New Zealand is one of the countries with the highest amount of airports per capita (113). The perfect place for someone who loves flying! Additionally, flying the regional routes is rather inexpensive, and a totally different experience from the flights in Europe. So, during my four months' stay in the country, I treated myself to numerous regional flights, and discovered a long-lasting passion for regional aviation.

Let's start with a most unusual plane, the Britten-Norman Trislander!


Together with some classmates we set out for a weekend trip on Great Barrier Island, and made the plane the means of transport for the outbound journey. A bus took us to the General Aviation Apron of Auckland's airport, and we boarded the tri-prop plane!




Mini MD-11 :)   



The Trislander doesn't need much runway, and so, after an intersection takeoff and a brief take-off roll, we were airborne!   



The flight was mostly over water and therefore quite uneventful. And even if the cabin feel was rather crammed and extremely loud, I found it a very enjoyable experience. 



Half an hour later, we're on final for Claris Airfield on Great Barrier Island - looks almost like St. Maarten!   

Funnily, we landed in the grass next to the runway, and used the paved strip only for the taxiing - New Zealand logic I guess. A last look at the funny plane before we were picked up for our hiking weekend :)


The return trip by ship was nowhere near as good an experience as the plane, by the way!

Thanks to Air New Zealand's website GrabASeat, where they sell remaining seats for a fraction of the original fare, I booked another regional flight soon after - in a plane that looked only marginally better than the Trislander before:




Boarding :)   



Same story again: Short taxi, intersection takeoff, and soon we were cruising above the clouds!    

Half an hour later we're in the approach to Tauranga and join the downwind, offering me a good view of Mount Maunganui and the beaches!




Center Pedestal    







After a short spring up and down the mountain, I'm back at the airport three hours later for my ride back to Auckland. Today's schedule is a little monotonous, if I may say...:)   



Boarding's pretty easy though!   



I start to love that shape!   

 

After the level-off I started exploring the cabin (not much to do there *g*). Here, the upside of the unorthodox external design becomes evident: There's enough space to stand upright in the cabin, which gives it an extremely roomy feel - despite the narrow isle!


When I was standing back there with my camera, suddendly the pilots waved at me and asked me to come forward. Ha! I've never had such an easy cockpit visit - but that's another upside of the easy regional aviation I guess!


Captain’s-side, we're 36 miles away from the HD NDB, which in turn lies straight in the approach path for Auckland!   



Central Panel, in case anyone's interested in the cruise cettings. I love the MCI (Manual Callsign Indicator) in the lower right corner, too!   

Another proof of the simplicity of regional aviation: This little snippet of paper sums up the crew's whole day of work: Positioning flight from Hamilton (NZHN) to Auckland (NZAA), then a trip to Tauranga (NZTG), then to Gisborne (NZGS), and finally a flight to Hamilton.




Another overview shot, while we're already descending for Auckland again   



Nice scenery down there!   



Flaring!

Last but not least, I can add that this flight, the simplicity of operations and the real flying involved, has sparked my love for regional aviation - a passion that would take me on many special trips in the years to come!

The next one was only a few weeks after - with another new aircraft for me, a Jetstream 32!




Here she is, the Jetstream with the heavily tinted windows - up to then, I had never seen that type of plane before!   



Guess you know the procedures now, and so, 7 minutes after boarding, we were airborne!    



Half an hour later, we're already turning finals for Taupo's runway!   



This time, it was a true ping-pong flight - while the co-pilot exchanged some papers with the station crew, we used the 15 minute ground time for a terminal shot, and to join the queue for the return flight again   



Back at the plane!   



Tail & Terminal

When we told the kind female co-pilot about our special mission and passion, she was extremely happy about our interest in our small plane and did everything to make our trip an even better one: We got to sit in the row right behind the cockpit, and were given headsets to follow their communications. How adorable! Have I said that I *love* regional aviation and open cockpit doors?




Wearing the headset for takeoff, I was in for another surprise:  
“Taupo Traffic, Eagle 2099, taking off runway 17, climbing 9000ft initially“

There's no ATC service at these airports at all! No one to fight over slots and clearences with, no one giving stupid hold short instructions! Just jump into the plane and go! What an easy life!   

Here we are climbing out over Lake Taupo, the biggest lake of New Zealand, and originally a volcanic crater   



Impressions from Cruise: Autopilot? Never heard of, it's all manual flight. Pre-selecting the altitude at least? Nope, not gonna happen!    



Co-pilot's side, including the fancy TAWS 



Already visual with Auckland again!    



Back on finals for 23L!   



And here's a complete cockpit overview again   

One month and some Cambridge Exams later, I was meeting some friends from Australia in Queenstown, on the South Island. They were booked on a sightseeing flight around the Fjordland region for New Year's day, and had a seat left for me. Yay!




So while Europe is just about to stagger into the new year, I'm already flying again - how great!    



A part of Lake Wanaka   

Typical New Zealand contrasts: Although we're heading for a fjord at sea level, we're flying past a 3'000 meter high mountain enroute: Mount Aspiring!




Lovely scenery!   



Here we are over the Ocean already, and turn into the narrow fjord that is Milford Sound   

What I hadn't been aware of: We weren't just flying through the fjord, we acutally landed there, at the extremely busy and beautifully located Milford Sound Airfield!




Here's our plane, posing in front of New Zealand's most photographed mountain, Mitre Peak - towering 1'700 meters over the fjord! 



After an impressive boat tour on the fjord, we're climbing out of the narrow sound again, hugging the cliffs   



Airport Overview!




Not much room for error there!   



Dense rain forest and snow-covered peaks on one shot, that's New Zealand at its best!   



Since we were two families doing the trip, two planes were needed. And with so many aviation geeks on board, an air-to-air shoot was inevitable!   



Enjoying the scenery!




Back where we started, in Wanaka!   

Finishing off my trip around New Zealand, I had to get back from Nelson to Auckland on the North Island. Time for some more flights on the next bigger regional aircraft, the Dash-8! 



Crossing the Marlborough Sounds



A cockpit shot in Wellington :)   



A look at the bright and roomy cabin!     



Some diversions due to heavy fog in Wellington led to an aircraft change - from an Air New Zealand Dash 8-300 to the -100 model of Vincent Aviation!   







The sky was completely overcast, and so the only thing to take pictures of was the cockpit after touchdown :)   



This report's last flight was another Dash ride, from New Plymouth back to Auckland. Nothing special :)   



Overcast skies again, and so the prop in the morning sunlight is the last and only shot - may it keep spinning for a long time!    

 

Well, I hope this report could show you how easy and entertaining the regional aviation of New Zealand is - I'm already missing the short hops on the Beeches and Dashs and hope to return soon!

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