Air Chathams is a New Zealand-based airline that is based near the Chatham Islands. It was founded in 1979 by the late Sir Charles and Lady Eileen Chatham who wanted to create an airline that could serve the Chatham Islands, a remote archipelago east of New Zealand. The airline began with a single aircraft, a de Havilland Twin Otter, that was purchased from a company in Canada.
The airline quickly grew and began to expand its fleet. In 1981, Air Chathams purchased a second Twin Otter and in 1984, a third Twin Otter was added. The airline continued to grow and in 1987, the airline purchased its first jet, a DHC-8 Dash-100, which allowed them to offer services to the mainland of New Zealand.
The airline continued to expand and in 1988, Air Chathams became the first regional airline in New Zealand to offer scheduled international services when they began operating flights between the Chatham Islands and Norfolk Island. The following year, the airline again expanded its fleet with the purchase of two Saab 340 aircraft, allowing them to offer services between the Chatham Islands and mainland New Zealand.
In 1992, the airline purchased their first turboprop aircraft, a Beechcraft 1900, allowing them to offer services to the mainland of New Zealand. The airline also began to offer services to the Auckland and Christchurch airports.
In 1995, the airline purchased their first Boeing aircraft, a 737-200, and began to offer services to the South Pacific. The airline also began to offer services to Australia in 1998.
In 2006, Air Chathams began to operate charter flights for the New Zealand Defence Force, which allowed them to expand their operations and increase their services to the South Pacific. The airline has since continued to grow and in 2015, the airline purchased a Saab 340B Plus, allowing them to offer services to the mainland of New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Air Chathams has been involved in several incidents over the years, including a fatal accident in 1996 when a de Havilland Twin Otter crashed into the sea off Stewart Island, killing all on board. The airline was also involved in a federal investigation in 2011 after one of its planes was denied permission to land in Australia due to safety concerns. The airline was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Air Chathams has continued to grow since its inception and is now the largest airline operating from the Chatham Islands. The airline now operates a fleet of five aircraft, including the DHC-8 Dash-100, two Saab 340s, a Beechcraft 1900 and a Saab 340B Plus, and offer services to destinations throughout the South Pacific and Australia. The airline employs over 100 staff and operates over 600 flights each year, making it an important part of the aviation industry in New Zealand.