10 December 2017

Flying the Herald - Air Rotorua






Air Rotorua was started by Neil Christophers who owned the Rotorua Flying School and PA34-200T Seneca ZK-FNB (c/n 34-7970236). At this stage the Seneca was largely used for charter and scenic work.

In October 1988 Neil moved to a job with the expanding Eagle Air and Ray Young and John Cooper formed R and J Aeroleasing who purchased ZK-FNB and the Air Rotorua operation but continued to operate it under the Rotorua Flying School operators certificate.

On the 31st of October 1988 Eagle Air took over Air New Zealand’s Fokker Friendship services between Gisborne and Auckland using Embraer Bandeirante aircraft. NZ Herald newspapers were flown from Auckland to Gisborne on these Eagle Air flights as freight. Unfortunately the newspapers were often offloaded due to weight issues with the Bandeirante operation. This proved most unsatisfactory to the NZ Herald's publishers, Wilson and Horton, and led to Air Rotorua starting a very long association flying the NZ Herald from Rotorua to Gisborne.

The newspaper service began on ***. Normally the departed for Gisborne from Rotorua between 6 and 6.30am with the return service leaving Gisborne at 8.00am. While primarily being for the cartage of the newspapers passengers were carried, though the number of seats available depended on the size of the newspaper. Two flights were required to be made on a Saturday as the weekend edition of the NZ Herald was a lot larger. The return flight departed Gisborne at 8.00am and would also called into Taupo, Tauranga or Whakatane if traffic was offering.

Air Rotorua timetable effective 1 December 1990


In October 1991 Neil Christophers closed the Flying School. As Air Rotorua did not have an operator's certificate the Seneca was dry leased  to the Rotorua Aero Club who continued to operate the Air Rotorua service. John Cooper left Rotorua not long after to take up a job with Wairarapa Airlines leaving the flying to a number of young up and coming pilots!

Air Rotorua's Piper Seneca ZK-FNB about to start at Gisborne on 22 January 1992 for the return flight to Rotorua

By early 1994 a Friday evening service was also offered departing Rotorua at 5.00pm and leaving Gisborne for the return flight at 6.00pm

Air Rotorua timetable, 25 February 1994

Gisborne Herald, 6 September 1995


Air Rotorua's Piper Seneca ZK-FNB in a new colour scheme at Rotorua on 17 January 1996

Air Rotorua timetable as at February 1996

Leslie Aviation had been established by Vivienne and Bob Leslie in 1994. The Rotorua-based company offered pilot training and air charter service with a variety of single-engined aircraft. In 1996 Leslie Aviation also took over Bay Air which had been running a weekday courier service from Rotorua to Auckland for Ansett NZ using Cessna R172K ZK-FGF.

Late in 1996 the Rotorua Aero Club got  into financial strife and Leslie Aviation Ltd took over the Rotorua Aero Club’s training arm. Bob Leslie and Mark Malone bought the Seneca and established Air Rotorua Ltd to operate the Gisborne air service and the charter work. Mark was a former part owner of Geryserland Airways who in their heyday had float planes and various other aircraft based in Rotorua. The trading name Lakeside Aviation appeared on the Air Rotorua timetable with the Seneca continuing to be used on the Gisborne service as well as the courier flight to Auckland.

The timetable effective 14 January 1997 - operating as Lakeside Aviation on the timetable but with Air Rotorua titles remaining on the Seneca

Air Rotorua's Seneca ZK-FNB departing Gisborne on 13 October 1999
In mid-2001 Air Rotorua and the Seneca were sold to Whakatane-based Scott Air.

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