Did you know there is an island off the coast of New Zealand with an airline that still uses aircraft built in the 1950s on commercial flights? I’m talking about Chatham Island.
My love of geography goes back two decades to participating in geography bees in elementary school. But I call the Chatham Islands “secret” because up until today I had never heard of them or known they existed. But not only are the Chatham Islands real, but the islands have an airline…and very vintage aircraft.
The Chatham Islands is part of New Zealand. As such, air link between the “mainland” and the islands provides an essential source of commerce. The archipelago is about 500 miles east of New Zealand’s South Island and consists of 10 islands with the largest island simply called Chatham Island without the “s”. Combined, the islands have a permanent population of about 600 and survive on fishing, farming, and tourism. And an airline called Air Chathams.
Ville Miettinen / Wikimedia Commons
Air Chathams has a fleet of turboprop aircraft and serves local destinations as well as Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. The centerpiece of the fleet is five 50-seat Convair 580 prop planes. It also operates a single Douglas DC-3, though that aircraft has increasingly been used for charter and sightseeing flights. While not as vintage, there is also a Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner in the fleet, which built in the 1970s.
Just to give you some perspective, American Airlines debuted the Convair-240 in 1948. The Convair CV-580, the variant Air Chathams offers, was produced in the late 1950s and first flew in 1960.
This came to my attention via a story that reports that Air Chathams is studying the replacement of its Convair fleet with more modern turboprops or even a Boeing 737. Already, Air Chathams has leased an ATR72-500 from Mount Cook Airline, which is based in Christchurch and an Air New Zealand subsidiary. Time is running…
This is perfect. I have never been to the South Island of New Zealand. Next time I go, I will from my Auckland to Wellington or Christchurch via Chatham Island. Not only does Chatham Island look beautiful, but so does Air Chathams’ fleet!
Would you fly Air Chathams?
Featured image: Pa34 / Wikimedia Commons