Daily air services between Whangarei and other provincial centres - a sign of confidence in Northland's economy - will finally get off the ground later this month.
A new Northland-Tauranga aviation partnership has been set up to take flights from Whangarei Airport to Rotorua, Gisborne, Wairoa/Napier, New Plymouth and Wellington.
Air training school Quantum Aviation, based at Whangarei Airport, will check in passengers and take bookings for 19-year-old Tauranga-based airline Sunair.
Sunair has been working a Whangarei service for nearly three years. Initially efforts were stymied when Sunair-trained pilots were continually head-hunted by other airlines. Last year, when Sunair owners Dan and Bev Power finally had everything in place, sporadic demand and challenges of long distance marketing and administration meant a planned twice-daily service was never fully established.
Quantum Northland manager David Tapene said his company's alliance with Sunair was "a perfect fit". "It's very good for us as a flying school to have a small commercial airline operating out of our centre at the airport and it's very good for them because we can immediately respond to inquiries and do the marketing and administration in a way that is difficult to do long-distance," he said. "We are going to make this happen."
He said Quantum students already did some training with Sunair in Tauranga and the connection opened up opportunities for advanced training and future employment. Many Sunair pilots went on to work for national and international airlines.
Morning and evening flights out of Whangarei were planned but schedules would be based on demand and "subject to a bit of flexibility". Mr Tapene said flights could be extended to Kerikeri at a later date - offering the opportunity to market the service as "Bay to Bay" (Bay of Islands to Bay of Plenty).
He said Northland's rapid growth offered a big opportunity for a provincial commuter airline that bypassed Auckland, servicing routes not covered by Air New Zealand.
? Dan Power is an aero maintenance engineer, licensed to teach and examine at the highest level of commercial aviation.
So is the company's flight operations manager Brendon Bourne, one of only nine pilots licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority to examine senior pilots.
Quantum Aviation provides pilot training up to commercial pilot level, and scenic and charter flight services.