David Hedges charts the evolution of regional carrier Air Chathams, and enjoys flying on one of the few scheduled Douglas DC-3 passenger services still operating in the world today.

Fairchild SA227AC Metroliner, ZK-CIC (c/n AC62313), showing its large cargo door during a turn-around at Christchurch, New Zealand
The Convair 580 forms the backbone of Air Chathams’ fleet and the carrier operates the type in three different configurations; a 50-seat passenger cabin, as a freighter and as a combi aircraft.

The Chatham Islands form a small archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, around 400 miles (650km) east of the South Island of New Zealand and it is here the small regional airline, Air Chathams, operates a varied fleet of rare aircraft types. Created in 1984, Air Chathams is remarkably still owned and run by its founders Craig and Marion Emeny. However, the family’s connection to the industry goes back a further three years, when Emeny started flying crayfish between Pitt Island and Chatham Islands. He initially used a Cessna 180K Skywagon, ZK-EYH (c/n 180-53011), but it soon became apparent that a larger, faster aircraft was required – one that would also enable flights to the mainland

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