How to get here and what to do when you are
At first glance, my home state of Tasmania is, well, a bit dry for the average aviation enthusiast, but when you take a bit of a closer look, Australia’s island state is home to a rich variety of airlines, aircraft and airstrips. From the rugged gravel airstrip on Cape Barren, served twice weekly by Cessna 404s, to Hobart’s bustling international airport that gets everything from diminutive Metroliners to cutting edge A321NEOs, Tasmania is the ideal destination for anyone aviation minded out there.
A brief history of aviation in Tasmania
Just over ten years after the Wright Brothers took flight in the United States, Hobart’s showgrounds were the location for the state’s first powered flight, on the 12th of September 1914, piloted by Australian Delfosse Badgery. Tasmania’s first formal aerodrome opened at Western Junction, near Launceston, in 1930, and the first commercial flight to Tasmania arrived from Melbourne shortly after. Hobart’s new Llanherne Airport opened in 1956, becoming Hobart International Airport with the introduction of flights to Christchurch in 1980. The state’s first regular widebody jet flights operated over summer 2020/2021, with Cathay 777s flying fresh produce out of Hobart to Hong Kong. For a more detailed look into the history of aviation in Tasmania a highly recommend you go check out the Tasmanian Aviation Historical Society’s website here.
Getting to and from Tasmania
Just getting to and from Tasmania presents some fantastic opportunities to fly on rare and interesting aircraft sure to please anyone with an interest in aviation. I’ve tried to include every scheduled interstate and international flight below, with a breakdown of aircraft types on each route, but these are ever-changing, and I’m not always on top of every change.
Jetstar are almost always the cheapest option flying in to Tasmania, with regular flights from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to Launceston, with the above and Adelaide and the Gold Coast to Hobart. Most flights are operated by their massive fleet of Airbus A320-200s, but some peak services from the east coast capitals to Hobart are flown by A321-200s.
Virgin Australia are another affordable option when flying to to the Apple Isle, and, while the vast majority of services are flown by Boeing 737-800s, the elusive pair of 737-700s make occaisonal visits, and the airline’s regional arm, VARA, operate the Perth to Hobart flights with Airbus A320-200s.
Qantas, and their regional subsidiary, QantasLink operate an unusually large variety of interesting aircraft into Tasmania, with their fleet of mundane Boeing 737-800s complimented by DHC Dash 8-Q300s, very rare Boeing 717s and Embraer 190s, flying to the four largest airports in Tassie. As they are a full service airline, prices are understandably more expensive, but generally offer the most flexibility destination and aircraft type wise.
|LST-MEL||717-200, Dash 8-Q300|
Air New Zealand
Launched in mid-2021, during the Trans-Tasman bubble, Air New Zealand are poised to resume Tasmania’s only international flight, from Hobart to Auckland. Equipment on the route varies, with the eligible pool consisting of a number of new A320neos and A321neos, and Air NZ’s last international configured A320-200, ZK-OJM, though this is likely to be retired by the end of 2022.
|HBA-AKL||A320-200, A320NEO, A321NEO|
Rex Regional Express
Rex operate a twice daily triangular routing from Melbourne Tullamarine to Burnie/Wynyard and King Island with their 34 seat Saab 340s, as well as a soon to launch return flight to Devonport. Rex’s booking engine doesn’t actually tell you if your flight is going via King Island, and the only way to tell is by checking the flight number and flight time, BWT-MEL via King Island is about twice as long as direct.
Sharp Airlines operate a fleet of 19 seat Fairchild Metroliners all around Tasmania, with their operations primarily focused on the Bass strait islands of Flinders and King. They operate regular services from Melbourne Essendon Airport, and it would be possible to connect to services to the Tasmanian mainland from King or Flinders, but I’ll go into that later.
King Island Airlines
The last, and smallest airline operating inter-state services to Tasmania is King Island Airlines, operating a single route from Melbourne Moorabbin to King Island with Piper PA-31s and supposedly one of the last Embraer EMB110s in Australia, however it hasn’t flown in quite some time, and it seems unlikely to return.
|MBW-KNS||PA-31 Chieftan, EMB110|
Flying around Tasmania
Once you’ve reached Tasmania, there’s loads of interesting and exciting flights to take to a huge variety of destinations, both big and small.
Sharp Airlines have the most substantial intra-state network, connecting almost all the major cities and towns to each other and the Bass Strait islands with their fleet of Fairchild Metroliners. On your way to mainland Tasmania, it would be possible to fly with Rex or King Island Airways to King Island, and connect with Sharp to chuck some variety into your trip, price permitting of course. Please also note that Sharp fly HBA-LST-MEB, but these are cargo only, on behalf of Toll.
Par Avion primarily operate boutique charter tours, however a number of intra-state services are also flown to remote communities and tourist destinations. The Cambridge to Bathurst Harbour/Melaleuca flights are operated by their Britten Norman Islander and Cessna 206s, and primarily cater to those intending to hike around the west coast, though day tour packages are also offered. The flights to Cape Barren Island are a vital lifeline for the primarily indigenous community, so I would strongly recommend contacting the Cape Barren Island Aboriginal Association if you wish to visit the island. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to add Melaleuca to the map below, as there aren’t any great circle mapper websites that know its code, YBHB.
|YCBG-YBHB||BN2B Islander, C206|
Flight experience and charters in Tasmania
Thanks to Tasmania’s incredible scenery, and somewhat limited land transport options, in recent years, a large number of companies have popped up, offering everything from seaplane flights round kunanyi, to helicopter tours to Maria Island. I’ve tried to compile a complete list of operators and their services below, but may have missed some, so feel free to contact me with any corrections.
On top of Par Avion’s RPT operations, they offer a number of tours and flight experiences, from a 30 minute scenic flight over Hobart, for $145 right up to a three day tour of the southwest wilderness for $2495, and everything in between. Par Avion offer charter packages to a variety of locations round the state, primarily Maria Island, Strahan, and the Southwest wilderness.
Flinders Island Aviation
Flinders Island Aviation are a rather unique airline, operating a pair of very rare Gippsland GA-8 Airvans, on cargo and on-demand charter between Bridport, in Tasmania’s north, and Lady Barron, on Flinders Island. They also offer customisable charters all round Tasmania, and helicopter tours though Unique Charters.
Above and Beyond Tasmania
Above and Beyond Tasmania, formerly Tasmanian Seaplanes, are Tasmania’s sole seaplane operator, flying their 1960s De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver off Hobart’s Derwent River, having become an iconic part the Hobart waterfront. For those with a limited budget, they offer a Seaplane taster flight, selling seats on the daily positioning flights from Cambridge Aerodrome to the Hobart Waterfront, on top of city scenic flights and tours to Bruny Island and beyond.
Freycinet Air are a small charter operator based at Friendly Beaches Airstrip, near Freycinet National Park on the East Coast. With a single, rare, Partenavia P68C operating alongside a few Cessna 172s, Freycinet Air operate a variety of scenic flights around the national park, and charter tours to a number of destinations throughout the state.
Island Scenic Flights
Island Scenic Flights are an operator based at the small airstrip on Bruny Island, offering affordable scenic flights around the area and to Melaleuca with their single Cessna 206. Please note that Bruny Island is only accessible by ferry, and the airstrip is a around a 40 minute drive from the ferry terminal.
Tasmanian Air Tours
Tasmanian Air Tours are a Hobart based helicopter operator offering a massive variety of boutique tours and experiences round the south of the state, often including food and drinks to complete the package.
Osbourne Helitours are another Helicopter operator, based out at Port Arthur, offering a variety of sightseeing flights and tours around Port Arthur and the south-east coast with a variety of helicopter types available for charter.
Though primarily the state’s medevac helicopter operator, Rotorlift are also in the tourism business, offering tours and charters around Tasmania’s south from their conveniently located base at Hobart Airport.
I hope that this has been an interesting read, it’s taken me about a fortnight to put together, a fair bit longer than my usual posts, and I can’t wait to see all you avgeeks flooding down here to get a taste of Tasmanian aviation!
Maps generated by YMHB Spotting using the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.