New air service starts

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Mainland Air Services’ flights from Oamaru to Christchurch commenced today with the inaugural flight leaving Oamaru Airport at 7.30am.

Despite no fare-paying passengers being on the flight with less than 24 hours to go, and only one booking for the Friday flight, chief executive officer of Mainland Air Services’ Philip Kean remained optimistic about the Oamaru-Christchurch and return service and said there was plenty of support for it.

Mr Kean visited Oamaru Airport yesterday to meet pilot Sven Thelning and to organise the final logistics of today’s flights. This included setting up a computer, organising overnight parking for the plane and discussing flight paths for good and bad weather.

The aircraft was scheduled to be at Oamaru Airport at 6.30pm last night.

The terminal building had been cleaned and was ready to go.

Mr Thelning, who has been piloting commercial flights from Takaka to Wellington, said the airport was an amazing and under-utilised facility.

He said he first flew solo at the airport 10 years ago and added it was great to be back in Oamaru with his family.

Both men said the view from the plane would be incredible if the weather was fine, as the Chieftain flies at 4000-5000ft, much lower than larger commercial aircraft, which fly at about 10,000ft.

The nine-seater Piper Chieftain, which will usually fly the route, is still awaiting parts so a replacement is being used for the inaugural flight today.

By LINDA MCCARTHY

PHOTO: LINDA MCCARTHY

READY TO FLY:  Pilot, Sven Thelning (left) and Philip Kean, chief executive officer of Mainland Air Services, at the Oamaru Airport yesterday afternoon.