As a family business our passion for flight runs deep

We have a long history of flying passengers and training pilots and we're not stopping anytime soon.

Read the history of Mainland Air, from its humble beginnings and turbulent challenges to becoming a world-renown aviation college and charter airline.

Photo of the first staff of Mainland Air


Our Story Starts in 1991 with Tim and Bronwyn Fleming. The couple started Mainland Air as a charter and flight training school. They had 2 Senecas and 3 Cessna trainer planes.

Not long after the start of Mainland Air Tim and Bronwyn moved on to other adventures and Jeff and Holly McMillan bought Mainland Air.

The same year that the McMillans bought the company they landed a contract with New Zealand Post. From 1995 to 2006 the airline operated courier flights between Dunedin and Christchurch.


Piper Seneca parked outside Mainland in 1995


Piper Chieftain on parked at Mainland in the year 2000

In 2000 Chris Kelliher and Jason Jackson became the third owners of Mainland Air. Along with acquiring the business they began a contract with the Southern District Health Board to carry out Air Ambulance Patient Transfers. This contract lasted for 20 years.

2005 was a big year of changes for aviation training in New Zealand and Mainland Air. This was the first year student loans became available for aviation students, a big help for beginning their journey in the industry.

Mainland Air had two big wins in 2005. First, Mainland gained an NZQA accreditation for level 5 Diplomas in Aviation and second, Mainland was the first aviation school in New Zealand to install a CAA approved flight simulator.

At this time there were 10 domestic students and the first international students were yet to arrive.


NZQA logoCAA logo
Phil Kean portrait photo small


First international students arrive and Phil Kean joins Mainland as a pilot.

Two Cessna 152s on the tarmac


Fleet size was increased


Tecnam in hangar small

In 2010, after 10 years of running Mainland Air, Chris and Jason sold the company to the Paterson Family. The Paterson's owned Mainland's major service provider, South Air Limited.

One of the first acts the Paterson's made was to buy a new Tecnam P2006T for twin-engine flight training. The Tecnam is still used frequently today!

ST1000 flight simulator


New TP100 simulator

2013 was a fateful year for Mainland Air. The Paterson's were looking to sell the business and their chief pilot at the time, Phil Kean, had always dreamed of owning an airline business. And so it was that Phil and Shirley Kean were the new owners of Mainland Air.


Phil and Shirley Kean in front of the Mainland hangar
Piper chieftain parked on the grass


Another Piper Chieftain

G1000 flight simulator


ST1000 G1000 simulator installed


Jordan Kean in front of a Cessna 152

In 2019 the Tecnam and Cessna 172 were upgraded with G1000 setups making them TEA (Technically Enhanced Aircraft).

Phil and Shirley's son, Jordan, became the youngest pilot in New Zealand to gain an A-Category Instructor's Rating.


Today, Mainland Air is one of the top aviation college's in New Zealand.

Our skilful instructors, excellent fleet, supportive environment and superb culture are the products of years of love and passion for aviation.

Mainland Air is the place to kickstart your career in aviation, begin the trip of a lifetime - or both!

Map showing where Mainland Air is in relation to Dunedin City

Where can you find us?

3 Airport Drive, Momona
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We're based at Dunedin International Airport, only a 25 minute drive from the Dunedin CBD. Come out and have a trial flight or charter a plane to Queenstown for the day, we'd love to see you!

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