This page covers what was new during the period April 2009 to April 2010. For the latest news, please click here.

To check out the video of the two-minute TV3 news story! Just click here!

11 April 2010

Chris flew the Ag-Cat to Ashburton today, where it will be based over the winter months. Rod Dew towed the DC3 trailer/cockpit up to Ashburton too, where it will receive a new paint scheme and sign writing. We did a good number of flights in April, helped by the excellent weather and people passing through to the Warbirds Over Wanaka event at Easter.  In other developments, Darren has sold his shares in the business to Chris. Darren will be heading to Canada shortly but will be back to help fly the aircraft next summer. Progress has also been made on the hangar with the concrete slab being poured after Easter.

Flying west of Geraldine on Sunday at 5500 feet heading for greener pastures at Ashburton.

Perfect open-cockpit flying weather! The temperature in Ashburton was well into the 20's - unusual for April.

The hangar pad prior to Easter with reinforcing in place.

The hangar pad after Easter following the concrete being poured

21 March 2010

Weather conditions were perfect for flying the Ag-Cat this week. Hopefully conditions will be ideal over Easter as a lot of people will be passing through Omarama on the way to Warbirds Over Wanaka.

Blue skies and red wings - perfect biplane flying weather. The passengers for this flight were Bill and Fay Frater from Timaru.

Self portrait. This is the view looking into one of two mirrors mounted on the rear of the fuel tank (see top photo).

The hangar site as it looked on Tuesday 16 March 2010

14 March 2010

Mike Jarman has now completed his five hours of training and competency check to become our third pilot, which is great news! To build hours, he flew the Ag-Cat to Mt Cook with Nick Wyngaarden and Adam Dalziel in the front. Chris Rudge took photos from a Cessna 150 flown by Brad Newfield. We got some great photos, despite the lens on Adam's camera somehow disconnecting from the camera body and disappearing out the open aircraft door! If anyone finds an expensive camera lens on the Fox neve, we would love to have it back!

Mike Jarman after getting his rating on the Ag-Cat

One of the air-to-air photos we got near Mt Cook

Can anyone see an expensive camera lens down there?

7 March 2010

On Monday we had a visit from the Omarama School and all the kids got to sit in the Red Cat, which they loved. On Friday evening Mike Jarman got his rating on the aircraft from Peter Hendriks.

Kids from Omarama School line up for their turn to sit in the cockpit of the Red Cat. Photo: Rod Dew

Chris explains the differences of a biplane to the Omarama School children who are studying flight. Photo: Rod Dew

Paul Hunter scrapes the hangar site on Thursday.

28 February 2010

Business was very steady this week with excellent flying weather and plenty of tourists calling in. Chris flew the Ag-Cat up to Timaru for its annual check on Monday. The hangar site has now been marked out.

Pre-dawn refueling prior to flying to Timaru

Dawn flight over Lake Benmore on Monday

The Ag-Cat getting its annual check at Avtek.

Maintenance of the aircraft is easy as all the fuselage panels are removable. This view shows the hopper which has two comfortable passenger seats installed.

21 February 2010

We had our best day so far on Tuesday this week with 16 passengers being flown from a MacDonalds conference at the Countrytime Hotel. This was in addition to other passengers we flew. In other developments, this week saw the arrival of our new brochure and three new footpath signs. Last week we passed a CAA audit with flying colours (no pun intended!) and this week coming, the site for our new hangar will be marked out.

Darren taxies away from the Countrytime Hotel on Tuesday with another couple of passengers.

Crystal clear flying conditions on Friday morning - what a view!

Big and small, we take them all . . .

The view of Benmore Dam on Friday

7 February 2010

The weather for open-cockpit flying has been perfect over the last two weeks with temperatures up to 30'C and light winds. Our Clay Cliffs Circuit flight is proving popular for those on a tighter budget or wanting a shorter experience. Come and give it a go or perhaps buy one of our vouchers at just $135.00 per person!

Monday 1 February saw the Southern DC3 visit Omarama. Despite our biplane's 1920's appearance, the DC3 is actually 30 years older than the Ag-Cat!

A late evening thunderstorm on Friday 29 January just prior to towing the Ag-Cat back to the tie-down area for the night.
Photo: Darren Smith.

24 January 2010

What a fantastic week we have had! With more firsts for the company, this week we flew our youngest and oldest passengers! Conditions were perfect for flights to the Dam and the Clay Cliffs. We have also added a few more flight options to cater for people wanting cheaper rides!

Jamaica and Joey Vaughan. On being asked what they thought of the flight after landing, they both cried "That was AWESOME!"

Judith and Bernard Monk. Bernard trained on Tiger Moths in WWII and later went on to be a navigator and bomb aimer on Wellingtons and Liberators. He enjoyed getting behind a radial engine again!

Judith and Bernard Monk return from a flight with Darren.

17 January 2010

Now is the perfect time to do a Dambuster flight! Due to recent rain in the high country, all the hydro lakes are full to capacity and water is being spilled down the Tekapo River and from the Pukaki Spillway. This means Benmore Dam is also spilling and the view of the extra water cascading from the dam is simply stunning when viewed from the air! This doesn't happen often so we suggest booking soon so you don't miss out.

Looking straight down the Benmore Spillway - the South Island's ultimate hydro-silde!  Photo: Darren Smith

Another excellent view of the spillway from in front of the dam. Photo: Darren Smith

10 January 2010

Following recent news stories on TV3, and in the Otago Daily Times and the Timaru Herald, lots of people have been coming to look at the Ag-Cat and take flights down to Benmore Dam. A highlight last week was to fly Sonja Philip and Jim Metherell from Totara Peak Station over their land and homestead. It was Jim's birthday and the flight had been kept a secret. As we flew past the helipad 1000 feet above the lake, Jim got a nice surprise when he read "LUV U JIM" which Sonja and her friends had spelt on the hillside with large stones sprayed with dazzle paint!

Angus and Fiona Lill after their flight to Lake Aviemore

TV3 interviewing passengers about their Ag-Cat experience

Flying down the North Arm of Lake Benmore from Totara Peak Station.

Sonja Philip and Jim Metherell on Jim's birthday.

Looking down on Totara Peak Station.

27 December 2009

Over the past few weeks we have been flying regularly, with the Benmore dam flight being our most popular. We have had fantastic support from local Omarama businesses, who are enjoying seeing the bright red aircraft over the town. Nick Wyngaarden has been distributing posters around the lakeside campsites and further afield.

Sally Fodie (co-owner of the Totara Peak gallery) and friend prior to going on a flight to Benmore Dam with Chris.

Flying down the Ahuriri Gorge toward the Benmore Dam.

6 December 2009

Operations are now all go! On Friday we did a photo shoot for our brochure with Darren flying the Ag-Cat, Nick Wyngaarden flying a Cessna 172 and Chris taking the photos from the camera ship. Bevin and Martin Buchanan (Auckland) became our first fare-paying passengers. New signs have gone up on the airfield and either side of Omarama.

Bevin and Martin Buchanan with pilot Darren Smith after completing our first passenger flight on 4 December 2009

One of several hundred images we got on the photo shoot.

20 November 2009

The company's first major milestone is completed with the receipt of our Air Operators Certificate from CAA! We are now all go and can take fare-paying passengers!

3 November 2009

The Civil Aviation Authority carry out their entry audit and inspect the company's premises and aircraft. Darren and Chris get their proficiency and route checks done by Peter Hendriks from Classic Flights in Wanaka.

30 October 2009

Darren Smith and Les Lamb bring the Ag-Cat down to its new home at Omarama from Ashburton. The aircraft will be tied down outside until the new hangar is constructed.

The Ag-Cat arrives at Omarama after flying from Ashburton on Friday 30 October 2009.

Les Lamb and Darren Smith after arriving at Omarama

16 October 2009

Chris Rudge and Les Lamb meet with Derek Kirke, Chairman of the Pukaki Airport Board to discuss options in operating from Pukaki Airfield.

4 October 2009

Omarama Airfield Limited provide us with a signed copy of an Operator's Agreement so that we can conduct commercial activities from the airfield.

8 September 2009

OAL agree on a draft hangar design and location that meets their and our requirements. Work commences on detailed hangar drawings for final approval by OAL before getting a building consent.

Artist's view of the hangar proposal with a possible split level floor. The Ag-Cat would go in the near end with this hangar being built first.

August 2009

Our only option left to build a hangar in time for the new season is to start the first 10 m of a fourth hangar that matches existing units. The difference this time around is that OAL will allow us to build it with a north facing door, which reduces costs significantly. On 14 August Chris meets the builder, Paul Hunter, on site to take measurements and get levels.

Duncan Woolley and son Lachlan following some circuits at Ashburton aerodrome on 2 August 2009

July 2009

CAA are now ready to inspect the new operation.

On 27 July, OAL finally agree on a location for the new hangar and want it built in what is currently a trailer park. Aviation Adventures are asked to pay for all the development costs in opening up this new area (cutting down trees, building a taxiway, moving soil, sewing grass, and providing oversize water pipes for other users). The biggest problem however is that the area is zoned residential, which means a resource consent is required. To get a resource consent would take over a year and the costs would be prohibitive. On the basis of extra costs and the time taken to get a resource consent, we reject the proposal.

A visit to the Canterbury Gliding Club's airfield at Hororata on 27 June 2009

June 2009

OAL are provided photographs and plans of the new hangar design. The company Operations Manuals are sent to CAA.

Chris Rudge and Darren Smith building up hours over the Canterbury Plains.

May 2009

On 19 May, Chris Rudge, Darren Smith and Sharn Davies get ratings on the Ag-Cat from Dave Horsburgh. On 27 May, Darren and Chris start to build up their hours in the aircraft. To operate under Part 135 and obtain an Air Operator's Certificate, Operations Manuals are written in earnest so that we can begin operations in early October 2009. Quotes are obtained to build a hangar to meet OAL's requirements but initial quotes are double that required for a stand alone hangar. The "glider style" hangar is rejected in favour of a free-standing 10 m x 15 m hangar to be built by Steel Build Canterbury, who can build it during August and September and have it completed by 1 October.

Sharn Davies briefs Darren Smith prior to his first flight. With no dual controls, all instruction is done on the ground!

April 2009

On 6 April Omarama Airfield Ltd confirm that they will issue an Operator's Agreement and allow us to build a hangar so a decision is made to set up a new company. Aviation Adventures Ltd is registered on 15 April and the Grumman Ag-Cat (ZK-CAT) is purchased on the 30th.

March 2009

Les and Irene Lamb, Chris Rudge and Darren Smith discuss the possibility of setting up a fixed-wing scenic flight operation using an open-cockpit Ag-Cat biplane and flying the aircraft from Omarama. Chris Rudge and Duncan Woolley check out the aircraft on 8 March 2009 and are taken for a flight over Ashburton by the owner, Brent Esler.

Our first view of the Ag-Cat on 8 March 2009