A Touch Of Nostalgia – Air Chathams CV580 Jumpseat AKL-NPE


I was 12 at the time, flicking through the Air New Zealand domestic timetable and saw a very small handful of flights to the Chatham Islands from the New Zealand. There was a funny aircraft code I had not come across before – CV5 – and I was very intrigued to find out what this plane was. The back of the book with the index to what the codes were showed that it was a Convair 580. At that time, it sounded so much cooler than the Embraer Bandeirante, Saab 340 and in a way the ATR72 as well (my favourite prop at the time, having just flown on it), which were Air New Zealand Link’s aircraft. Later that trip while sitting on the tarmac in CHC waiting for my flight to depart for home, I spotted this really old smoky plane with the title “Air Chathams” on the side of it. Straight away I was turned off by it, not ever thinking I’d want to be flying that old thing sometime in the future.

Fast forward nearly a decade and boy have times changed! A photo on the Airliners.Net database alerted me to a possible chance to take a ride in a jump seat and best of all, I wouldn’t have to leave the country to experience it! After a few emails to see that my eyes weren’t being cheated and then the quick phone call to book, I had a seat on the flight from Auckland to Napier..

Hi everyone and welcome to my 14th trip report. This will cover my jump seat adventure to Napier on an Air Chathams Convair 580, followed by the return trip on an Air NZ Dash 8 and then a photo essay of another flight I took to New Plymouth on a Dash 8 last year. The main event is definitely the first leg so the most emphasis will be placed on that.

There is some content kindly provided by Tis Meyer, a fellow aviation photographer; who was also on the same flight with me. Content is also copyrighted and credited accordingly. You might find some more information and pictures of him here:


He also has a trip report of his own about the flights he took on Air Chathams: http://www.flightforum.ch/forum/showthread.php?t=79247 It’s in German but putting the website through Google Translate also works.

Air Chathams is a small airline operating flights between the mainland of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands, a small group of islands located about 700km east of New Zealand. Founded in 1982, they operate flights between the Chatham Islands and Auckland (via Napier), Wellington and Christchurch. It is the quickest way to get the fish and seafood caught out in the Chathams to the mainland for sale. They have a fleet of Convair 580s – a lot of which are flying in Tonga under their subsidiary. They have a few other smaller planes as well. They started operating the Convair 580s from 1995.

The flight from Auckland departs every Thursday but the priority lies with those heading all the way to the Chatham Islands. The flat cost was $150 for one way to Napier (also quoted by the person I was emailing) but although this was far more expensive than an Air New Zealand flight, it was a chance of possibly a lifetime – to experience the Convair on the last scheduled passenger service left in the world. Air Chathams has a website; however seeing that the priority goes to those flying direct to the Chathams, you couldn’t book the AKL-NPE sector online because it was a special flight and had a special fare. I had no intention to go all the way to the Chatham Islands although it would be really nice to go there one day. Booking was simple though, it required a quick phone call to their office and a few hours later I had an ‘e-ticket’ sent to my email address.

Here’s a GPS tracking of the flight, taken by Tis

Departing Airport:

Arriving Airport:

It can also be viewed from the following link: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=737125

The day arrived and it was time to head to the airport for another fun daytrip. After getting dropped off by my dad, I headed to the Air New Zealand Group check-in facility in the domestic terminal. Air Chathams has only one flight a week so it’s fully understandable that they don’t have a check in counter or even an office of their own at AKL. When I arrived, there were quite a lot of people actually checking in for Air New Zealand flights and then they finally designated one of the ‘counters’ for the Air Chathams flight. It was quite bizarre that we only needed to give them our surnames for them to bring up the booking and subsequently issue our boarding pass.

Air NZ Group Check In Counter

Boarding Pass

The Bangladesh cricket team was also heading to Napier for a One Day International against New Zealand as part of their tour this year, however on an Air New Zealand flight. There were a whole lot of bags by the group counter for all the cricket gear they needed to take. They seemed in good spirits although they were absolutely thrashed by the Black Caps in a Twenty20 match the day before and went on to lose all games by quite large margins. Our flight was supposed to leave at around the same as the Air NZ flight to Napier but later I found out that they were in the process of changing the configuration in the Convair which delayed our departure. Boarding commenced soon after, a couple of minutes before scheduled departure time.

Departure Hall

Bangladesh Cricket Team

Walkway To The Plane

Boarding was performed by Air New Zealand staff and I was soon through the gate and I was on my way down the corrugated iron covered pathway towards the waiting CV580.

Flight Information

4 February 2010
Routing: Auckland – Napier (AKL-NPE)
Airline: Air Chathams
Flight: CV96
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1300hrs
Actual Departure: 1309hrs (pushback), 1318hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1345hrs
Touchdown: 1411hrs
Flight time: 53 min
Aircraft: Convair 580
Registration: ZK-CIB
Seat: 8A, changed to the jump seat

Air Chathams operates 4 Convair 580s. ZK-CIB was manufactured originally as a Convair 340 in 1953, later to be converted to a Convair 440 and onwards to a 580. It was badly damaged in a fire, hence the c/n has an ‘A’ added to the actual construction number 327. There has been a fatal accident with the plane when it went off a runway and a propeller blade pierced the cabin. Later on in 1995, it was fitted with a cargo door which now makes it a very suitable aircraft for work to the Chathams.

I knew that if I was able to get onto the plane first and ask the flight attendant, I’d get a better shot at getting the jump seat for my flight. After being cordially welcomed onboard the Convair up the big inbuilt stairs and politely told not to sit on the seats with stuff already on it, I asked the FA. She said to me that she’d ask the pilots and get back to me. Meanwhile, I made myself very comfortable in the large seats onboard. It was a free seating arrangement, regardless of what the boarding pass said on it.

The Classic Connie

Massive Propeller blades

Copyright Tis Meyer

There’s One Obvious Seat We Shouldn’t Sit On!

If I wasn’t able to fly in the jump seat, I reckon this seat would have sufficed for even a long haul flight - it seemed that comfortable. There was just so much leg room it was awesome. I could nearly fully stretch out and not even kick my bag which was under the seat in front. I doubt I’ll experience such legroom ever again in Economy! There was a very generous recline as well. The windows were huge – a massive change to the puny A380 window. Why can’t they build planes like they did in the old days.. No window shades though, it may have been made in the curtain era but I’m not too sure about that (not old enough either!).

Envy That Legroom In Economy!

Photo Friendly Window

I Think These Are Used More For Computers/Cards Nowadays

Anyway, the flight attendant was back at my seat with good news – she said the pilots were fine with me in the cockpit and told me to gather my stuff - off I went to the front of the plane! There wasn’t much room in the cockpit so I was instructed to leave my backpack in the main cabin’s storage area. The pilots welcomed me into the cockpit before getting back to their pre-flight routine. The FA unfolded the jump seat for me and I eventually took my seat behind the pilots. They explained a few safety things to me like how to get out in an emergency etc. I was also made to put on the headset which ended up being a very interesting experience listening in on the ATC. They were also fine with me taking photos.


And just like that, we were ready to depart with 24 P.O.B.

Engine Start!

Copyright Tis Meyer


Copyright Tis Meyer

It was pretty loud but at the same time it was hushed by the earmuff style headset. We had clearance and were soon on our way.

Turning Around

Taxiing To Active, 05R

Passing The International Terminal

Taxiing didn’t take too long and we were just waiting for some traffic before departing ourselves.

QF 738 Departing

Britten Norman Trislander Departing For Great Barrier Island

We lined up on the runway and powered quite thunderously down the runway, airborne

Lining Up And Waiting On Rwy 05R

Full Throttle!


Copyright Tis Meyer

Overview Of AKL As We Turn Towards The Southeast

Copyright Tis Meyer

While Up Front..

We steadily made our way up towards 18,000 ft.

Climbing Through The Final Cloud Level

Overhead Control Panel

The ageing plane also had a few minor technicalities.. We still flew in it safely though!

Copyright Tis Meyer

Here are a few photos of close ups which I completely forgot to take.. In contrast, Tis didn’t take many wide angle photos!

Copyright Tis Meyer

Copyright Tis Meyer

Copyright Tis Meyer


Copyright Tis Meyer

Miscellaneous Cockpit Stuff

Copyright Tis Meyer

Copyright Tis Meyer

Copyright Tis Meyer

Copyright Tis Meyer

Lovely Day To Be Flying!

About half way through the flight, I had a nice chat with the pilots. We talked about plane stuff such as the fact that this was an ideal plane for serving the Chatham Islands. They were really friendly and it was great to see they thoroughly enjoyed their job flying these classic planes. But for them, it was soon back to checks and making sure things were right for our descent into Napier.

Sunglasses Are A Must

Lake Rotorua

Check Before Turning

Lake Taupo In The Clearing

Self Portrait Showing The Confined Space

All good things must come to an end. Today’s flight was far too short for my liking. There was a lot of focus going on by the pilots so it was best for me to remain silent – I could have talked to them throughout the flight. We descended to 10,000 feet and then down again to 9,000 feet. The captain powered down the plane 11 minutes out from landing.

Top Of Descent

Back Through The Clouds

The East Coast, Hawkes Bay

Turning Onto Downwind

Napier City Through The Centre Left Window, Napier Airport Through The Centre Right Window

Captain Controlling The Throttles

Napier Airport

Hospital Hill In The Foreground, Napier Town Centre Towards The Coast

View From The Main Cabin

Copyright Tis Meyer

Copyright Tis Meyer

Imagine the next few images are a ‘movie’ as we descend into Runway 34 at Napier.. ;)

Check For Final Turn Onto Runway

Bank Angle!

Runway In Sight

Short Final



I thanked the pilots for a wonderful experience, had the jump seat stowed away again by the flight attendant and off I was into the scorching Hawkes Bay sunshine.


Air NZ Dash 8

Baggage ‘Carousel’ Within 2 Garage Doors

It wasn’t until after I left the plane and started taking photos of it from outside that I realised that there were other aviation enthusiasts on the same flight as me! Tis from Switzerland and also Bernd from Germany (some pictures above are his) had come all the way from Europe to experience the CV 580. It was by pure coincidence that we were on the same flight together and chance that we met each other. We headed to the small viewing platform at Napier and talked about planes for a while until Tis left to catch his onward flight to the Chatham Islands. Meanwhile, I checked in for my flight home. I had purposely bought a flexi-fare ticket for a flight later in the evening but the fare allowed me to depart on any flight that day, as long as there was room onboard. It worked out to be cheaper than buying a flexi-fare ticket for the flight I was actually going to catch – the only ticket remaining when I decided to go to Napier. I quickly checked myself in for the next flight home.

Check In Kiosk

Boarding Pass Home

View From The Viewing Area

Bernd and I stayed at the airport long enough to see the Convair depart for CHT. It was great getting so close to it as it taxied past us towards the runway.

And Off Again

Interesting Helicopter Landing At The Gate

My time in the sunny Hawkes Bay had come to an end and I was on my way back home.

Flight Information

4 February 2010
Routing: Napier – Auckland (NPE-AKL)
Airline: Air New Zealand Link (Air Nelson)
Flight: NZ 8224
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1630hrs
Actual Departure: 1633hrs (pushback), 1638hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1725hrs
Touchdown: 1727hrs
Flight time: 49 min
Aircraft: De Havilland Canada Dash 8-Q300
Registration: ZK-NEO
Seat: 9A

Air New Zealand currently has 23 Q300s flying around the country. ZK-NEO was delivered on 15 December 2006 making it just over 3 years old. There are 50 seats onboard, each with 32 inches of legroom.

A boarding call was made and we were on our way across the tarmac towards our plane.

Shiny Fuselage

My Row

Emergency Row Behind


It didn’t take long before everyone was onboard and we were soon on our way. It was interesting to note that all 3 crew operating the flight – the 2 pilots and the flight attendant were all women. I think that was a first for me. Nevertheless, I still felt in very safe hands. The seat next to me was taken. I wanted to lower the armrest for takeoff but he didn’t want to lower it, stating that “it was alright for it to be up on these small flights”. I just feel a little more secure when I have somewhere to rest my elbows on both sides. He was adamant about that and I had no choice but to keep it up.

U-Turn At The End Of The Runway

Propeller Vortex


Back Above The Clouds

It was quite an uneventful flight and it seemed cloudier than the outbound flight. We cruised at 16,000 feet, 2,000 feet lower than what we flew in the Convair at. I just sat back and listened to my iPod while looking out the window.

Inflight Service

It was all over all too soon. My fun day flying had reached the end as we descended into Auckland.

Town On The South Side Of The Manukau Harbour

Looking Out Towards The West Coast, Manukau Heads

Tight Angle To Line Up With 05R




These regional flights are really fun to fly every now and then. The Convair flight was a really special one and certainly one to remember for many years to come.

Tis’s trip report is definitely worth a look as it incorporates the onward journey to the Chatham Islands and then back to the mainland. Here’s the link again to save you having to scroll all the way to the top: http://www.flightforum.ch/forum/showthread.php?t=79247


Many thanks to Tis for allowing me to share his photos!

All photos posted on this trip report are copyrights of the original photographers, all rights reserved.
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