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Tasman Empire Airways Limited (logo).png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Ceased operations1965 (become Air New Zealand)
Fleet size18
DestinationsAuckland, Sydney, Wellington, Melbourne, Fiji, Tahiti, Cook Islands
HeadquartersAuckland, New Zealand

Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) was the forerunner of Air New Zealand.

The company was formed by an Intergovernmental Agreement for Tasman Sea Air Services (also known as the Tasman Sea Agreement), a treaty signed by the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand in London on 10 April 1940.[1] TEAL was first registered in Wellington as a limited liability company on 26 April 1940. The company's purpose was originally to transport mail, passengers and cargo across the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, during World War II. The treaty was originally intended to end within 3 months after hostilities with Germany ended, however was extended in 1949,[2] the agreement ended on 31 March 1954,[3] with control and ownership passing into normal commercial arrangements.

The shares were originally held by the New Zealand government (20%), Union Airways (19%), BOAC (38%) and Qantas (23%).

Initial services[edit]

July 1940 New Zealand airmail censored cover paid 1/6 to Dublin, Ireland, flown from Auckland to Sydney by Tasman Empire Airways service that started on 30 April 1940, and then flown on the Horseshoe route to Durban, South Africa and then by boat to the UK for forwarding to Dublin

The inaugural service from Auckland to Sydney on 30 April 1940 was flown by Aotearoa, one of its two Short S30 flying boats. There was a connection at Sydney with the Qantas/BOAC route to Great Britain which meant that there was, for the first time, a regular through air service between New Zealand and Britain. This lasted less than six weeks as, when Italy entered World War II in June 1940, it was no longer possible to fly through the Mediterranean. The TEAL service then provided a connection with the Horseshoe route.

The first four months of operation saw a weekly return service between Auckland and Sydney. This was expanded to thrice fortnightly with connections to San Francisco using Pan Am flights from Auckland (Pan Am was not flying into Australia). The connection to San Francisco ended in December 1941 when Japan entered the war.

In the first year, the annual report revealed that 130 trans-Tasman flights had been completed carrying 1461 passengers for a profit, prior to tax and dividends, of NZ£31,479.

By 1944, the trans-Tasman frequency had increased to three weekly return flights.

After World War II shareholding passed to equal ownership by the governments of New Zealand and Australia. Four Short Sandringhams and later Short Solents were acquired, as well as an ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force PBY Catalina for survey flights.

Coral Route[edit]

interior of Teal Solent preserved at MoTaT

The Coral Route is one of the most famous routes flown by TEAL. The New Zealand National Airways Corporation had initiated Pacific Island flights flying Douglas DC3 aircraft, from Auckland to Nadi (Fiji), Faleolo (Samoa), Aitutaki and Rarotonga (Cook Islands). These routes were later taken over by TEAL, which wanted to fly to Tahiti, but there was no airstrip at Papeete, so a flying boat was necessary. After completion of a survey flight by a TEAL-operated ex-RNZAF Catalina ZK-AMP in 1951, the Coral Route flight from Auckland to Papeete, Tahiti, via Laucala Bay at Suva, Fiji, Satapuala at Apia, Samoa, and Akaiamai at Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, was inaugurated by TEAL on 27 December 1951, using the Short Solent flying boats long used between Auckland and Sydney. In Samoa, the plane landed on the sea and a small motor boat operated by Fred Fairman would carry the passengers to shore. They would alight and go through customs in a small shed. The Faleolo airport was still a grass strip.[4]

The Coral Route was born. It became the only air route into Tahiti, with Americans and others from Northern Hemisphere flying by land planes into Nadi in Fiji, making the short hop across to Suva to join the flying boat at Laucala Bay, for its fortnighly flight along the Coral Route, leaving on a Thursday morning for Samoa, alighting on the Satapuala lagoon about 2 p.m. Passengers were driven by cab through Samoan coastal villages to Apia, where they enjoyed respite and dinner at Aggie Grey's hotel until 2 a.m. when they were driven back out to Satapuala for a pre-dawn take-off to the Akaiami lagoon at Aitutaki where they went ashore for breakfast and an optional swim until mid-morning takeoff for Papeete, timed to ensure that arrival was after the end of the siesta period at 2 p.m. After launching ashore and completing Customs, passengers had to wait a further hour while their luggage was sprayed against horticultural pests, a time usually spent by the majority across the road from the Customshouse at Quinn's Bar. In all, a 30-hour leisurely introduction to life in the South Seas which made the Coral Route a legendary travel experience.

On Thursday, 15 September 1960 the final Coral Route flight by the Solent Aranui returned to Auckland. It was one of the world's last long-range scheduled international flying boat services.

Short Sandringham ZK-AMH RMA Auckland. A conversion of a Short Sunderland III, RAF serial JM715. Operated with TEAL from 1947 to 1950. Preserved and displayed in Southampton at Solent Sky Museum. Latterly Ansett Flying Boat Services VH-BRC Beachcomber, retired in 1981.

Short Solent ZK-AMO RMA Aranui is now restored and on display at the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland.

Other routes[edit]

From 1940–1950, TEAL operated a single route, from Auckland to Sydney with its Short flying boats; and from 1948–54 contracted an ANA DC-4 to serve Melbourne—Christchurch. From 1950–54 Wellington was also served by flying boat to Sydney.

From 1954 with the introduction of the DC-6s, Christchurch—Sydney and Auckland—Sydney were started, with TEAL now operating its own Christchurch—Melbourne and Auckland—Melbourne services.

Services to Brisbane from Auckland and Christchurch followed in 1959; and Wellington resumed international service, at first only to Sydney, in 1960.

Meanwhile, the flying boat service to Suva was replaced by DC-6 to Nadi in 1954; and when the last flying boat service closed in 1960, the flight was extended to Pago Pago and Tahiti. In late 1964, the French cancelled TEAL's licence to Tahiti and the Coral Route service terminated at Pago Pago. Air New Zealand were permitted to return to Tahiti in 1967.


TEAL operated both landplanes and flying boats.

Short S.30 Empire Class flying-boat
The first services were flown by Short S.30 Empire Class flying boats. Between 1939[citation needed]and 1947, TEAL operated two of these. They were given Maori spiritual names, ZK-AMA Serial S886 Aotearoa(land of the long white cloud) and -AMC Serial S994 Awarua(two rivers). A third S.30, S885 ordered by TEAL was diverted to war duties in the North Atlantic and later destroyed.

Short S.25 Sandringham Mk IV 'Tasman Class flying-boat'
In 1946, TEAL acquired four Short S.25 Sandringham IV 'Tasman Class' flying boats. They were a fully streamlined conversion passenger transport variation of the Short Sunderland. Consideration was given to land plane operations but the government delayed the decision to move to land as the UK government offered generous terms on purchasing new types in development such as the Avro Tudor and Handley Page Hermes. The Sandringhams were given generic names, ZK-AMB Serial ML761 Tasman, -AMD Serial NJ255 Australia, -AME Serial NJ179 New Zealand, and -AMH JM715 Auckland. However they were unsuited for the harsher trans Tasman crossings. They were grounded for six months in 1948 due to engine cooling issues and disposed of at the end of 1949 when a more suitable custom built version of the Short Solent became available.

Consolidated Boeing PB2B-1 Catalina
TEAL flew two Boeing-built Consolidated PB2B-1 Catalinas from 1947 until 1949. They were loaned from the RNZAF and used as training and survey aircraft. They were registered on the civil aviation list as ZK-AMI and -AMP Maroro(Flying Fish - TEAL's emblem), -AMI was never named.

Short S.45 Solent Mk IV
The replacements for the S.25 were the Short S.45 Solent IV of which TEAL acquired four, ZK-AML Aotearoa II, -AMM Ararangi, -AMN Awatere and -AMO Aranui. TEAL management were hoping to move to land based operations after the unsuccessful operation of the Sandringham. Original plans to operate Douglas DC-4 aircraft from Auckland's Whenuapai joint service airport alongside other overseas international operators. A Buy British policy and support for rebuilding the British aircraft industry forced the airline to continue operating flying boats including an offer to fly the mammoth Saunders-Roe Princess on a subsidized trial basis. This lead to a further more exotic proposal to produce a six jet engine powered flying boat, the Saunders-Roe Duchess. This would've give jet speed to an already antiquated mode of air transport. A promise by the New Zealand Government was made that the Solent would be the last water based aircraft the airline would operate ended any thought of future flying boat development in New Zealand. The Solents were delivered during 1949 with one setting a new trans-Tasman crossing record of 5 hours 37 minutes. The Solents continued flying until 1954 with the introduction of the Douglas DC-6 landplanes. However, Solent Aranui based in Fiji continued on the Coral Route until 1960 operating from Suva after TEAL introduced land plane services to Nadi.

S.45 Solent Mk III
An extra Solent flying boat was purchased from BOAC in 1951 to ease pressure on growing passenger numbers and help with the new Wellington trans Tasman service operating from Evans Bay. ZK-AMQ Aparima remained in TEAL service until 1957, being used as a back up to the Coral Route regular -AMO Aranui based in Suva, Fiji.

Douglas DC-6
The Douglas DC-6 was flown by TEAL between 1954 and 1961. Three were transferred to TEAL after the break-up of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines. Re-registered ZK-BGA Aotearoa III, -BGB Arawhata, and -BGC Arahia. They were original "short bodied" types fitted out with sleeper beds and long range tanks. The aircraft started replacing the flying boats service in May 1954. It meant the transfer of TEAL's Auckland International Airport operations from Mechanics Bay to the shared Whenuapai air force and civilian terminal, where it was to remain until 1965. In September 1956, Douglas ordered the re-skinning of all DC-6 wings. Work was completed on the fleet at Cathy Pacific Airlines' Hong Kong engineering facilities to allow a 2000 lb increase in payload. The land plane finally allowed TEAL to expand operations to Nadi, Fiji and from there directly to Tahiti. It also opened up land plane operations to Melbourne, helping move passengers during the 1956 Olympic Games,and Brisbane. It also ended the leasing of a Trans Australian Airlines DC-4 operating out of Christchurch on behalf of the airline. Wellington's rebuilt Rongotai Airport handled its first DC-6 service just after it re-opened in 1959, ending trans-Tasman flying boat operations from nearby Evans Bay. Originally to be replaced by the Lockheed L-188 Electra in 1960, the DC-6 remained in service due to engineering issues for the Electra, until 1961. They were handed over to the RNZAF to be used as troop transports, remaining in service with the air force until 1970.

Lockheed L-188 Electra
The last new type to be operated by TEAL was the Lockheed L.188 Electra. Five of this type were operated between 1959 and 1972 by which time TEAL had changed its name to Air New Zealand. The airline wanted to introduce jet aircraft in the form of the Comet 4 airliner but Australian shareholders insisted on the Lockheed L188 Electra, citing that Qantas, Trans Australian Airlines, Ansett ANA and Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific had ordered the type. This would lower operating costs as all the airlines would be able to share a common parts pool with the Electra. The original three were named Aotearoa IV (ZK-TEA), Atarau (ZK-TEB), and Akaroa (ZK-TEC). In late September 1959, just prior to delivery a series of fatal accidents occurred in the USA with the new aircraft. It was discovered that propeller vibration caused a weakening of the wing to engine mountings. The FAA ordered a reduced speed operation for the type until remedial repair works were completed in 1961. A fourth air frame was purchased from Qantas in 1965 to replace the lost air frame of ZK-TEC (see below), it was registered out of sequence as ZK-CLX but carried over the Akaroa name from the previous aircraft. Buy this time TEAL had changed its name to Air New Zealand. The fifth aircraft operated was leased from Qantas in 1970 for a year to operate a joint seat share service to Australia, Qantas titles appeared along the rear of the fuselage. This aircraft used the vacant TEAL allotted ZK-TED registration but remained unnamed. The remaining Electras were sold in 1972 to United States interests.

Douglas DC-8 Series 52 On completion of the New Zealand Government's purchase of TEAL's Australian shareholdings in 1961, airline management promptly announced the purchase of pure jet powered aircraft for 1965. This was to coincide with the completion of a new International airport for Auckland and runway lengthening at Christchurch airport. Aircraft of interest included the Boeing 707-100 short bodied version operated by Qantas, Convair CV880, Douglas DC-8, and after some political lobbying by pro-British government interests, Vickers Standard VC-10. An offer by BOAC to lease surplus De Havilland Comet 4s to begin interim jet services immediately was turned down as uneconomical. After intense scrutiny of all types on offer, TEAL management approached the New Zealand Government for funds to purchase an initial three Douglas DC-8 Series 52 longer ranged jet airliners. The request was approved and an order placed in 1962 for delivery in early 1965. The aircraft were duly completed when TEAL announced a change of airline name on 1 April 1965 to Air New Zealand. The first DC-8 was already painted minus titles in anticipation of this. The aircraft never flying in actual TEAL service. After the name change, however, TEAL titles appeared on the tail fin of the new airliners for two years.

Lockheed Electra L-188 crash[edit]

On 27 March 1965, Teal's Lockheed Electra L-188 ZK-TEC Akaroa, crashed during a training flight at Whenuapai. The airline had done the following manoeuvre many times before: the Electra, flying at precisely 140 knots, could be flown over the runway threshold, throttled back to idle to drop almost vertically and land on the runway. As this would never be done on a passenger flight; the reason for the procedure remains a mystery.

On board were a captain, a check captain, a flight engineer, a navigator; the airline's industrial personnel officer and an emergency procedures officer standing behind them.

As Akaroa's speed dropped below 140 knots the aeroplane landed very heavily, collapsing the landing gear; Akaroa shed wings, engines, tailplane and tail as she skidded off the runway and across the grass towards the control tower. Somehow, the two standing officers stayed standing, the fire extinguishers were turned on and everyone was evacuated through the cockpit windows, with one man burning his hand on the escape rope. TEAL salvaged what they could from the wreck and the remains were quickly pushed into a gully behind the NAC hangars before the public saw them. The crash took place in the early hours of the morning. The training procedure was quickly deleted from TEAL's manuals. TEAL purchased from Qantas a replacement Electra, VH-ECC, after it changed its name to Air New Zealand on 1 April 1965. It took the registration, ZK-CLX. (At the time of the accident, ZK-TEC had its Air New Zealand titles painted on its fuselage in anticipation of the name change).

Ownership transfer[edit]

In April 1961 the Australian government decided to subsidise the wholly Australian-owned Qantas airline and the New Zealand government bought out the Australian government's shareholding, giving New Zealand 100% ownership. The airline changed to Air New Zealand (its present name) on 1 April 1965 at the same time as Douglas DC-8s entered service. TEAL's TE flight code carried over to Air New Zealand, which continued to use it for its international routes until 1989. Then its international flights began using the NZ code that belonged to NAC and had been used for that carrier's domestic flights.


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