In late July 1997 Inglis Aircraft Company launched Origin Pacific Airways, a New Zealand-wide business and leisure charter airline. Heading the operation were major shareholders Robert Inglis, the Managing Director and Nicki Smith, an Executive Director. Other key personnel, some being minority shareholders, included Dale Webb, the General Manager Airline Operations, Noel Gillespie the General Manager Commercial, and Chief Pilot Alan Graham. Origin Pacific established its base in Nelson with an initial fleet of four British Aerospace Jetstream 31s where were purchased from the sales and leasing company, British Aerospace Asset Management.
While the company announced as early as August 1997 that they intended to operate a regular service to Ashburton the initial, main focus of the company was the general charter market and personalised tours. To that end one Jetstream, ZK-JSX, was configured as a 10-seat corporate aircraft while the other three Jetstreams, ZK-JSA, JSH and JSI were configured as 18-seat commuter aircraft that were available for charter by sports teams, corporate and tourist groups. The Jetstream 31 is a rather squat aircraft and passengers were seated in the commuter aircraft with a 2-1 seating configuration with each aircraft equipped with a toilet. To accommodate luggage there was a baggage compartment at the rear of the cabin and all four Jetstream 31s were equipped with an underbelly pod which gave a total baggage capacity of 480 kg. The company built a large hangar and terminal at Nelson airport which was opened by Robert Inglis and Murray McCully, the Minister of Tourism, on the 19th of March 1998. Part 135 certification for airline operations, together with the operation's certificate, were issued in June 1997. A 50% share in Nelson Aero Maintenance was purchased and this company was upgraded to Part 145 certification trading as Horizon Air Support. The remaining 50% of the company was later purchased.
|Cessna 421 Golden Eagle ZK-DCN waiting for its passengers on a gloomy Wellington 14 September 2000|
|Advertising the first scheduled service starting on 8 April 1998 - NZ Herald 4 April 1998|
|Nelson-Palmerston North services starting 24 April 1998|
|Origin Pacific timetable effective 1 August 1998|
|It looks like BAe Jetstream ZK-JSI is carrying a full load out of Nelson on 25 June 1999|
|Leased from Airwork NZ Ltd, Fairchild Metroliner 23 ZK-POF taxis at New Plymouth on 18 October 1999|
|Leased Jetstream 31 ZK-OSW taxis out at Wellington on 7 February 2001|
|On freighter duty, Fairchild Metroliner III ZK-CIC lines up on Runway 29 at Christchurch on 16 January 2000|
|Fairchild Metroliner 23 ZK-JSJ pulls into the gate at Christchurch on 21 June 2001|
|An Origin/Qantas codeshare boarding pass|
|A 50-seat Bombardier DHC-8-311, ZK-NEQ, pulls onto the gate at Christchurch on 10 September 2001|
|One of the later, smaller 40-seat De Havilland Canada Dash-8-102s, ZK-NES, at Christchurch on 1 April 2003|
|The first BAe Jetstream 41, ZK-JSE, at Christchurch on 20 January 2002. Note the unique Origin titles|
|NZ Herald, 22 September 2001|
|ATR-72 ZK-JSY departs Christchurch on 14 April 2003. The ATRs were used to fly from Christchurch to Rotorua, Wellington and Queenstown|
|British Aerospace Jetstream 32 ZK-JSU about to roll at Nelson on 3 November 2003|
Origin's response to the loss of the Qantas connection was two fold. It first sought to develop relationships with international airlines operating to New Zealand. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, P&O Cruises, Air Tahiti Nui and Korean Air, Malaysian Airlines, Garuda and Aerolineas Argentinas all signed up with Origin Pacific to provide add-on domestic fares for their passengers. It also announced the development of its own services from April 2004. Origin’s plans included twice daily services between Christchurch and Queenstown, six flights a day from Auckland to Wellington using the ATR-72s, new weekday services from Auckland to Napier, an increased schedule from Auckland to Palmerston North and aircraft capacity upgrade to the Jetstream 41s on Hamilton services.
|6 flights a day Auckland to Wellington... stimulating traffic after the loss of the Qantas codeshare|
|Fly free on Origin with your P & O cruise...|
In July 2006 the Jetstream 41 aircraft were grounded being required to comply with a world-wide airworthiness directive in regards to the propellers used on the type. The only New Zealand facility where this inspection could be carried out was at Safe Air. The Safe Air staff were working to rule and the propellers couldn’t be inspected forcing this fleet to be temporarily grounded and being the core of the airlines passenger operations this was a massive and terminal blow to the airline.
|A beautiful Nelson, summer day on 15 February 2005 when I was able to catch a number of the Origin Pacific aircraft types...|
Above, BAe Jetstream 31 ZK-JSH... it is now with Originair
|BAe Jetstream 41 ZK-JSK|
|BAe Jetstream 32 ZK-JSQ|
|Fairchild Metroliner 23 ZK-JSV|
Nonetheless Origin Pacific was a very successful airline. It carried passengers safely for a number of years. It brought competition to the regions which is still an issue today and it encouraged cheaper fares to the regions. But in the end the regions favoured Air New Zealand. In the end competition works only if it is used and sadly for Origin the uptake just wasn't there.
As Originair prepares to get airborne this month it is clear already a number of the lessons learnt from Origin Pacific have already been heeded.