Sounds Air flights links wine centres of Blenheim and Napier

Sounds Air Pilatus planes are superpowered to fly at 30,000 feet, cruising at 500km per hour.
Carolyn Veen

Sounds Air Pilatus planes are superpowered to fly at 30,000 feet, cruising at 500km per hour.

After demand from wine lovers and workers in the industry, Sounds Air will begin flying  its nine-seater Pilatus aircraft between Napier and Blenheim, two days a week, starting in August.

 It will only take about 35 minutes to fly from Napier to Blenheim. The little pressurised plane is superpowered to fly at 30,000 feet, cruising at 500km per hour. 

The demand for this particular route came from the winery industry - people got tired of stopping off in Wellington, often with too many delays, making the flight home a long one.

Should be fun for wine lovers too who want to wine and dine and go shopping shop and then fly home again all in one day.

Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford, said the airline is hoping for four mid-week return flights between Napier and Blenheim.

"The pressure has also been on for weekends as well," Crawford said.

"We have taken over both the Wellington-Westport and Wellington-Taupo services that Air New Zealand pulled out of, and we were awarded the contracts.

"When you fly one air service, you need two planes for maintenance purposes, and subsequently three planes for two services, so we had a spare plane and decided on the Blenheim-Napier route because we're based in Blenheim."

The fare is not fixed yet but is could be about $250 each way.

By flying over Wellington, travelling time will be kept to a minimum which means more time for everyone to enjoy the day.

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"Talking to the winery owners, there are huge synergies between Marlborough and Hawke's Bay, in terms of ownership."

Wineworks in Hawke's Bay, for instance, has its biggest bottling plant in Marlborough.

Dave Wenley from Wineworks said Sounds Air direct flights will save him as much as five hours a day in travelling time, once Wellington is eliminated from the loop.

Neil Barber, deputy chairman of Hawke's Bay Tourism, said the flight service will be a boon for the region.

"It will be great for Hawke's Bay as well as the wine industry," Barber said.

Having just flown over Cape Kidnappers, John Stace, a spokesman for local group A Better Hawke's Bay said the little plane performs like a sports car on steroids.

"A most spectacular single-engine aircraft, made in Switzerland, flies very high, very fast, and with a five bladed propeller it is very quiet inside and out," Stace said.

Sounds Air has been operating for 30 years, and has vast experience flying in and around the Marlborough Sounds, Cook Strait, Wellington and Nelson.

The company was started by Cliff and Diane Marchant in 1986. They had a vision of providing low cost inter-island transport to provide locals and tourists with easy access to the Marlborough Sounds.

Since that time they have made more than 150,000 crossings of Cook Strait to their own airport at Picton and also to Blenheim, Nelson and many airstrips in the Marlborough Sounds.

READ MORE: Sounds Air snaps up Taupo to Wellington route

 - Stuff

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