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Air Chathams' Convair 580

Kiwi airline retires its historic aircraft

Covid-19 also hits a small island airline. Air Chathams connects New Zealand to the Chatham Islands - soon no longer with Convair 580.

They have only around 660 inhabitants, are smaller than Hong Kong in terms of land area and are located hundreds of kilometres away from the rest of New Zealand. Nevertheless, the Chatham Islands have their own airline. And it enjoys cult status among aviation fans.

Air Chathams was founded in 1984 to connect the islanders with Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and other cities in New Zealand. Before the Coronavirus crisis, the airline was constantly expanding its services as Air New Zealand cut back on its domestic services. It has even been serving its first international destination, the Norfolk Island, for a year now. The island belongs to Australia.

Seven oldies in the fleet

But the route network is not what makes many aviation enthusiasts happy. It is the partly ancient fleet of Air Chathams. The airline’s most ‘normal’ aircraft are a Cessna 206, an ATR 72-500 and three Saab 340, but they are joined by seven oldies: three Fairchild Metroliners, one Douglas DC-3 and three Convair CV-580.

The Convairs are particularly popular with enthusiasts. The twin-engined propeller plane is a modernised version of the Convair 340 and 440 from the 1950s. It is «the fastest multi-engine turboprop aircraft operating in New Zealand», says Air Chathams, praising the 50 seater with a pressurised cabin. The Convair 580 also offers «generous legroom and excellent visibility thanks to large windows».

«The backbone for a quarter of a century»

But now Air Chathams has announced the end of the Convair 580. «The pandemic has changed the size of our business», the airline writes in a notice. «We have been required to relook at what we do and how we do it.» Flights to the Chatham Islands will be switched to ATR 72 in a few weeks’ time.

The Convairs would remain in service until 2021, Air Chathams states. Then they will be fully retired. «It will be a sad day when we witness our last Convair service», the airline said. The Convair 580 «have been the backbone of our airline for a quarter century».

Three more copies

Air Chathams owns three Convair 580. One is a passenger-only aircraft, one is a cargo and passenger combi version and one is a cargo-only aircraft. They carry the registrations ZK-CIE, ZK-CIB and ZK-KFL and were built in 1956, 1957 and 1953. In total, Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation, known as Convair, produced more than 1100 of the CV-240 family, including the 340, 440, 580 and 640 versions.

In the image gallery above you can see pictures of the Convair 580 from Air Chathams.

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