The 26 August will always be remembered as the day the ‘greatest little airline in New Zealand’ closed its operations. An extremely sad moment, but at the same time one of immense pride and reflection on all Eagle has achieved since it commenced its scheduled airline operations on 3 October 1975.
It was very fitting that Malcolm Campbell who founded the Eagle Flying Academy in 1969, and his wife Joan, were available to be a part of the last flights of Eagle on 26 August – being distinguished guests on the flights between Hamilton to Palmerston North and the all important and significant, last Eagle service back to Hamilton.
Malcolm says his most significant move was introducing the Embraer Bandeirante to the airline’s operation. This was possibly the most significant event in the history of regional air
services in New Zealand and led to most regional airports in New Zealand having multiple flights each day and making the aeroplane the most important and rapid mover of people around the country.
Earlier in the day all the pilots remaining on the Eagle books joined together with all the Eagle Support staff and some other past pilots in a very fine, sit-down catered lunch in the main hangar at Hamilton – with the feature backdrop being Beech 1900D ZK-EAE. An amazing occasion and one during which so many people, past and present, were remembered. It was the end of Eagle, but the occasion was arranged in such grand style that the sadness of the closing was pushed at least a little into the background. The day’s activities continued in the Koru Lounge at Hamilton airport after the last Eagle flight(NZ2106) arrived.
And to the Eagle pilots, most have already transitioned to either the jet fleet, Mt Cook or Air Nelson with most of the last pilots on the books to join those ranks in the near future. Some have already, or will soon, move to other jet fleets in NZ such as Jet Connect and Virgin in the very near future, while a small number have opted to take redundancy.
Capt Chris Mortimore took over the reins as the Manager of Flight Operations in February when Richard Porter returned to the jet fleet to take up an A320 command, but also maintained his existing role at that time of Manager Training & Standards. Collectively, a huge task for which he has done with flair and passion.
For me, like so many others before me, it was tough walking away from my last flight as a pilot for Eagle Airways – in this case, as the Captain on NZ2102 PM-HN on 25 August. It was raining to reflect the sombre end of what for me has been 27 years with the airline.
While a sad occasion it was nonetheless fantastic to reflect on my 27 years, the great times I have had, and the great people it has been my pleasure to have worked with and beside.
Thanks everyone so much and my very best wishes to you all for your respective futures.
Capt Dave Hamilton
Eagle Pilots’ Council