12 June 2010

Beavering Away in Tokoroa

Last Tuesday saw me beavering away in the Tokoroa public library researching the various scheduled air services to Tokoroa. While Tokoroa has never been on the national network of NAC or Air New Zealand, it has had some interesting operators and operations.

The first of these was James Aviation, trading as James Air Services, who in 1954 successfully applied for a licence to operate a non-schedule passenger and freight service between, Rotorua, Kinleith (Tokoroa), Kawerau and Auckland, based at Rotorua. This was James Aviation’s first foray into operating a scheduled operation. The service was supported by New Zealand Forest Products.

On the 25th of November 1954 the South Waikato News headline read, “Silver Wings Over Town, Forest and Farmland - Tokoroa to Have Own Air Service Soon.” James Aviation Company Ltd., of Hamilton, decided to use a De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, ZK-BFO (c/n 609), which the newspaper described as “the most modern light passenger plane in New Zealand.” The service, the paper announced, was also to be made available to residents of Tokoroa. The Beaver was configured to seat six passengers, with “windows placed so that each traveller has an unobstructed view of the country below.” The paper also said, “An unusual feature is that passengers may smoke.”

ZK-BFO at Rotorua. 

The local reporter wrote, “The ‘News’ representative accompanied five of the officials in a comprehensive flight over the Tokoroa district, and so feels qualified to state that Tokoroa from the air is a revelation and the impressions from above are not lightly to be dis-missed. Forest Products’ hundreds of staff houses set in semi-circular subdivisions, and the expanding commercial and residential areas in the township give the beholder a clear picture of the township's ever-widening boundaries. The evergreen, waste-free, farm-lands and the vast expanses of pine forests dominated by the Kinleith mills is an impressive panorama, assimilated in a few minutes. Below is a once-upon-a-time wasteland which has been transformed to a prosperous and golden land of sturdy promise and security, by foresight of men of vision and scientific attainments.”

South Waikato News, 17 March 1955

In preparation for the service, the airstrip was extended with the local newspaper predicting that “the single wings of the Beaver over our pine forests, farm¬lands, homes and industries will be the symbol of the many other silver wings which will cast their flickering shadows as they speed toward Tokoroa - the heart of this new-found wealth of the Dominion.”

Sadly, the air service got off to an inauspicious start with. The first flight, set down for Monday, December 20, was disrupted by unfavourable weather and the service did not get off the ground until the 23rd of December 1954.

The original schedule had the aircraft on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays flying Rotorua-Kawerau-Auckland and return followed by two Rotorua-Kinleith-Auckland return services. The final service for the day was another Rotorua-Kawerau-Auckland service. On Tuesdays and Thursdays Kinleith got the early and late flights while Kawerau got the middle two flights.

South Waikato News, 24 February 1955

By March, however, the schedule had changed with only two flights to Auckland each day. The new schedule saw the Beaver leaving Rotorua at 7.40am for a quick return trip to Kawerau, if there were passengers to be picked up. It then headed south to Tokoroa arriving at 8.30am before heading north to Auckland, stopping at Hamilton if necessary. The aircraft then retraced its northbound flight, arriving back at Rotorua at 11.30am. The complete timetable was reversed in the afternoon with the Beaver departing at 2.10pm and flying Rotorua-Kawerau-Rotorua-Tokoroa-Hamilton-Auckland-Hamilton-Tokoroa-Rotorua-Kawerau-Rotorua, arriving home at 6.00pm. 26 May 1955, the stops at Kawerau and Hamilton again being ‘on demand.’ The later winter schedule had an earlier afternoon departure.

South Waikato News, 26 May 1995

Despite extensive advertising, the company did not gain the necessary support. At some point during the winter of 1955 James Air Services ceased their operation, however it did, according to the South Waikato Times of 10 November 1955, resume scheduled trips using a five seat passenger aircraft making one return flight daily, leaving Kinleith at 3 p.m. with northbound passengers and leaving Mangere with southbound passengers at 4.30 p.m. This service too seems to peter out, with the Auckland Aero Club advertising their own flights within weeks of James restarting their operation.

South Waikato News, 2 June 1955

For other posts on air services to Tokoroa see...

Auckland Aero Club

Akarana Air

Air North

NZ Forest Products

Auckland-Tokoroa Air Services

Pine Air

Buckley Air


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