23 September 2012

Mid North Air - Last Flight to Kaikohe



In May 1983 Eugene Mortensen, a long time James Aviation topdressing pilot in Northland, and his wife Jill Mortensen applied to the Air Services Licensing Authority to conduct a non-scheduled air service between Kaikohe and Auckland and air charter, air taxi services and scenic flight or joy ride services from Kaikohe and Kerikeri to any licensed aerodrome in New Zealand with a fleet of one Aero Commander 500, one Cessna 172, and one Piper Pa28 Cherokee. The Cessna 172 and Piper Cherokee are indicative of Mortensen’s connection to the Bay of Islands Aero Club.
 

The Mortensens obtained Aero Commander 500 ZK-CWP (c/n 500-842-97), which had sat unused for some years at Dairy Flat airfield, and it was made airworthy again. The Aero Commander, ZK-CWP, was no stranger to Kaikohe. It flew the first Geyserland Airways service to Kaikohe on the 22nd of August 1970 after NAC withdrew from Kaikohe. It was also a regular on Air North and Nationwide Air’s services to Kaikohe.
 
Eugene Mortensen and Mid North Air's Aero Commander - Northern News 22 September 1983
 
The Kaikohe-Auckland air service, which operated under the name, Mid North Air commenced in early September 1983. Initially the company offered a morning flight to Auckland and a return afternoon service to Kaikohe on Mondays and Fridays. The Aero Commander could accommodate six passengers who were charged $70 for the one way fare. Additional flights were offered a on a charter rate. The company’s part-owner and pilot, Eugene Mortensen, told the Northern News that while Mid North Air had got off to a quiet start, he was confident business would start looking up. As well as the Kaikohe-Auckland flights, he hoped to do scenic flights at Christmas as well as charters for rugby games, field days or business trips. “But freight is going to be the biggest money-spinner,” he told the Northern News, saying he could fly perishable goods to Auckland for connection with overseas aircraft. “We can get it straight down there on to another flight – it saves it getting pounded on the back of a truck,” he said. What about the future. “We’ll give it a couple of years and if it is not paying for itself by then we’ll have to stop it,” he said.
 
 
Northern News 8 November 1983
Announcing the arrival of Mid North Air's morning service from Kaikohe. Photo taken at Auckland on 6 August 1984.

In addition to the air service the Aero Commander was also regularly used to fly mussel spat from Kaitaia to Blenheim. A further development to increase the utilisation of the aircraft was the Bay of Islands Aero Club seeking to include the Aero Commander its air charter licence in November 1983.
 

Northern News, 17 November 1983

On the 28th of February 1984 Eugene Mortensen flew to Dargaville for talks with local authorities, travel agents and the local Aero Club about the possibility of Dargaville being included in the service. Local councillors and travel agents were taken for a flight over the town. Dargaville was included in the service from the 19th of March 1984. The timetable remained relatively the same with the flight leaving Dargaville for Auckland at 8.45am and returning at 5pm. The company also promised a Tuesday service if there was enough demand.
 
Prior to the commencement of the service there were many letters of support from Kaikohe businesses. Sadly, this written support didn’t materialise in terms of passenger support and the air service struggled. The inclusion of Dargaville did not help the economics of the business and so the Aero Commander was put up for sale. On the 9th of November 1984 Eugene flew ZK-CWP to Auckland ending Mid North Air’s brief history and the story of airline services to Kaikohe.
 

 
People:
Rick Johnson (pilot)
Eugene Mortensen (pilot and owner)
Jill Mortensen (pilot and owner)
Dimitri Zotov (pilot)

Aero Commander ZK-CWP at Christchurch not long after its sale. Photo taken on 31 January 1985 by S Lowe
 
 

2 comments:

  1. Jill is still active as a flight instructor.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jill was kind enough to give me some information so I could finish this post.

    ReplyDelete