Eagle’s first flying lesson was flown on 13th of December 1969. The fledgling training company started as a marginal undertaking, and its first three years were not easy. In 1971 the company unsuccessfully applied for an air service licence for an air charter service with one Piper Cherokee 160 and one Piper Cherokee 180 from Tokoroa and Hamilton. 1973 and 1974 were more successful years and this enabled the company to consolidate itself on a more solid financial base and to look for other areas in which to expand its operations. Previously, In 1974 Malcolm Campbell took on a new business partner, John Fairclough, and they together registered a new company Eagle Airways Ltd in December 1974 which was to look more towards providing an airline service.
Malcolm Campbell and Anna Pohlen, the company’s first customer, in Victa AirtourerZK-CXU. Source : Celebrating Eagle Airways’ First 35 Years
The flying school was sold in 1985 but over the years Eagle Aviation and the Eagle Flying Academy operated a number of single engine aircraft. Dave Paull lists the following;
|Eagle #1 - Victa Airtourer ZK-CXU taken at Hamilton. Photo : D White Collection|
|Piper Cherokee 180 ZK-DFL taken at Hokitika in 1978. I have always thought this scheme looked smart and I certainly liked the clear Eagle logo on the tail. Photo : S Lowe|
|Carrying small Eagle Flying Academy titles is Cessna 172 ZK-DKC as seen at Wellington. Photo : R Killick|
|The plane that launched Eagle the airline, Beech Baron ZK-ECA at Hamilton on 9 November 1980. It didn't carry the Eagle logo on the tail until the early 1980s. Photo : I Coates|
In October 1975 N.A.C. changed its timetable for flights between Hamilton and Wanganui. The change meant it was impossible for Hamilton business people to do a day’s business in Wanganui. Eagle Aviation saw this as an opportunity to expand and in October 1975 the company inaugurated a twice weekday return air taxi service from Hamilton to Wanganui and Palmerston North. The timetable was arranged to provide business people wanting to commute between the cities with a same day service with the morning flight to Palmerston North operating via Wanganui and thence returning to Hamilton direct from Palmerston North. The afternoon/evening service reversed what was flown in the morning.
|Waikato Times 1 October 1975|
|Eagle Airways timetable showing the thrice weekly service between Hamilton and Napier. Ca. 5 July 1976|
This time Eagle’s application was successful and on the 19th of April 1977 it was granted approval to operate scheduled services on its Hamilton-Wanganui-Palmerston North and Hamilton-Palmerston North routes with either the Beech Baron or a Cessna 402. In May 1977 the Herald reported that Eagle had ordered a Beech Queen Air but it was, however, a $250,000 Piper Pa31-350 Chieftain, ZK-EIE (c/n 31-7552128) which Eagle Air introduced as its 9-seater. The Chieftain began operating the services to Wanganui and Palmerston North on the 30th of September 1977. About the same time the licence conditions were changed so the company could operate two direct return flights each day to Wanganui with the Beech or Palmerston North with the Chieftain when bookings were heavy. This gave the airline the flexibility it needed to provide a service this met its passenger’s needs.
|The timetable effective 1 October 1976. The existing Gisborne air taxi service and the new air taxi service to Gisborne are enclosed. Within a short time copied of the timetable were hand amended scratching out the Gisborne service.|
|The timetable effective 2 April 1979 including the non-scheduled service to Taumarunui.|
|The Dominion, 7 July 1979|
|Bruce Gavin photographed Sea Bee Air's Piper Twin Comanche ZK-ERH a few months before Eagle Air it. Photo taken at Wanganui on 23 February 1979.|
Eagle’s second application for a new aircraft was the
addition of an 18-seat Embraer Bandeirante. This was the watershed moment for
Eagle Air. Until this point Malcolm Campbell’s Eagle Airways had been
constantly been going back and forwards to Licensing Authority trying to claw
out niche in an overly protected and unimaginative airline industry. Looking to
the future Malcolm had an insight into the role a commuter airline could play
in developing the provincial air services in a way Air New Zealand with its
Friendship fleet could not achieve. The arrival of Eagle Air’s Bandeirante and,
at about the same time, the arrival of Bell Air’s Beech 99, ushered in a new
chapter in airline services in New Zealand. The Bandeirante was to transform
what had been a fledgling air taxi operator into a true commuter airline. This
coming of the age of the Eagle will be the subject of the next post.
Part 2 can be found here : http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2013/05/the-eagle-spreads-its-wings.html