Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) was the forerunner of Air New Zealand. It was first registered in Wellington as a limited liability company on 26 April 1940. The shares were originally held by the New Zealand government (20%), Union Airways (19%), BOAC (38%) and Qantas (23%).
The inaugural service, from Auckland to Sydney on 30 April of that year, was flown by one of its two Short S30 flying boats. The first four months of operation saw a weekly return service between Auckland and Sydney. This was expanded to thrice fortnightly with connections to San Francisco using Pan Am flights from Auckland (Pan Am was not flying into Australia).
In the first year, the annual report revealed that 130 trans-Tasman flights had been completed carrying 1461 passengers for a profit, prior to tax and dividends, of NZ£31 479.
By 1944, the trans-Tasman frequency had increased to three weekly return flights.
After World War II shareholding passed to equal ownership by the governments of New Zealand and Australia. Four Short Sandringhams and later Short Solents were acquired, as well as an ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force PBY Catalina for survey flights.
The Coral Route is one of the most famous routes flown by TEAL. It was initiated by NZ National Airways Corporation in 1947 using Short Sunderlands but after a survey, was taken over by TEAL in 1951 with the inaugural Auckland—Suva and Suva—Labasa flights in June. However, later that year the Suva—Labasa route was dropped in favour of a monthly extension to the Cook Islands and Tahiti. The Coral Route was born.
The next year, due to its popularity, the Coral Route was increased to a fortnightly service.
In 1960, the final Coral Route flight returned to Auckland. It was one of the world's last scheduled international flying boat services. It was operated by Short S.45 Solent flying boat Aranui which had survived replacement by DC-6 and Electra landplanes by several years compared to her contemporaries. Aranui is now restored and on display at the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland.
From 1940–1950, TEAL operated a single route, from Auckland to Sydney with its Shorts flying boats; and from 1948–54 contracted an ANA DC-4 to serve Melbourne—Christchurch. From 1950–54 Wellington was also served by flying boat to Sydney.
From 1954 with the introduction of the DC-6s, Christchurch—Sydney and Auckland—Sydney were started, with TEAL now operating its own Christchurch—Melbourne and Auckland—Melbourne services. Services to Brisbane from Auckland and Christchurch followed in 1959; and Wellington resumed international service, at first only to Sydney, in 1960.
Meanwhile, the flying boat service to Suva was replaced by DC-6 to Nadi in 1954; and when the last flying boat service closed in 1960, the flight was extended to Pago Pago and Tahiti. In late 1964, the French canceled TEAL's licence to Tahiti and the Coral Route service terminated at Pago Pago. Air New Zealand were permitted to return to Tahiti in 1967.
TEAL operated both landplanes and flying boats.
Short S.30 Empire Class
The first services were flown by Short S.30 Empire Class flying boats. Between 1940 and 1947, TEAL operated two of these. A third S.30 was destined for TEAL but war shortages in England led to a delay and eventual cancellation of its delivery.
Short S.25 Sandringham Mk IV 'Tasman Class'
In 1946, TEAL acquired 4 Short S.25 Sandringham IV 'Tasman Class' flying boats. They were a passenger transport variation of the Short Sunderland. However they were grounded for 6 months in 1948 due to engine cooling issues and disposed of at the end of 1949.
Consolidated Boeing P2B-1 Catalina
TEAL flew two Boeing-built Consolidated P2B-1 Catalinas from 1947 until 1949. They were loaned from the RNZAF and used as training and survey aircraft.
Short S.45 Solent Mk IV
The replacements for the S.25 were the Short S.45 Solent IV of which TEAL acquired 4. They were delivered during 1949 with one setting a new trans-Tasman crossing record of 5 hours 37 minutes. The Solents continued flying until 1954 with the introduction of the Douglas DC-6 landplanes. However, Solent Aranui continued on the Coral Route until 1960.
The Douglas DC-6 was flown by TEAL between 1954 and 1961. Three were transferred to TEAL after the break-up of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines. The aircraft started replacing the flying boats in May and June and meant the transfer of Auckland's International Airport from Mechanics Bay to Whenuapai, where it was to remain until 1965. In September 1956, work was completed on the skin of the DC-6's to allow a 2000lbs increase in payload. By 1961, they were handed over to the RNZAF to be used as troop transporters.
Lockheed L-188 Electra
The last new type to be operated by TEAL was the Lockheed L.188 Electra. Three of this type were operated between 1959 and 1972 by which time TEAL had changed its name to Air New Zealand. The Electras were sold in 1972 to United States interests.
Lockheed Electra L-188 crash
On March 27 1965, Teal's Lockheed Electra L-188 ZK-TEC Akaroa, crashed during a training flight at Whenuapai. The airline had done the following manoeuvre many times before: the Electra flying at precisely 140kts, could be flown over the runway threshold, then throttled back to idle, it would drop almost vertically, and then land on the runway. As this would never be done on a passenger flight; the reason for the procedure remains a mystery.
Onboard were a captain, a check captain, a flight engineer, a navigator, and the airline's industrial personnel officer, and emergency procedures officer standing behind them. As Akaroa's speed dropped below 140 knots, the aeroplane landed very heavily, collapsing the undercarriage; and Akaroa shed wings, engines, tailplane, and tail as she skidded off the runway and across the grass towards the control tower. Somehow, the two standing officers stayed standing, the fire extinguishers were turned on, and everyone was evacuated out the cockpit windows, with one man burning his hand on the escape rope. TEAL salvaged what they could from the wreck, and the remains were quickly pushed into a gully behind the NAC hangars before the public saw it. The crash took place in the early hours of the morning. This training procedure was quickly deleted from TEAL's manuals. TEAL purchased a replacement Electra from Qantas after it changed its name to Air New Zealand the following March.
In April 1961 the Australian government decided to support the wholly Australian-owned Qantas airline and the New Zealand government bought out the Australian government's shareholding, giving New Zealand 100% ownership. The airline changed to Air New Zealand (its present name) on 1 April 1965 at the same time as Douglas DC-8s entered service. TEAL's TE flight code carried over to Air New Zealand, which continued to use it for its international routes until 1989. Then its international flights began using the NZ code that belonged to NAC and had been used for that carrier's domestic flights.1
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