. The Waiheke Island scenic flights are operated according to demand by the company's Cessna 172 ZK-RNX or Britten Norman Islanders ZK-PIZ and ZK-SFK. 

Island Aviation is offering a flight today from Claris at noon. This group booking requires a minimum of 6 people and costs just $149 per person. Bookings can be made at info@islandaviation.co.nz or calling 09 390 1122.