A family activity
Passing on the family tradition: Craig (left) and Duane Emeny.
I have sometimes wondered if the tendency to follow family traditions, when picking a career, is environmental — or is there some genetic influence too? Is there such a thing as having aviation in your blood or is it just a passion that develops, especially when experiences are shared between generations?
A well-known and respected aviation family in New Zealand is the Emenys. They comprise three generations of pilots, operating very different types of aircraft but sharing a common love of flying.
The patriarch of the family was Cliff Emeny, a distinguished war veteran who served in the army, merchant navy and the air force. He alone was the recipient of three Wings, as an air gunner, a radar observer and a pilot. He was not only a great pilot but an amazing survivor of the terrible Japanese prisoner of war camps.
Cliff passed away in 2000. It is not surprising that some of his children chose to take to the sky, and he would be proud to see that the third generation is also following his lead.
On a dreadful winter’s day recently I caught up with one of Cliff’s grandsons, Duane Emeny, at the Air Chathams base at Auckland International Airport. Duane is a line captain for Air Chathams and has recently taken on the role as charter manager of the airline’s newly formed subsidiary, Air Charter NZ.
This is a significant development for the company and now sees it occupy two adjacent hangars on Hape Drive near the threshold of runway 23. The move has come following Chathams Pacific’s ending its service in Tonga, relocating its aircraft and a number of staff to Auckland.
Air Chathams has shown a remarkable ability to cope with change and grow to meet the needs of an ever-evolving market. It is unique in the type of aircraft it operates. How many airlines can you think of, for example, that successfully operate commercial passenger services with an almost 70-year-old vintage airliner?
Duane has grown up watching the tenacity, dedication and determination that his father, Craig, has shown over the last 30 years of running Air Chathams. Those three decades have seen some very testing periods which might have overcome the fainthearted, but each challenge saw Air Chathams grow and become stronger. Craig’s commitment to the Chatham Islands and its people is something special.
Duane has been a big part of the Tonga-based Chathams Pacific operation. In typical Emeny style the family immersed itself in life in the South Pacific island nation and the staff became a large family. Duane and his fiancée, Kate, lived in Tonga for three years while both worked for the company.
In years gone by it was typical for young pilots to spend time working for this type of operation, gaining valuable experience in both life and flying. But comparing Duane’s career with others, it would be rare to find a young pilot today who has 4500hr, predominantly flying Britten Norman Islander, Beechcraft Queen Air, Piper Chieftain, Metroliner III and Convair 580 aircraft in fairly remote locations.
Has Duane always wanted to be a pilot? His reply is emphatic.
“As a kid I always told people that I wanted to be a pilot, although I made Dad a little nervous while at college. He put $500 in an account for me to use for flying training at the Canterbury Aero Club and I never went near the place.”
After leaving school Duane spent two years at Massey Aviation College and absolutely loved it. Upon graduating from there, he went back to Christchurch and completed a Metro ground course, followed immediately by a type rating with Warren Gleeson and starting on line with Air Chathams the following week.
Duane initially flew 25hr on type from Christchurch and was then based with the company in Auckland, with short periods at the Chathams followed by his time in Tonga. The family’s very reluctant departure from there, precipitated by the gift of an MA60 to the Tongan government from China, required another large effort from the Emenys to create a positive turn in Air Chathams’ direction.
True to form, Craig, Duane and the Air Chathams team are busy creating new opportunities based in Auckland.
Duane showed us across the tarmac to the beautiful DC-3, ZK-AWP, sitting solidly in the gusty wind. This airliner was very popular with both the locals and tourists in Tonga, flying scheduled services around the islands. Duane explained that passengers from around the world would pre-book a seat on the DC-3 so that they had the chance to fly on this lovely old girl. She is well loved and he is still getting messages from people saying how much they miss her flying around the islands.
This DC-3 has strong links with New Zealand, having served with the RNZAF, on passenger services with NAC and even being used as a topdresser for some years. She has reverted to her original NAC name of Powhaitere. Coincidentally, this is the Maori name for the red-crowned parakeet found on the outer islands of New Zealand, including the Chathams.
ZK-AWP also flew under the name of Kaitaia after being modified as a Skyliner complete with larger windows. When Air Chathams took ownership of A3-AWP in Tonga, she required extensive refurbishment to make her airworthy. This was a long and expensive process for Craig, but we should all be thankful that he took it on. Her fate would have been uncertain had she been left sitting there.
Air Charter NZ hopes to offer tourist and corporate customers a special experience flying aboard the DC-3 and reliving another era of travel. They will offer local scenic flights, charters or package tours around the country, and an arrival lounge at the Auckland base from which passengers can directly board avoids the need to go through the domestic terminal on these types of flights.
The Auckland base facilities allow full heavy maintenance to be carried out in-house. It was quite a task bringing all the equipment and engineers from the Tongan maintenance base back to New Zealand — but what better freighters to have for the job than the company’s Convair 580s? Duane explained on the day we met that Craig was delayed with weather for the trip home with Convair ZK-CIE which had been helping out with charter flights domestically in Tonga.
Air Charter NZ can offer specialised charter services throughout New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific, operating under CAA Part 121 Large Aircraft Operations. The Convair 580 is well proven for comfort, load capacity and its ability to operate off shorter regional runways. It carries a flight attendant and has a galley for catering requirements, making it an ideal pressurised charter airliner for up to 50 passengers.
The Convair is complemented by the newly refurbished Metroliner III which is a good option for smaller groups, seating up to 18 passengers and an economical charter aircraft.
Back on the Chathams is the Cessna 206 workhorse which operates between the main Chatham Islands/Tuuta Airport and Pitt Island. It has recently been joined by the Britten-Norman Islander from Tonga, which is proving to be very useful on the Pitt Island run. The Islander will also be available for charter in New Zealand.
Duane enjoys flying the Convair 580 and has been captain on the type for some time. I was delighted to see a photo of another Chatham Island first. Recently Duane had the pleasure of flying the Convair with Capt Inia Daymond and flight attendant Shelley Braid.
What made this a special occasion was that they were all local children who attended Te One School at Waitangi on the Chathams. Time does go by; I remember them when they were wee children!
Duane is understandably excited with the prospect of operating ZK-AWP and sharing her with everyone. He explains that Craig has a real passion for the DC-3 and is looking forward to the coming summer airshow season. He and all the family recently enjoyed the Warbirds Over Wanaka weekend where the DC-3 provided scenic flights for the show visitors.
“It was great for Dad at Wanaka to have the DC-3 flying and to be there with his brothers,” says Duane. “We had all our family come down to the show, which was great.”
The New Zealand skies are where AWP belongs, and we wish Air Chathams well on the next leg of the journey.
- Report by Neroli Henwood, photographs by John King & via Neroli Henwood.
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