28 July 2017

More Reliable Service, More Passengers

The performance and reliability of Air New Zealand services out of and into Kapiti Coast Airport has improved considerably. Air New Zealand regional manager Ian Collier said the company accepted the criticism of many people who had said they couldn't rely on the local service. But the company had been working hard to address the issue and "the performance is improving and we will continue to deliver that," he said at a business briefing in Paraparaumu on Wednesday. Proof of improvements came from an audience member, Maurice Stilwell, who said, "I use it about every two weeks and the service has improved remarkably for the last six months. "I'd trust you with my holiday - just about." And Kapiti councillor Mark Benton said, "I use the service about once every three months and it's bloody brilliant. "Thanks very much and it's fantastic I don't have have to drive to Wellington." Mr Collier said Air New Zealand was happy with demand for its Paraparaumu air services though it could be better as it had been "flat for too long" however it was "cutting its lunch. So that is a good thing." Some of the challenges had included pressure from other airports and passengers decisions on their time and how much they were willing to pay. "Our role is to make sure we're as price competitive as we can be out of this port, and that we give you a schedule that is relative to the demand profile that we see." He said the challenge for the company and the community was to drive demand for the services. To grow the air service it was important to get the story and marketing of Kapiti right, firstly nationally and then internationally. "We have a whole lot of things here that are unique to us so we should put our best foot forward to ensure we're presenting that in the best way that we can, and in a way this community believes in. "If this community believes in it, then you will sell it. I would say we are in a better position now, than we have been for a long time, to be able to deliver that with clarity." Mr Collier, who noted there had been great work already, said the company "was there to help you promote that". But it was important not to lose sight of "filling the grandstands and we need to do that on the basis that we're delivering a reliable service". He felt the district had "momentum" especially with the Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway which presented the district "in a different light". "It has created a complete shift and I don't think we've seen the consequences of that yet but we certainly will. "The expressway is elevated and you actually get to see Kapiti, and what it represents, when you come through, and you get curious. "And the signage [to Kapiti Coast Airport] is great."

Source : 

More from the Blenheim Meeting

Marlborough airline Sounds Air is considering a "quantum leap" to larger aircraft on a route Air New Zealand ditched last year due to a lack of demand, its chief executive says. The carrier operates a fleet of 12 and 9-seaters but is exploring larger aircraft on the Blenheim to Christchurch route it started flying in August. Air New Zealand stopped offering direct flights between the centres last July, months after replacing its 19-seat Beechcraft 1900Ds on the route with 50-seat Bombardier Q300s. "One thing we're exploring is potentially larger aircraft, but to get larger aircraft is a quantum leap for a company like us," he said. "It's a dramatic change to our business model. But we are certainly looking at it and if we do get larger aircraft Blenheim to Christchurch will be the route they go on." The airline had ramped up operations on the route since last August, in part because of increased demand for flights following the earthquake and closure of State Highway 1. Last week Sounds Air offered 22 return flights, however Crawford said the pressure on the service meant the airline was investigating introducing larger planes to meet demand. The route was currently serviced by the 9-seat Pilatus PC-12s. Fares were a flat rate of $199 one way, or $398 return. Crawford said the airline was still conducting due diligence, but said the introduction of larger planes would mean more variable fares, some cheaper and some more expensive. There were no new models being manufactured in the capacity range between the 12-seat Cessna Caravan and the 70-seat ATR 72, so the company was looking at older models, he said. These included the 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D that Air New Zealand had been flying on the route, and the 34-seat Saab 340. The Sounds Air chief executive said a decision on the introduction of larger planes would be made within a month, and he believed there was enough demand to make it work. However, the company was still looking at various factors, including cost, how larger planes would work at the airports, and where it would source the planes from. Air New Zealand head of government and industry affairs Duncan Small said at the meeting, held in Blenheim on Tuesday, the airline was not going to reinstate the Blenheim to Christchurch route. "We are confident in the reasons we had for stopping that service before the earthquake, which is that we don't see the long-term potential to grow the service into something that's viable on a 50-seat aircraft," he said

Source : https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/news/95111909/sounds-air-investigates-larger-planes-between-blenheim-and-christchurch

27 July 2017

Big Fish, Little Minnow, Overcrowded Pond

Australian carrier Jetstar should be investigated for selling fares below cost, sparking a race to the bottom that threatens smaller operators, a regional airline boss says. Sounds Air chief executive Andrew Crawford said since Jetstar started flying from Nelson Airport, in December 2015, the Marlborough airline had seen a significant drop in business in Nelson. Crawford said Nelson Airport had been the second biggest market for Sounds Air. It was now the sixth, and the company was making $60,000 a month less than it was two years ago. "Jetstar has come into this country and offered fares at ridiculous levels, I mean way below cost. They're offering fares that I believe the Commerce Commission should be putting a stop to," Crawford said. "It's absolutely decimated our market in Nelson to the point where we'll have to seriously consider if we can keep doing it ... it's a race to the bottom, and we're caught up in it." Crawford made the comments at a public meeting organised by Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith, which took place in Blenheim on Tuesday evening. It was illegal for a company to take advantage of market power under the Commerce Act, but for predatory, or below cost, pricing to be illegal companies had to meet a number of criteria. A Jetstar spokesman said the Commerce Commission had never investigated the company for selling fares below cost. He did not say if the airline engaged in the practice. "Aviation is a very competitive industry with airfares set based on market conditions. Jetstar is able to offer low fares because we keep our costs as low as possible," he said.

CV521 off to the Chathams

During winter this year Air Chathams are operating an additional flight on Wednesdays between the Chatham Islands and Wellington... Convair 580 was operating flight CV521 from Wellington on 26 July 2017

26 July 2017

Bigger aircraft for Sounds Air???

Speaking with AIN at the recent Caribbean Aviation Meetup conference in Sint Maarten and in subsequent e-mails, Sounds Air managing director and majority shareholder Andrew Crawford said the carrier now operates up to 22 PC-12 round trips a week on the Blenheim-Christchurch route as a result of the road closure. Crawford added that the closure generates more traffic demand for Sounds Air beyond even today’s increased schedule and noted that the main road between the two cities will remain closed for more than a year to come. According to Crawford, Sounds Air is looking for larger aircraft to meet the extra Blenheim-Christchurch demand and also to benefit from what he said is a forthcoming move by Air New Zealand regional subsidiary Air Nelson to end services with 50-seat turboprops at some New Zealand destinations. “We are looking at Beech 1900Ds and potentially Saab 340Bs as the two options that are potentially viable,” he explained.

For the full article see : https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/air-transport/2017-07-25/quake-damage-drives-sounds-airs-search-larger-aircraft 

Originair announces flights to New Plymouth

Originair is extending its airline services by adding direct flights between Nelson and New Plymouth which will take approximately 50 minutes. Initially there will be eight flights a week between the two cities, taking off from September 29.  The airline will be flexible around scheduling, reflecting extra demand during school holidays and long weekends. Originair managing director Robert Inglis says they are introducing the direct flights after listening to business and leisure travelers. "Currently anyone travelling between the two cities may spend lengthy periods transiting via Auckland and Wellington instead of less than an hour with direct services. We believe the Nelson and New Plymouth communities will support this service. It will appeal to travelers who want to spend a weekend in either city and to business travelers commuting for a week's work or a short stay," Mr Inglis says. The airline currently flys between Nelson and Palmerston North, a service which started in 2015 and is popular with business and leisure customers. The company's British Aerospace 18-seat Jetstream aircraft will fly the route and the company is adding another Jetatream to its operations to cover contracted charter flights, tours and maintenance coverage.

Originair is offering a special New Plymouth Introductory fare. Passengers simply enter the coupon code FLYNPL when searching for their flights online between Nelson and New Plymouth to book special fares starting from $179 one-way per-person. This introductory offer, which is limited, is for travel in October 2017. 

19 July 2017

Dominion Newspaper flights

For almost 50 years the Dominion has been flown from Wellington to Nelson on an early morning more or less dedicated air service.

I'm trying to put together a little bit of a history to the service... These are the operators I have found that have flown it... I'm wondering if Rex Aviation or Rawson Aviation ever carried the Dominion???
You may pick up other errors...

1971                                    Capital Air Services

1978                                    James Air

Apr 1981                             Wellington Aero Club

Sep 1981                            Air Albatross

Dec 1985                            Skyferry

Oct 1988                             Fieldair Freight

Mid 1993                             Flightcorp

1999                                    Vincent Aviation

9 Jan 2006                          Sounds Air

As I put something together I would love to hear from pilots that have flown the early morning Dominion flight and maybe answer one or some of these questions

Operator you flew for?

Rough dates who flew the service?

What was your experience or stories of flying the papers?

Did you ever have passengers to or from Nelson?

Have you any pictures of the newspaper operation?

I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks, Steve

18 July 2017

Sunair Timetable #57

Sunair have released their new timetable effective 7 August 2017. There are no changes to the frequency of services, no new destinations and no new increase to fares. There are a few changes, however, with timetable changes to morning flights to and from Great Barrier Island. The biggest change is with the flights between Hamilton and the Gisborne with the aircraft now starting the day at Hamilton rather than Gisborne in an attempt, I suspect to beat the Hamilton fog! 

Meanwhile Sunair, from my observation seem to being doing well, with a number of Whangarei-Hamilton services been operated and Gisborne-Hamilton flights often running full. Gotta love Sunair!

See : http://sunair.co.nz/images/1-New_schedule_wef_7_Aug-Iss1.pdf

09 July 2017

Air Nelson - Part 1 - The Nelson-Wellington Commuter Airline

Air Nelson traces its origins back to Nairn Aviation. In 1976 Robert Inglis and Nicki Smith helped Harry Jenkins establish Associated Aviation in Paraparaumu. Two years later they established their own Motueka-based flying school, Associated Aviation (Motueka). In 1980 they, along with Harry Jenkins, bought Nairn Aviation and changed the flying school and air charter operator's name to Associated Aviation (Nelson). This Nelson-based company was later sold to Martin Butler who gave it the name Air Nelson before he sold the company back to Associated Aviation (Motueka). In 1985 Robert and Nicki decided to concentrate on developing Motueka Air Services and so Associated Aviation (Motueka)’s airline operation was split from the flying school and the airline was formed into a new company, Motueka Air Ltd. Air Nelson became a division of Motueka Air and offered charter, scenic tours, flight training and aerial photography from Nelson. A number of Cessna single engined aircraft were were used including Cessna 152 ZK-ELV, Cessna 172s ZK-EOK and ZK-EOX and Cessna 206 ZK-DFW.

Cessna 152 ZK-ELV at Motueka at 4 February 1989
Cessna U206F Stationair ZK-DFW at Palmerston North on 24 February 1985

Following on the from success of the parent company's Motueka air service Air Nelson began scheduled flights between Nelson on Wellington on the 16th of December 1985. At this time Air New Zealand and Air Albatross were offering numerous flights on the route with Friendships and Metroliners. Explaining his company’s rationale Air Nelson’s managing director, Mr Robert Inglis, said, "There is no intention to rapidly expand the service. We are interested in being complementary to the other airlines at peak times. We are also interested in supplying multi-engined aircraft for charter work for companies, sports and special interest groups." The first flight was operated under the command of chief pilot Bob Schmuke using Piper PA31 Navajo ZK-NSN. Initially two return flights were flown on weekdays and one return flight on both Saturday and Sunday with ticket prices of $55 being lower than both the company’s competitors.

Air Nelson's first aircraft, Piper PA31 Navajo ZK-NSN at Nelson on 20 January 1986

Air Nelson’s entry into the market was fortuitous. Four days after the launch of scheduled service Air Albatross was placed in receivership and ceased operations resulting in a large number of passengers trying to book on the newly established Air Nelson. Robert Inglis told the Nelson Evening Mail, "Most of our Christmas flights have been booked for the last month. We're putting on as many special flights as we can within the limits of staff duty hours and wise operating practices." Asked if his firm decided to begin the Nelson-Wellington run because it believed Air Albatross was going to fold, Mr Inglis said: "That's not the reason. We had observed throughout the last year that there was a gap in the timetable. We were also influenced in the decision to start by the fact that Air Albatross schedules seemed to be very unreliable. We've never seen ourselves as another Air New Zealand or Air Albatross. We're just trying to provide an alternative service at peak times.”

Air Nelson timetable number 1, effective 16 December 1985

By the end of January the service had grown to two return flights each morning and evening using the company’s Navajo and a leased Cessna 402 with the company looking for a larger aircraft. In 1986 two Piper Aztecs, ZK-DIO and ZK-PIX were added to the fleet to provide additional capacity on the Nelson flights as well as providing back-up for the Motueka Air Services flights from Motueka to Wellington.

Air Nelson's two Piper Aztecs that were used to provide additional capacity on the Nelson-Wellington service... Above, ZK-DIO taken at Nelson on 5 February 1989 and below ZK-PIX taken on 4 February 1989

The “larger aircraft”, which did not eventuate for another 12 months, were two 10-seater Piper PA31 Chieftains, ZK-NSO and ZK-NSP which arrived in April and May 1987 to cater for the traffic which had been steadily growing on the Nelson-Wellington route. The new aircraft enabled five return weekday flights to be operated. A lesser weekend schedule was also operated.

Piper PA31 Chieftain ZK-NSO at Nelson on 21 January 1991

With its location at the top of the South Island bounded by Cook Strait and mountains to the south Nelson has always been air minded. At the same time as Air Nelson introduced its two Chieftains Pacifica Air introduced services from Nelson to both Wellington and Christchurch using a Beech Super King Air. Robert Inglis stated his belief that there was only room for one alternative airline to Air New Zealand flying the Nelson-Wellington route and only time will tell if the new Nelson-based airline Pacifica Air will be successful. "We are not competing in the same market, Air New Zealand and Pacifica Air offer a fast, pressurised and turbine-powered aircraft service, and our place in the market offers cheaper fares," he said. He puts this down to more economically-run aircraft. The company intends continuing its five flights a day service between Nelson and Wellington.

The arrival of the Chieftains saw the introduction of Air Nelson’s smart maroon and silver colour scheme giving the company a good corporate image. At this time Air Nelson also tapped into growing demand for charter from business people, special interest groups and sports teams. They also operated air ambulance flights for the Nelson Area Health Board for patient transfers and other emergency requirements.

Air Nelson charter...

The Nelson-Wellington Commuter Airline
Air Nelson timetable, effective 1 September 1987

An Air Nelson advertising supplement from the Nelson Evening Mail of 10 February 1988 showing the fleet, the interior of a Chieftain and the staff.

In July 1988 Air Nelson and Hamilton-based Eagle Air announced they had joined forces to begin a regional network linking Nelson with Auckland, Hamilton, Napier, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington. At the same time it was announced that in November 1988 Air Nelson would extend its services to the West Coast operating a Wellington to Nelson, Westport and Greymouth service in the morning and returning along the same route in the afternoon with a seven seat Piper Navajo.

In their joint statement, Air Nelson’s managing director Mr Robert Inglis and Eagle Air’s general manager Mr Don Good said the move meant "unprecedented commercial co-operation between two New Zealand airlines." The agreement saw Air Nelson move onto Eagle Air's Qantas-developed computer reservation system with Air Nelson taking over the Palmerston North-Nelson service from Eagle Air. "Eagle and Air Nelson's aircraft are tailored to give these routes a high frequency service, allowing the consumer to fly at a departure time convenient to the operational and economic needs of the airline." The strengthening of ties heralded a new era of co-operation between airlines facing the prospect of potentially high cost increases from the Airways Corporation and airport authorities "which the New Zealand consumer in today's environment, especially in the regional centres, will not and cannot pay".

The statement said Air Nelson would restructure its operations to improve efficiency and enhance its service. “Motueka Air and Air Nelson would merge, and be upgraded to a full Piper fleet of Chieftains and Navajos. Its services to Wellington will thus be considerably enhanced." Air Nelson would also open its own maintenance division in Nelson. "Air Nelson takes over the mantle of New Zealand's largest Piper Chieftain operator from Eagle, who at one stage operated four of these aircraft and had build up a great deal of experience over 11 years of owning, operating, and servicing these workhorses of the commuter air business," it said.

For a post on Motueka Air Services see

There were two other pieces of news announced in July 1988. First was the news that Air Nelson would also open its own maintenance division in Nelson. The other announcement was the news that Air Nelson had negotiated a contract with Ansett New Zealand to handle its freight on the Nelson-Wellington run. 

AIr Nelson took over Eagle Air's flights between Nelson and Palmerston North on the 1st of August 1988 with three flights each way on Mondays and Fridays, two flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and a single flight on Saturdays and Sundays. Connections were made at Palmerston North to Eagle Air flights to Auckland and Hamilton.

Air Nelson's Piper Chieftain ZK-NSP at Hokitika on 26 November 1989

Also on the 1st of August 1998 Motueka Air merged with Air Nelson and these flights appeared in the Air Nelson timetable. At this point three Aztec flights were operated between Motueka and Wellington each weekday with one flight being operated on both Saturdays and Sundays as well as a Motueka-Nelson service. Also appearing on the Air Nelson timetable was the Monday to Saturday newspaper service to Takaka. This was flown by Cessna 172 ZK-EOX and operated either from Nelson or Motueka depending on what traffic was offering.

The Takaka plane... Cessna 172 ZK-EOX at Nelson on 21 June 1991

Air Nelson timetable effective 1 August 1988... It shows the planned services from Wellington and Nelson to Westport and Greymouth as well as a Palmerston North-Wellington service all of which were to commence on 1 November 1988 

With the rise and fall of Air Albatross Air New Zealand recognised the need to change its provincial services. With the rise of another regional competitor in an aligned Air Nelson/Eagle Air operation Air New Zealand acted and on the 16th of September it was announced that Air New Zealand had bought Eagle Air and a half share in Air Nelson. It was also announced that it was relinquishing flights to Hokitika, Westport and some of its Nelson-Christchurch and Nelson-Wellington flights in favour of Air Nelson. In announcing the changes Air New Zealand’s chief executive Mr Jim Scott said, "It no longer makes business sense to operate Fokker Friendships when smaller aircraft operating higher frequencies better suit the market. Our provincial services have always been an important part of our operations, but we must adapt to survive in changing times. What has been the best practice in the past does not necessarily provide the best solution for the future."

So began Air Nelson’s part in revolutionising provincial air services in New Zealand. 

07 July 2017

S8 854 from Wellington to Taupo

Thanks to JustPlaneMad for sending this email and pics of a recent flight on Sounds Air...

Saw your latest post on Sounds Air's Taupo service, and thought I would share these quick photos. Taken aboard flight S8854 from Wellington to Taupo on PC12 ZK-PLT. 7 pax including myself onboard, and the gate agent in Wellington seemed to reckon that was a average load. 

Flight was delayed due waiting for connecting passengers. First flight on a PC12 for me. Not a heck of a lot of leg room, but nice big windows - shame about the cloudy weather! :/ 

Definitely a lot quieter then the 1900D! Really cool to see the service is being supported. TIU-TUO via WLG and AKL with Air NZ was $360 one way, Air NZ from Timaru to Wellington, and then on to Taupo direct with Sounds Air, was $320, so it worked out great!