31 August 2014

Sounds Air - The Fast Scenic Way to Cross Cook Strait




Updated March 2017




This is the third and final installment on the story of Skyferry to Sounds Air story. For the first installments see : 
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/08/skyferry-making-crossing-cook-strait.html 
and 
http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/soundsair-well-have-you-across-cook.html

Once again I am extremely grateful to Cliff Marchant and Andrew Crawford for their time and encouragement in the preparation of these three posts.  



In December 2003 Cliff and Dianne Marchant sold two-thirds of Soundsair to Auckland businessmen Andrew Crawford and Steve Handyside. Andrew Crawford was appointed as Managing Director, the airline name was changed from Soundsair to Sounds Air and a new orange colour scheme was adopted with an albatross logo. 2004 began with a new Gippsland GA8 Airvan, ZK-KLC being added to the fleet and this replaced Britten Norman Islander ZK-REA. On the 19th of July 2004 Sounds Air started twice daily services between Wellington and Kaikoura. The new Airvan was the mainstay of the Kaikoura service but the Caravan was also used if a larger aircraft was needed. While the Kaikoura service continued for a number of years it was never the success the company hoped for and by May 2009 services to Kaikoura had ceased. 


A full history of the Kaikoura service can be found at - http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/01/sounds-airs-kaikoura-service.html


In October 2003 Cliff and Dianne Marchant decided that they would sell two-thirds of the company to enable Soundsair to achieve to its full potential. This led to Andrew Crawford and Steve Handyside investing Soundsair and the formation of a new company, Sounds Air Travel And Tourism Ltd. In December 2003, with Andrew Crawford appointed as Managing Director, the first changes appeared with the change of the name from Soundsair to Sounds Air and the adoption of the current albatross logo and orange colour scheme. 2004 began with a new Gippsland GA8 Airvan, ZK-KLC being added to the fleet and this replaced Britten Norman Islander ZK-REA. On the 19th of July 2004 Sounds Air started twice daily services between Wellington and Kaikoura. The new Airvan was the mainstay of the Kaikoura service but the Caravan was also used if a larger aircraft was needed. While the Kaikoura service continued for a number of years it was never the success the company hoped for and by May 2009 services to Kaikoura had ceased.



The new colours of Sounds Air seen on Gippsland Airvan ZK-KLC at Wellington on 29 March 2005 (above), Cessna 172 ZK-EKE at Blenheim's Omaka Airfield on 29 September 2009 (middle) and Cessna 208 Caravan ZK-PDM at Blenheim's Woodbourne Airport on 17 February 2005 (bottom)



The Kaikoura service was added on the 19th of July 2004



Another of Andrew Crawford’s innovations was to form Skydive the Sounds Ltd with Neil Bradley and Callum McGlinchy in 2004. This increased the utilisation of Sounds Air’s Cessna 206 and smaller Cessna 172. In mid-2006 a 10-seat Britten Norman Islander, ZK-DLA, was added to the fleet. While this was cheaper to purchase than a Caravan the operating costs were a lot higher and it was sold to Mountain Air the following year being replaced by a larger Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-SAA. In July 2007, in partnership with Craig Anderson, the company bought Aeromotive (Blenheim) Ltd, an Omaka-based aircraft maintenance company and renamed it Sounds Aero Maintenance. During 2007 the company also extended the runway at Picton’s Koromiko airport and the existing house was redeveloped into a new terminal building.



Britten Norman Islander ZK-DLA (above), on approach to Wellington on 13 September 2006, was replaced by Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-SAA seen below taxiing to the terminal at Wellington on 3 April 2014.

Sounds Air’s network started to expand when the company took over flying the Dominion Post newspaper from Wellington to Blenheim and Nelson on the 9th of January 2006. Initially the flight operated from Wellington to Nelson via Blenheim with a direct flight back to the capital but from mid-2007 both Nelson and Blenheim received their own dedicated newspaper flights enabling an early morning flight to Wellington from both centres. In November 2007, with the arrival of the Grand Caravan, the company added an evening flight between Wellington and Nelson and return which operated on four days a week. A third Cessna Caravan, ZK-TZR, entered Sounds Air service on the 3rd of October 2008. In the same month the company opened a counter in the main Nelson airport terminal increasing both the company’s profile and passenger loadings from Nelson. Part of Sounds Air’s appeal is the pricing system which is set at a reasonable level and where a ticket costs the same whether it is bought months or days before travelling.


Sounds Air's timetable mid 2007 with the Dominion flights to both Nelson and Blenheim included



The third Caravan... Cessna 208 Caravan ZK-TZR (above) photographed at Wellington on 4 December 2012 was re-registered ZK-SAN on 28 June 2013 and photographed as ZK-SAN again at Wellington on 3 April 2014

Further expansion to Nelson services occurred in April 2009 with the take-over of Nelson-based Flight Corporation Scenic which provided a range of scenic flights, flight packages and private charters from Nelson. This led to the Cessna 206 being based at Nelson. Additional services between Nelson and Wellington were added in May and November 2009, February 2010, September 2011 and November 2013 so that today there are 23 flights per week.


Cessna 206 ZK-ENT at Koromiko on 17 November 2011
Flightseeing from Nelson after the take over of Flight Corporation

Sounds Air’s services to Blenheim, like the services to Nelson, began with the introduction of the Dominion Post service on the 9th of January 2006. Evening services to Blenheim were introduced on the 11th of April 2008 when Sounds Air began services between Wellington and Blenheim on Fridays and Sundays nights. These flights rapidly gained popularity and additional flights on Monday and Wednesday evenings soon followed. A major expansion to the Blenheim service began on the 1st of August 2011 when Sounds Air added 13 extra return flights a week to and from Wellington in addition to the 10 weekly return flights it already operated. Further flights to Blenheim were added in August 2013 and September 2014 so that today there are 33 flights per week.

September 2009 saw Sounds Air add a 2000 model Cessna 172, ZK-SAN, to the fleet. This Cessna was IFR equipped and GPS certified enabling it to be used for instrument training and IFR endorsements. In 2010 the company moved to establish an airpark at Picton Airport offering 16 freehold residential sections on farmland it owned behind the airport in Koromiko.

In May 2013 Sounds Air added a second Cessna Grand Caravan to the Fleet. ZK-MJL had previously been operated by Salt Air and Air Milford and it was re-registered as ZK-SAY when it became part of the Sounds Air fleet. This has enabled Sounds Air to offer the possibility of dedicated freight flights as well as to offer more charter flights and extra flights at peak times, especially over weekends and during the summer season.

Sounds Air's fourth Caravan, a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan at Wanganui on 22 October 2014

In September 2013 Air New Zealand announced that it was going to withdraw its Auckland to Masterton and Wellington to Wanganui services. Sounds Air explored the possibilities of connecting both Masterton and Wanganui to Wellington but in the end the company favoured Wanganui as the most viable option. A six day a week service between Wellington and Wanganui began on 21st of January 2014. An early morning service is flown to Wellington Monday to Saturday and a return service to Wanganui is flown Sunday to Friday.


Wanganui Chronicle, 18 January 2014
The Sounds Air timetable effective 3 December 2013

In February 2014 Cessna 206 ZK-ENT and Cessna 185 ZK-PRM were registered to Pelorus Air. The new company has taken over the small piston aircraft and small airstrip operations which have been progressively wound back by Sounds Air in order for them to focus on the all turbine, mostly IFR Caravan operations.  Pelorus Air is separate to Sounds Air, but shares the use of Picton Airport to connect to the remote airstrips in the Sounds.



Pelorus Air Cessna 185 ZK-PRM at Koromiko on 16 February 2014

From the 1st of September 2014 Sounds Air doubled its weekday flights Wanganui to two flights a day. Southbound flights depart Wanganui for Wellington at 6.30am and 3.30pm Monday to Friday and at 4.00pm on Sunday afternoons. The northbound services depart Wellington at 9.30am and 7.30pm with a 7.00pm flight on Sunday evenings. All the Wanganui flights connect with Sounds Air flights to and from Picton, Blenheim and Nelson both in the morning and in the evening. The additional flights were not successful and the schedule was reduced to a single flight each day in early 2015.


In January 2015 a third Cessna Grand Caravan, ZK-SAW, was added to the fleet and from the 26th of January 2015 a new Blenheim-Paraparaumu service will be offered. Three flights a day each week day are scheduled with a return flight on Sundays.



Sounds Air's third Cessna Grand Caravan, ZK-SAW, at Wellington on 12 June 2015 (above)
and at Woobourne on 23 February 2017 (below)


Air New Zealand's withdrawal from Westport and the Wellington-Taupo route enabled further expansion for Sounds Air. The company made six-year agreements with the Buller and Taupo District Councils whereby the local council guarantees the first three seats per flight. To service the routes the company purchased two Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. 

The first to arrive was ZK-PLS and this inaugurated air services from Westport to Wellington on the 28th of April 2015. Sounds Air fly between Westport and Wellington daily, except Saturdays, offering 13 return flights each week. Mondays and Fridays, the busiest days of the week, feature three return flights. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays there are two return flights. On Sundays, Sounds Air offer a late afternoon return flight.


Full coverage of the launch of the Westport service can be found here:

http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/04/sounds-airs-westport-service-takes-off.html


Pilatus PC-12 ZK-PLS at Westport on 28 April 2015



Westport News 13 March 2015
On the evening of 15 May 2015 Sounds Air bowed out of Wanganui. The last flights, Wellington-Wanganui (SDA 63) and Wanganui-Wellington (SDA 64), were flown in Cessna Grand Caravan ZK-SAA under the command of Jason Eteveneaux.

Sounds Air commenced Taupo to Wellington flights on 2 June 2015. Three return flights are operated each weekday with two return flights being operated on Saturdays and Sundays. The first flight, (SDA 803) was operated by Sounds Air's second Pilatus PC-12 ZK-PLZ under the command of Craig Anderson. Also on the flight deck was Sound's Air's Chief Pilot Willie Sage.  


Full coverage of the launch of the Taupo service can be found here:

http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/06/sounds-airs-taupo-flights-take-off.html


Pilatus PC12 arrives at Taupo for the first scheduled flight to Wellington on 2 June 2015. 




On 15 June 2015 Sounds Air introduced Paraparaumu-Nelson services. The first flight was flown by Tim Johnson in Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ZK-SAY. Two return flights a day are operated on weekdays and one on Sundays. At the same time the Paraparaumu-Blenheim service changed to the same frequencies. 


From the 6th of September 2015 the Tuesday and Thursday flights on the Blenheim-Paraparaumu-Nelson. Sounds Air's third Pilatus PC-12, ZK-PLT, entered service on the 14th of September 2015, this being the first Pilatus to wear full Sounds Air colours.





Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLT at Taupo on 9 March 2016
Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLT at Taupo on 8 August 2016

Sounds Air commenced another new air route between Blenheim and Napier on the 5th of November 2015. The inaugural services, northbound SDA712 and southbound SDA713, were flown in Pilatus PC-12 ZK-PLZ under the command of Tim Johnson. Three passengers flew to Napier with eight on the return flight to Blenheim.





A fourth Pilatus PC12, ZK-PLX, entered service May 2016. 


Sounds Air commenced a new service between Blenheim and Christchurch on the 1st of August 2016 following Air New Zealand withdrew from the route the day before. Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLX was used for the first flights, SDA651 to Christchurch and SDA652 back to Blenheim. These were captained by Craig Anderson with Dave King as co-pilot. Eleven flights a week are offered between the two centres.



The Blenheim-Christchurch timetable, effective 1 August 2016


Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLX at Wellington on 28 October 2016
In August 2016 Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLZ was repainted and reconfigured for corporate and charter work.

Sounds Air's corporate Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLZ at Woodbourne on 23 February 2017


After the Kaikoura earthquake on the 14th of November 2016 Sounds Air reintroduced services to Kaikoura with a Monday to Friday Blenheim-Kaikoura-Christchurch VFR service beginning on the 21st of November 2016. The Kaikoura-Christchurch sector ceased operating on the 27th January 2017 after the highway to Christchurch was reopened.



The earthquake schedules effective 21 November 2016




2017 saw the arrival of Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLV in service giving Sounds Air a fleet of five Cessna Caravans and five Pilatus PC12s.  

Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLV at Wellington on 23 February 2017.

Sounds Air is an airline that has grown from finding its niche as a charter carrier to the remote areas of the Marlborough Sounds to being a regional commuter airline offering reliability, safety, a good timetable, good fares, a good relationship and reputation with passengers. The present structure of the company will continue to provide a solid foundation for further expansion in the years ahead.

Aircraft Operated by Sounds Air (present fleet in bold);

ZK-DLA - Britten Norman BN2B-26 Islander (c/n 2131)    
ZK-EKE - Cessna 172N Skyhawk (c/n 17269940) 
ZK-ENT - Cessna U206G Stationair (c/n U20603667)
ZK-KLC - Gippsland GA8 Airvan (c/n GA8-03-040)
ZK-PDM - Cessna 208 Caravan (c/n 20800240)    
ZK-PLS - Pilatus PC12/45 (c/n 363)
ZK-PLT Pilatus PC12/45 (c/n 379)

ZK-PLV Pilatus PC12/45 (c/n 400)
ZK-PLX Pilatus PC12/45 (c/n 396)
ZK-PLZ Pilatus PC12/45 (c/n 445)
ZK-PRM - Cessna A185F Skywagon (c/n 18504414)
ZK-SAA - Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (c/n 208B0862)                                   
ZK-SAN - Cessna 172S Skyhawk (c/n 172S8673)
ZK-SAN - Cessna 208 Caravan (c/n 200800360) (ex ZK-TZR)
ZK-SAW - Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (c/n 208B2087)
ZK-SAY - Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (c/n 208B0861)           
ZK-TZR - Cessna 208 Caravan (c/n 200800360) (re-registered ZK-SAN)

30 August 2014

Got it at last...

Fiji Airways' Boeing 737-800 DQ-FJG has been an elusive one for me... I finally caught up with it at Auckland on 24 August 2014

29 August 2014

Nothing Exciting...

While waiting for my flight to Sydney on Monday 25 August I had 20 minutes in the departure lounge at Auckland International, not that there was much to photograph but nice backgrounds and a better perspective being somewhat higher... 

China Southern's Boeing 787-8 B-2727 taxis in to its remote gate... 
 

Air New Zealand Airbus 320 ZK-OJK taxis in to park right in front of me...

Jetstar Airbus 320 VH-VFD
That was all I had time for before boarding Qantas' ZK-ZQE for the flight to Sydney and then Qantas' Airbus 330 VH-EBQ for the flight to Perth... first flight on an Airbus 330 and I must say I was very impressed with the Qantas crew and service!

28 August 2014

OJR Repaint

Air New Zealand's Airbus 320 ZK-OJR has had a paint job in recent weeks losing its All Black colour scheme in favour on the new standard Air New Zealand scheme. 

Airbus 320 ZK-OJR on approach to Wellington on 9 April 2012
The same aircraft on approach to Auckland on 22 August 2014



27 August 2014

Rotorua Q300 service



This is a follow-up to the news that Air NZ Link is going to increase its Q300 flights to Rotorua...

Just four months after the introduction of the larger 50-seat Q300 aircraft on the morning Auckland-Rotorua return schedule, Air New Zealand has announced the Q300 will also be added to the route’s afternoon schedule from 9 February 2015. The Q300 provides 31 more seats per flight than the smaller Beech 1900 aircraft - equivalent to a 30 per cent increase in passenger capacity, or 16,000 additional seats per year. From February the Q300 will fly to and from Rotorua twice daily on weekdays. Flights will leave Auckland at 8.35am and 4.25pm, and depart Rotorua at 9.35am and 5.40pm. Rotorua International Airport chief executive Alistair Rhodes said Q300 flights introduced in February had proven popular with travellers – particularly business travellers – prompting the addition of more capacity on the service. “The introduction of the Q300 aircraft on this key route not only means more seats on offer but more cheaper fare options available. “It’s an efficient and cost-effective schedule for locals and visitors alike and it means that business travellers in particular will be able to make a daily round-trip on the larger aircraft. “These schedule changes are significant and positive developments for Rotorua, making it even easier and more economical to get to and from Auckland for international connections, or travelling domestically for business or pleasure. “The airport, alongside its key stakeholders, partners and Air New Zealand, has been working hard to secure an afternoon flight with the Q300 and we are pleased to see that this development has come to fruition. It’s a real win for the region and the local economy,” said Mr Rhodes.

Source : http://www.rdc.govt.nz/our-council/news/Pages/default.aspx?newsItem=5317

26 August 2014

Black Heavies

Caught on approach at Auckland last evening were Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 ZK-NZE...
...and Boeing 777-300 ZK-OKQ. Photos taken at Auckland on 22 August 2014