Sunday, March 1

Flying high - microlight flight over Rarotonga

This video is a compilation of two microlight flights.
The first, around Nikao, took place in October 2001 and the other, to Muri, in August 2003. Some still photos taken on the Muri flight are included.
In the years since these flights things have changed.
For a start, Avatiu Harbour redevelopment has continued and the western end looks pretty flash now. Mama’s CafĂ© has been demolished and the old police station has been replaced by a new Chinese-built building that, by all accounts, is less rainproof than the old one. The island was hit by five cyclones in 2005; Trader Jacks at Avarua Harbour was trashed and rebuilt – yet again; the T-Shirt Factory building has gone; and the former Marine Resources office was gutted and is now a canoe shed.
And there are a lot more buildings along the main road.
Another change is that you can no longer take a microlight flight to look at it all. Sad to say, that business went pear-shaped.
Air-related companies often seem to come to a sad end here, particularly those closely tourism-related.
Once upon a time we had tandem skydiving. I remember once an eighty-year-old lady made a jump. A birthday treat I think it was. Some birthday present; personally I’d rather have a bottle of champagne. Anyway, obviously not enough other people made the leap so the business folded.
They’re not alone.
Over the years since the airport opened (in the 1970s and a large proportion of the population promptly left for New Zealand, never to return), we’ve had South Pacific Island Airways, Kiwi International, Hawaiian Air, Aloha, Air Nauru, Polynesian Airlines, Air Pacific and Canada 3000. We even had our own airline in 1985, Cook Islands International. It was a partnership with Ansett of Australia, and the plane used for the once-weekly flight had Ansett livery on one side and CI International on the other. It lost huge sums of money and quietly faded away like most of the others. Some airlines went broke, others just cut us out of their routes.
At the moment Pacific Blue (a Virgin company) links Rarotonga with New Zealand and Air Tahiti flies Raro/Papeete.
Air New Zealand used to fly from Rarotonga to Hawaii, Fiji, Papeete and Los Angeles as well as Auckland. Now our government pays AirNZ $5 million a year to keep the LA flight operating. Apart from that it’s Auckland or nothing.
About eight years ago Air NZ’s standard full fare economy return fare from Raro to Auckland was $2200. At the moment the equivalent fare now is $1280.
Internet special fares start at around $600 return.
Competition when we’ve had it has been good for the flying public.