All information in this post dates to April 1 and 2, 2002.
I caught the bus out from Courtenay Place to the field and spent the next couple of mornings at the airport. For those who don't know even though Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand it isn't a particularly large place and is smaller than Christchurch and vastly smaller than Auckland. The geography of the area is also challenging for an airfield as Wellington is located on the inside edge of a large natural harbour which is surrounded by hills. The airport has the rather unique disposition of being positioned across the width of an isthmus so that both ends of the runway are facing the water. This causes a bit of a challenge as the runway is quite short which prohibits long-haul flights (not that the population size really supports them anyway). Widebody aircraft can use the airport (even 777s) but not at weights that make long flights profitable.
Below is a plan of the airport terminal I drew up at the time. This was years before the current international terminal rebuild (though in all honesty that hasn't changed the gate layout much). Gates 4-9 are part of a small regional pier - the home of NZ link operations by Air Nelson, Eagle Air and Mount Cook Airlines. Gates 10-17 is the Air New Zealand pier - with 4 airbridged gates and 4 regional gates. Gates 18-20 were at the time used mainly by Origin Pacific and gates 21 and 22 were used by Qantas' New Zealand domestic flights operated by their subsidiary JetConnect. Gates 23-28 represent the international terminal which is basically one half of the right pier simply segregated by a wall.
2002 was an interesting period in domestic New Zealand operations as there was a relatively high diversity of different traffic about. In this post we'll look only at the regional propjets and in the next post we'll move onto the jets. All photos are not of particularly high quality and since this was pre-digital are prints that have been scanned. Sorry for that but I do think they portray some interesting subjects.
Incidentally as with most of the smaller NZ airports spotting at Wellington is a doddle. The terminal has huge windows and since security is at the gates you can walk up and down the piers for all domestic gates easily. I might add that there isn't really any security for prop flights, which is just sensible considering the low risk. Travelling domestically in NZ is pure bliss from a hassle perspective.
At the time there was a lot of diversity amongst the regional NZ link fleets. Air Nelson was primarily flying Saab 340s but still had a decent number of Metroliners in service - some still in the old NZ link colours. Eagle Air meanwhile was taking delivery of its Beech 1900Ds but still had some Embraer EMB-110s in service. Mount Cook was operating ATR-72s.
I do like this shot in particular, which shows Eagle Air EMB-110 ZK-CEF with a typically heavy sea breaking over the breakwater behind it:
At this time NZ and QF weren't the only domestic operators and Origin Pacific operated a sizeable domestic network from its Nelson hub with a fleet of Jetstream 31s, 41s and DHC-8s. They were quite common at WLG and a nice sight indeed:
The last image of the props is this Metro ZK-POB. At the time she was with Airwork and I think operating as an Air Ambulance, though soon after she was bought by SkyLink. In part 2 we'll look at international and jet ops at Wellington over that weekend.
I'm Richard Stretton, an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale model aircraft. This blog discusses ongoing events in the world of 400 scale.
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