One of the aircraft which will take on planned "wine flights" between Hawke's Bay and Marlborough next year made an early showing at Bridge Pa last weekend.

It also made an impressive showing when it came to making a short landing and take-off.

The Pilatus PC12 was flown in by Sounds Air chief pilot Craig Anderson who had a group of aviation mates aboard and the arrival was all about good timing, as Stephanie Eilers from the Hawke's Bay and East Coast Aero Club said.

She organised the club's annual "Taildragger Day", during which aircraft compete to see which can take off and land in the shortest distance.


This year's event, last Saturday, coincided with a scheduled certificate of airworthiness for the Sounds Air Pilatus at Feilding.

"So coming here afterwards was like an informal test flight," Ms Eilers said.

Mr Anderson brought a few mates and colleagues with him, having been to other Taildragger days and enjoyed the sporting and social mix.

"It's just a good day for pilots to relax and have a bit of fun," she said.

Chris Pask's new Super Stol (short take-off and landing) aircraft was flown by Ross McDonald and won the competition with a combined take-off and landing distance of just 64 metres.

Ms Eilers said it was all about the configuration of the aircraft, which were modified to fly slowly and have slow stall speeds - "and they don't carry a lot of weight".

So Mr Anderson opted to give it a shot in the Sounds Air "wine plane" and was impressive - posting a combined 115m taking-off and landing distance.

There were 27 aircraft taking part, some having called in from as far afield as Taranaki, Whangarei and Marlborough.


The Pilatus will become a more regular visitor to the Bay in the second quarter of next year when a direct service between Blenheim and Napier is set to spark into life - aimed at the tourist industry and the wine industry.

Hawke's Bay and Marlborough are leading players on the New Zealand wine-production front and business leaders believe there is potential for a successful service between the two.

It had been due to begin last month but was postponed because Sounds Air did not have an aircraft available, with other services needing to be looked after.

It will have a new aircraft next March.

While the delay had been disappointing, Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford said "it will happen".