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Air Napier brings in former RNZAF chief

After directing troops in East Timor and helping earthquake-stricken Christchurch back on its feet, a retired airforce chief is now helping plan new airline routes to Gisborne.

Following a four-week trial Air Napier launched a regular Gisborne-Napier passenger service in March.

Now operating six flights a week, the company is considering expanding its Gisborne routes, and has appointed former New Zealand Air Force Chief of Staff, former Air Vice Marshall John Hamilton, to investigate options.

Mr Hamilton, who has taken up the role of operations manager for Air Napier, said he expected to be dealing with two challenges.

“The first one is just the management of the operation, becoming familiar with the routes and timetabling we provide. The second part is helping the owners of Air Napier to think about where we might expand the operation to catch other communities.”

New routes would be dependent on not competing with Air New Zealand, so the airline could provide an operation that linked Gisborne and Napier with “somewhere to the west”.

That could possibly end up being Tauranga or Waikato, along with other places.

“I think our little operation is working well but we also appreciate that we have to provide a service which the clients and passengers are comfortable with and can rely on if we are to extend it any further.”

Mr Hamilton said he saw the opportunity to build on his aviation background with Air Napier after moving back to Hawke’s Bay after retiring from the Ministry of Civil Defence.

Air Napier chief executive Shah Aslam welcomed Mr Hamilton to the airline at what he described as an exciting time.

“He joined the company in April 2019 after a lengthy career in civil defence and emergency management which included a period as a consultant, and eight years as the Director of the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.

Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake Mr Hamilton was appointed by the government to be the National Controller in Christchurch and was responsible for the control and co-ordination of the national response to the crisis.

His aviation experience has its foundation in his 35-year career in the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He enlisted in 1971 and qualified initially as a helicopter pilot before later becoming a flying instructor. He held command and leadership appointments at all levels of the RNZAF culminating with a four-year period from 2002-2006 as the Chief of Air Force at the two star level in the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.

“John is an accomplished leader and is effective in resolving complex operational situations,” Mr Aslam said.

“He is well-versed in setting and maintaining operational flying standards and managing risk and he has extensive experience in planning and implementing flying operations and developing teams.

Mr Hamilton holds the Royal Victorian Order (RVO) for his service to the Queen as equerry; was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for leading the planning for the New Zealand deployment to East Timor, and in 2006 he was promoted to Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in recognition of his leadership as Chief of Air Force.

Mr Aslam said he was pleased with the way the airline’s Gisborne service was going since its launch.

“We are looking to upgrade to a larger capacity turbo prop aircraft, and are speaking to investors.

“Scheduled flights are doing well and we will be looking to continue to build on private charters for businesses.”

Mr Aslam said the service was about providing businesses with the convenience and time-saving through charters which increase productivity.

“We are very happy that John has joined us on this journey as we look to build Air Napier around the East Coast and New Zealand.”

WESTWARD HO: Air Napier operations manager John Hamilton with chief executive Shah Aslam. The company is looking at expanding its Gisborne service.Picture supplied