Aeropelican Inter City Commuter Air Services Pty Ltd 



Known As: Aeropelican Air Services

Full Name: Aeropelican Air Services Pty Ltd.

Country: Australia

Call sign: Aeropelican

Objects in Collection

Brief History

From 1957, Dalkeith 'Keith' Llewellyn Hilder, the founder of what became Aeropelican, flew a D.H.90 aircraft out of Broadmeadow Aerodrome, near Newcastle, N.S.W. - the home of the Royal Newcastle Aero Club.  During that year the DCA advised the club that the aerodrome would be closed.

During August 1959, Hilder negotiated a 25-year lease of an 11-hectare property at Pelican Point, between Swansea & Belmont, some 20km south of the City of Newcastle.

Hilder had longer-term plans to provide a better scheduled air service between Newcastle & Sydney than that provided by TAA's then daily operation between Williamtown & Sydney.  So he also applied for a flying school & air charter license.  He was granted a Charter & Aerial Works license by the DCA on 25 July, 1962.  However, it took until 1967 & much persuasion of the various authorities, before he was granted a Reg. 203 Exemption, to provide a scheduled, commuter service between Pelican, Sydney & Wollongong.

AeroPelican Air Charter Service was formed in June 1964 & began flying school operations 26 June, 1967.
It commenced commuter operations 11 September 1967, in conjunction with Illawarra Flying School Pty. Ltd.  These operations were short-lived, due to a technicality over the State Transport Department licence between Illawarra Flying School & AeroPelican Air Charter Service & ceased 22 September, 1967.

On 01 June, 1971, after nearly another 4 years of wrangling, the 1st scheduled service by Aeropelican Intercity Commuter Air Services Pty. Ltd. Belmont (Pelican Point)-Sydney was operated, using 8-seat Cessna 402 VH-MWE.  Other Cessna 402s were added to the fleet, as required, but were later progressively replaced by DHC-6 Twin Otters.

By early-1975, the average load factor was 77% & the company began examining the use of larger aircraft.  GAF N22 Nomad VH-ELN was leased from distributors Nationwide Air Services & trialed by Aeropelican, on its Sydney-Belmont-Sydney services, 18-24 December, 1975.  Whilst trials proved positive, it was not purchased by Aeropelican, as a suitable financial package could not be agreed. 

The immediate capacity problem was solved when Aeropelican purchased the ex-MMA 19-seat DHC-6 Series 100 Twin Otter VH-MMY at a reasonable price on 1 April, thanks to assistance from Ansett Transport Industries.  It was introduced into service by Aeropelican on 16 April.  Unfortunately, Keith Hilder never saw the Twin Otter in operation with Aeropelican.  He was admitted to hospital 2 days after its arrival from Perth & died on 03 June, 1976.

In December, 1976, DHC-6 Series 200 Twin Otter VH-TGY was purchased.

On 22 August, 1977, Aeropelican Intercity Commuter Air Services commenced services to Singleton, which lasted until February, 1981.

In May 1978, DHC-6 Series 100 VH-TZL joined the fleet.

During 1979, DHC-6 Series 200 VH-PAQ was leased temporarily, for an unknown period.

During 1980, the Flying Training School was forced to close, due to political & environmental pressures, as a trade-off for allowing the airline to continue.
The Hilder family kept the airline business going until 1 July, 1980, when Masling Commuter Services Pty. Ltd., which also operated Newcastle (Williamtown)-Sydney, purchased 80% of the company's shares (Bill Hilder holding the other 20%).   The association between the two airlines was to be short-lived.

On 31 July, 1981, Bodas Pty. Ltd., which was jointly owned by T.N.T. & News Ltd., purchased 80% of the shares in Masling Commuter Services Pty. Ltd. & thus 80% of Aeropelican Air Services Pty. Ltd.  They divested their interest in Masling on 6 October, 1981, but retained ownership of Aeropelican.  From that time Aeropelican were strongly associated with Ansett; dovetailing schedules & using the Ansett airport facilities at Sydney, reservations & check-in systems & various other Ansett facilities.

On 24 February, 1981, Sydney-Singleton services were transferred to Singleton Air Services Pty. Ltd.  Bill Hilder acquired full ownership of Singleton Air Services on 01 July, 1981, buying all its shares from Masling.  It was placed into receivership on 18 July, 1985, after a serious dispute with his financial partner Richard Caelli.
During June, three 19-seat DHC-6 Series 320s Twin Otters, VH-KZO, VH-KZP & VH-KZQ joined the fleet, replacing VH-TGY & VH-TZL.
The 4th & final Series 320, VH-KZN, joined the fleet in June 1987, replacing Series 100 VH-MMY.
The four Series 320s were Aeropelican’s fleet from 1987 until after its sale by the Ansett Administrators, in 2002.  The

During 1982, the airline was renamed Aeropelican Air Services Pty. Ltd.; which must have come as a blessing to those forced to use its previous title in full. By late-1982, Aeropelican was reported as carrying approximately 10,000 passengers per month.

During June, 1987, Aeropelican’s 4th & final DHC-6 Series 320, VH-KZN, purchased 2nd-hand, joined the fleet, replacing Series 100 VH-MMY.The four Series 320s remained as Aeropelican’s fleet until after September 2001. 

In the year to 30 June, 1990, Aeropelican flew some 80, 000 passengers & were operating some 81 return flights per week between Belmont & Sydney, with almost 50% of those passengers transferring to/from other airlines at Sydney.  The number of services varied slightly year-by-year, but was still 79 per week at the time of the temporary suspension of operations in September 2001.In the year ending 30 June, 2000, they carried over 90,000 passengers.

In addition to the scheduled 30-minute services between Sydney & Belmont, Aeropelican also operated many charter services, including charters for parachuting clubs; the Twin Otters being especially suited for that task, with their 2-door rear exits.  Aeropelican had found its unique niche market & had prospered over a prolonged period, during which many commuter/regional airlines had come & disappeared without trace.

On 14 September, 2001, Aeropelican, as it was a subsidiary company, also suspended operations, when the parent company Ansett Australia's operations were suspended by the administrators Pricewaterhouse-Coopers.  Its aircraft were grounded at their Belmont base.   Limited operations (initially 3 return services daily) recommenced on 21 September, 2001.

On 07 March, 2002, it was announced that Aeropelican had been sold to the I.A.P. Group, by the Ansett Administrators.  The contract was finalised on 26 April, 2002.
In 2008 International Air Parts sold the airline to Business Air Holdings.
November 2011 Aeropelican merges with Brindabella Airlines Canberra.

June 20 2013 Aeropelican operated its final flight from Sydney to Newcastle.

Information Source: Fred Niven 

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