Air Safaris (NZ airline)

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Air Safaris
Air Safaris logo.jpg
Founded 1970 (1970)
Hubs Lake Tekapo
Fleet size 8
Destinations 5 (charter)
Headquarters Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Key people
  • Tim Rayward (Managing Director)
  • Richard Rayward (CEO)[3]

Air Safaris is a New Zealand scenic flight and air charter company based at the Lake Tekapo Airport located 2.8 km west of the town of Lake Tekapo, off State Highway 8 in the Mackenzie District of New Zealand.[4][5] The airline operates from 3 bases the Lake Tekapo, Franz Josef and Glentanner/Mt Cook airports. The company logo is a stylised chamois these are wild goat-like antelope which inhabits the region of the South Island High Country.


Air Safaris was established in 1970 at Mesopotamia station to take hunters and hikers into the mountain areas of the South Island. They moved their operations to Lake Tekapo in 1974.

The company has used a wide variety of aircraft: first the Cessna 180, then later the larger Cessna 185, and in 1975 the Cessna 206 and 207. In 1978 the Pilatus Porters arrived fitted with skis that could land and take off on glaciers and snowfields and as demand increased for scenic flights, the 15 seat GAF Nomad entered the fleet in 1981 for use at Lake Tekapo, Glentanner, Franz Josef and Milford Sound airports. On 17 December 1987 the airline purchased Air Timaru and continued to run its services from Timaru to Oamaru and Invercargill using a Piper PA31 Navajo aircraft.[6] Air Safaris were the first company in New Zealand to buy the Gippsland Airvan in 2009.[7]

From 1991 to 1996 one of the Nomads was used from Timaru to fly the Air Nelson scheduled service to Christchurch as part of their Air New Zealand Link operation. The contract was for Air Safaris to provide two week day return services, Air Nelson also used them between Christchurch and Hokitika and Mount Cook Airlines for flights south of Christchurch as a back up capacity although all these services have since been discontinued.[8][9]

In 1996 Air Safaris won an award from the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand for safety. Director Kevin Ward said that the 1996 winning organisation, Air Safaris and Services (NZ), "...set standards, and fly to them..".[10][11]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On 14 September 1998 an Air Safaris Cessna 177B Cardinal, ZK-DKL, crashed in the Mount Cook area while on a scenic flight, killing the pilot and 2 passengers on board. It struck a snow covered mountain face 11 km northeast of Mount Cook at 11.52 am. The aeroplane was damaged beyond repair. The cause of this accident has not been determined.[12][13][14]


The GAF N24A Nomad is the largest aircraft in the fleet and is complemented by the smaller Cessna 208B and GA8 Airvan airliners.[15]The 10 seater Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter was previously used from 1978 and the Cessna 185 and 206 were the first aircraft in Air Safaris fleet these have since been retired.[16]

AirSafaris Fleet
Aircraft Number Passengers Registrations
Cessna 208B Grand Caravan 1 13 ZK-SRI
GA8 Airvan 4 7 ZK-SAE, SAF, SAU, SAZ
GAF N24A Nomad 3 15 ZK-NMC, NMD, NME


The Lake Tekapo Link are Charter flights that are available from both Christchurch and Queenstown airports to Lake Tekapo. These are for passengers who wish to use the scenic flights of Air Safaris such as the Grand Traverse experience.[17]

The airline has recently completed a major development at Pukaki airport near Twizel to enable it to offer scenic flights. It has involved construction of a sealed turning bay off the adjacent aircraft taxiway, and a parking area for company aircraft. [18]


See also[edit]


External links[edit]