Air Chathams founder Craig Emeny knows what it's like to be in a jam.

In the mid-1990s his airline was under siege from an Air New Zealand subsidiary offering cut-rate fares between the mainland and the islands.

At just a decade old, tiny Air Chathams was in trouble.

''I should have been done and dusted within a number of months,'' says Emeny, who had just committed $3 million to buying a Convair plane.

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''That was pretty traumatic when you're suddenly confronted with that and all that debt.''

But Emeny appealed to the people he had helped 10 years earlier: the

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