It was a genuine case of up, up and away yesterday for a group of Wairarapa VIPs given the opportunity to take a maiden flight over the valley in a Saab 340.
The Vincent Aviation-owned aircraft touched down at Hood Aerodrome for a getting-to-know-you morning tea and the flight.
Masterton businessmen Colin Oldfield and David Borman are heading a proposal to re-establish a passenger air service from Hood, with Vincent Aviation the preferred airline, and are completing a business plan to prove its viability.
The 34-seater Saab would be used not only as an Auckland-Masterton service - which was the focus of the now defunct Eagle Air service - but as a charter service.
Mr Borman said since the Times-Age first wrote about the likely new service he and Mr Oldfield had been inundated with messages of support.
"I have had over 180 emails from business people wanting to use it regularly and from rugby clubs, bowling clubs and others who would charter the aircraft," he said.
Attractions such as a flower show in New Plymouth were only "15 minutes away" from Hood and the aircraft would be ideal for ferrying groups to events such as an All Blacks rugby test in Dunedin, Mr Borman said.
Though the business plan was still being constructed, it was hoped that the first paid flight from Hood could lift off in six to eight weeks. At a function at the aerodrome before the VIP flight, former Masterton mayor Bob Francis, who has supported the initiative, said the Vincent Aviation proposal looked to be the best opportunity to re-establish a service from Hood.
Vincent Aviation managing director Pat Vincent spoke of the qualities of the Saab 340 aircraft, which the company flew from a number of Australian bases, namely Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney, as well as its New Zealand operations.
"It is not a Boeing 747 but it is a very comfortable aircraft with three-abreast seating, plenty of leg room and the seats recline," he said.
The aircraft to be utilised in Wairarapa would be painted in Wairarapa colours and had many years of service ahead of it.
Mr Vincent said a Saab 340 had a lifetime of about 80,000 landings.
"Your craft is only a quarter way through its life, so with the traffic loading in and out of Hood it is probably good for another 60 years," he said.