A Tekapo company will spend millions of dollars on a new aircraft in a strong show of confidence in local tourism.
Air Safaris will soon take possession of a new $3.7 million Cessna Caravan, fresh off the production line in the United States. It intends to use the single engine aircraft for sightseeing around the South Island. Air Safaris director Tim Rayward said the purchase was a significant milestone for the company:
“Investing this sort of capital is a very big step for us, and part of our plan for looking forward over the next five to 10 years. Tourism is coming along very strongly right across the regions. We are really positive, looking forward.”
Rayward’s next challenge is to fly the new machine from Kansas back to New Zealand. He takes delivery on September 23: the aircraft had been test flown and is all set to go. The Federal Aviation Authority will inspect the modifications before Rayward heads skyward for a 4000km flight to overnight in Honolulu. From there the plane will travel to Western Samoa and Auckland.The plane is equipped with a life raft, jackets and emergency locator beacons for its flight above the Pacific Ocean. The director of Air Safaris is not nervous about the trip.
The company already flies a pair of Nomad aircraft, and an earlier model Cessna Caravan. Rayward hopes to have the new aircraft operational next month after certification from Civil Aviation.