30 November 2017

Sounds Air turns 30

Jane Davies recalls the "little garden shed" south of Picton that used to offer a flight to Wellington. She was just 12-years-old when she first flew with Sounds Air from Koromiko to Wellington three decades ago. Sounds Air had just one airplane, run by Cliff and Diane Marchant in 1987, flying people across Cook Strait. "I remember at the time there was a sign up that said fares were only $29 more expensive than a ferry ride," Davies chuckled. Davies was one of many reflecting on how the airline had grown as the company celebrates its 30th birthday on Friday.  "The changes over the years are just amazing," Davies said. "Just seeing that growth in the teams on the ground in Blenheim and Nelson and Wellington, and the number of pilots. They used to all know me by name, now there's so many pilots I haven't even met yet. It's such a cool little company." When Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford took over in 2003 the airline had a 12­-seater Cessna Caravan flying one route, between Picton and Wellington, and three pilots sharing the work. "The plan was always to grow it but where it was going to grow to, who could have known?" Crawford said. "Now we have 70 staff in total, grown from eight staff when I started. We've got 26 pilots now. But in 10 years time, we might look back and go, 'gosh, we were so small'." Branching out with flights to Westport, Taupō, Napier and Paraparaumu were milestones for Crawford, as was the purchase of the nine-seater Pilatus PC-12. He was also pleased with the Blenheim­ to Christchurch flights launched last year, three months before the Kaikōura earthquake, and picking up the route dropped in Air New Zealand's regional restructure, he said. Crawford was considering putting larger planes on that route after high demand, and expected to know if it was feasible in January, he said. Christchurch business owner Jack Thompson was one of the passengers taking advantage of the new route, flying to Blenheim for work instead driving six hours on the alternate highway. "I can fly in the morning and out in the afternoon, it's perfect. And there's only eight to 10 seats so there's not a lot of people to make the plane late. You just walk on and walk off, there's no messing around." Flying with a locally-owned operator was a conscious choice, Thompson said. "I think it's an amazing service. And they're a locally-owned business, that's why I support them. They're taking on the big boys and it's not easy. I respect that. "You can see into the cockpit and the pilots talk to you. Even the baggage handlers say, 'gidday, how was your flight?'" Blenheim business coach Chris Walbran​ frequently flew to Wellington with Sounds Air over the last decade. "We've watched them grow. They're an excellent business," Walbran said. "In all these years there were only three days they couldn't get us across the gap [Cook Strait], because of the weather. Sometimes they have to vary their flight path to work around the weather, but at least you get there. The pilots adjust their flying to the conditions and they fly for passenger comfort. They're very skilled." But it was the "very friendly staff" that kept Walbran loyal, he said. "They're always willing to go out of their way. And we have nice banter." Crawford said the company's best advertising was "word of mouth". "Customers like Chris [Walbran] have been flying with us for as long as I've been here. So our motto is, keep those customers happy, and hopefully they will tell their friends. We provide a service that makes it impossible for them not to tell their friends how good it was." He credited the staff for the company's longevity. "It makes you very proud, obviously. It's been hard work getting here but it's only been done through the support of our fantastic staff. "Thank you to all our loyal passengers and staff for great support for 30 years and I can't wait to see what the future brings."

My profile on Soundsair can be found here: 

and on Sounds Air here:

27 November 2017

Still sitting on the ground...

Sunair Aviation still remains grounded. The Civil Aviation Authority suspended Sunair's Air Operator Certificate, along with its Certificate of Airworthiness for the fleet on the 8th of September 2017. 

Some of Sunair's fleet at Tauranga on 29 October 2017
A correspondent sent me this email - Further to your recent posts on the Sunair Aztecs growing grass at Tauranga a visit to Whangarei Airport this last weekend revealed Aztec FVP and Cessna 172 DHN both out to grass. The Sunair office was chained shut.

On the doctor's flight - Sunair's Piper Aztec ZK-PIX at Kaitaia on 27 January 2017

I for one look forward to Sunair getting airborne again...

26 November 2017

Recent Pics

Hidden away on the Green Lake at Rotorua on 20 November 2017 was Volcanic Air's DHC Otter ZK-VAS
Earlier in the day was Helicopter Services BOP's Aerospatiale Squirrel ZK-HKC was at Taupo
along with stable mate Aerospatiale Squirrel ZK-HZD
Also present at Taupo was Robinson Inflite Charter's Robinson R44 ZK-HXB
Beech 95-B55 Baron ZK-SEB was at Hamilton on 21 November 2017

23 November 2017

Cryptic Clue

On Barrier Air's Facebook page is another one of those black and white photos, no comments...

See what I wrote on Barrier Air on New Year's Day...

22 November 2017

Parcelair - The Night-time Freight Flyer

Parcelair Limited, was registered on the 25th of June 2015 as a joint venture company owned by Fieldair Holdings Limited, a subisdary of Freightways, and Airwork Holdings Limited.

The following day it was announced that the company would operate three Boeing 737-400 freighter aircraft between Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch, replacing the current five Convair freighter aircraft operated by Air Freight (NZ) for Freightways and the Boeing 737-300 and two Fokker Friendships operated by Airwork on NZ Post flights. The aircraft will be leased from Airwork and operated by Parcelair.

Freightways’ Managing Director, Dean Bracewell, announced that as express package volumes have grown, demand for earlier positioning of freight through the airport hubs has increased, and to sustain the current and the expected new levels of freight required by customers, Freightways has for some time been exploring alternative aircraft. "This new airfreight service will provide increased airfreight carrying capacity, faster sector speeds, savings in annual capital and operating costs and reduced carbon emissions per item of freight carried. In addition, the new fleet will provide sufficient capacity to accommodate the expected future growth of our Business to Business and Business to Consumer  customers."

New Zealand Post chief executive Brian Roche said the new aircraft are faster and will provide greater volume capacity and reliability, which is important for New Zealand Post in a growing market for express parcels and packets. “With more people shopping online than ever before, the demand for overnight parcel delivery has grown and this will continue. “These aircraft will help to future-proof our network, giving New Zealand Post the ability to support our customers’ service requirements and meet the growing market for the next 10 to 15 years.” The new fleet will provide operational cost savings for New Zealand Post and avoid further significant change over at least the next 10 years.

It was announced that the 737s would be converted to freighters in the United States and would be progressively pressed into service by May 2016.

The first flight was operated on the 22nd of August 2016 with Boeing 737-400 freighter ZK-PAK operating as PAK71 from Auckland to Christchurch and then to Palmerston North as PAK62. The operator callsign for Parcelair was initially allocated as PAK however from the 5th of September 2016 this was changed to APK with the callsign Airpak.

Parcelair Boeing 737-400 ZK-PAK at Auckland on 31 July 2016

The Freightways Annual Report to the 30th of June 2017 reported that a decision had been made in February 2017 to introduce additional airfreight capacity between Auckland Christchurch through regularly operating an extra Boeing 737-400 aircraft and/or the chartering back of a Convair for the greater than anticipated airfreight volume growth. The Annual report stated that “While this additional capacity comes at a cost, due to it not being fully utilised, it is required to ensure a sustainable premium service offer. Due diligence is under way on permanently introducing a fourth Boeing 737-400 aircraft that will effectively replace this additional return flight/charter for a similar cost and provide continuity in case of maintenance or related issues to the existing aircraft fleet.”

Parcelair Boeing 737-400 ZK-PAQ at Auckland on 17 November 2017

Freightways' Annual Report also reported on the move to the new purpose-built automated air-freight facility on the south side of Runway 11/29 at Christchurch Airport. 

In November 2017 the three Parcelair Boeing 737s were flying an overnight schedule as follows; 

Mon/Tue, Tue/Wed, Wed/Thu, Thu/Fri nights

APK72          CHC-AKL
APK75          AKL-CHC
APK76          CHC-AKL
APK79          AKL-CHC

APK71          AKL-CHC
APK62          CHC-PMR
APK63          PMR-CHC
APK64          CHC-PMR
APK56          PMR-AKL

APK73          AKL-CHC
APK74          CHC-AKL
APK77          AKL-CHC
APK78          CHC-AKL

Fri/Sat night

APK75          AKL-CHC
APK76          CHC-AKL

APK51          AKL-PMR
APK63          PMR-CHC
APK64          CHC-PMR
APK56          PMR-AKL

Parcelair Boeing 737-400 ZK-PAT at Auckland on 28 January 2017

15 November 2017

Have your say...

Should Sounds Air have 1900s???

Have you expressed your suggestion on where they should fly on the link below


14 November 2017

Sunair's Twists and Turns

The country's airline regulator has appointed a leading Queen's Counsel to investigate a leak by its former deputy chairman of confidential information about a company's suspension. In September, the Civil Aviation Authority's deputy chairman, Peter Griffiths, resigned after Newsroom inquiries into his actions over airline Sunair, a rival to Great Barrier Airlines, of which Griffiths is a shareholder. He had advised his own airline of Sunair's suspension over 'maintenance record issues' before Sunair was advised. When Griffiths resigned, the board chair Nigel Gould, apologised over the "error of judgment" but told Sunair chief Dan Power there was"little benefit to be gained from any further scrutiny" of the incident. Two months on, there is no public word on the fate of Sunair's suspension. However Gould has written to Power saying: "An investigation into the events surrounding the actions of the former deputy chairman has been commissioned and you, along with others involved, can expect to be contacted by the independent investigator, Mary Scholtens QC. "Mary has been appointed because of her expertise in public law and public sector governance, as well as her experience in public inquiries." Gould tells Power in the letter, dated November 9: "While I continue to have the confidence expressed earlier to you as to motives and sequence of actions, I am very mindful that the Authority must not only do the right thing, but must be seen to be doing so as well. Retaining public confidence in the probity and integrity of the CAA and the independent role of the Director is essential". Scholtens, a QC since 2002, has acted in high profile judicial review proceedings involving central and local government and regulators, and commissions of inquiry. In September, Power told Newsroom the authority chair needed to "do some homework to ensure that there are no more conflicts and there are no undue influences being exerted. I personally at this point have no confidence in the organisation." The former deputy chair, Griffiths, bought a 25 percent stake in Great Barrier Airlines in April. In the following five months three competing airlines including Sunair were subject to CAA action. Sunair was told on September 8, around 7 pm, that its Air Operator Certificate and Certificate of Airworthiness for its fleet were suspended over the maintenance record issues. However earlier that day, a Sunair employee was told about the impending suspension at Kaitaia Airport by a Barrier Air employee. Sunair and Great Barrier are direct competitors on several North Island routes and last year Sunair beat Great Barrier in a competitive tender for a profitable Whangarei to Kaitaia 'doctor run' providing charter services to the Northland District Health Board. That contract had previously been held by Barrier Air. The CAA said an audit of Sunair's maintenance records highlighted anomalies and omissions that questioned the reliability of its maintenance and created reasonable doubt about the airworthiness of its aircraft. It said Griffiths' shareholding in Great Barrier Airlines was recorded on its conflict of interest register and as a board member he was not involved in regulatory decision making. CAA claimed Griffiths' intention in telling Great Barrier Airlines of Sunair's suspension was to offer assistance and minimise disruption to Sunair customers.

12 November 2017

Today at Taupo

I managed a couple of hours at Taupo today on 12 November 2017

Sounds Air's Pilatus PC12 ZK-PLT 
Arriving in from Auckland was Bombardier Q300 ZK-NEP - not bad loadings
The two airlines serving Taupo
Cessna 172 ZK-CKX taxied around to the aircraft park
Robinson R44 ZK-HKP
Inflite Charters' Aerospatiale Squirrel ZK-HPI
Skydive Taupo's Pacific 750XL ZK-SDT
Ardmore Flying School's Cessna 172 ZK-TAQ - with its diesel engine - they sound awful
Taupo Tandem Skydiving's Cessna 208 Caravan ZK-TTS

Christchurch last week...

A surprise photo on 9 November 2017 was Canterbury Aviation's Cessna 180 ZK-JCW which was taxiing down to park at Gate 3 or thereabouts 
A raft of ATR 72-600s... ZK-MVB
And the most recent aircraft in the fleet, ZK-MVQ

11 November 2017

A beautiful day at Mount Cook...

Thanks to the Air Chathams' crew member who sent these stunning pictures through from Mount Cook yesterday....

Air Chathams Fairchild Metroliner III ZK-CIC at Mount on 10 November 2017

Inflite Mount Cook Skiplanes' Pilatus Porter ZK-MCT at Mount on 10 November 2017

10 November 2017

Metro 23s for Air Chathams

Air Chathams has purchased the two ex-Airwork Fairchild SA227-CC Metro 23s, ZK-POE (c/n CC-843B) and ZK-POF (c/n CC-844B). 

Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, notes improvements beyond the Metro III provided better systems, more power and a further increase in takeoff weight. This design effort resulted in the SA227 CC (for Commuter Category) and SA227-DC models, initially called the Metro IV then renamed Metro 23, so named as they were designed for certification under FAR Part 23 (Amendment 34) standards. The SA227-CC was an interim model with TPE331-11U engines and only five were built.

Metro 23s ZK-POE and ZK-POF taken at Auckland in 2014

Tauranga Aero Club TAB

Cessna 172N ZK-TAB, previously operated by Sunair, is now with the Tauranga Aero Club.

Previously Cessna 172 ZK-COS which was operated to Sunair was registered to the Tauranga Aero Club. Cessna 172 ZK-DPN and Piper Aztec ZK-DIR remain for sale on Trade Me.

07 November 2017

Whakatane - Hamilton - Christchurch

Volcanic Air's Eurocopter EC120 was about to depart Whakatane on 5 November 2017
Air Chathams' Fairchild Metroliner ZK-CID arriving at Whakatane on 5 November 2017 

Mount Cook Airlines' ATR72-600 ZK-MVP, my ride to Christchurch arriving at Hamilton on 6 November 2017
A couple of hours later Mount Cook Airlines' ATR72-600s ZK-MVJ (above) and ZK-MVB (below) , my ride to Christchurch arriving at Hamilton on 6 November 2017

01 November 2017

Tauranga Traffic Today

de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth ZK-BSN at Tauranga on 1 November 2017 

Cessna 172 ZK-COS which has been operated by Sunair is now registered to the Tauranga Aero Club and was today the Club's logo for the first time. 
Bell Jetranger ZK-IBB was visiting Tauranga on 1 November 2017
Out on a test flight was HeliA1's Hughes 500E ZK-IMD
Cessna 172 called into Tauranga for a fuel stop
Alpi Aviation Pioneer 200 ZK-MSG departed
Also wearing the Tauranga Aero Club logo was Cessna 152 ZK-TAC
The Ardmore Flying School's Cessna 172 ZK-TAD was on a touch and go