16 June 2013

NAC’s Greymouth Service


Updated 16 June 2013

The National Airways Corporation took over Air Travel (NZ) Ltd’s West Coast services from Hokitika to South Westland and to Nelson on the 1st of October 1947, some six months after NAC had begun operating under its own licence on the 1st of April 1947. Up to that point Air Travel had operated a Hokitika-Greymouth-Westport-Nelson service however the new NAC service overflew Greymouth.

The first northbound NAC service on the 1st of October 1947 was scheduled to fly Hokitika-Westport-Nelson. It was flown by Commander J F Cane in De Havilland 89A Dragon Rapide ZK-AHS (c/n 6423). This flight was disrupted with AHS developing engine trouble at Westport. ZK-AHS had a long association with the West Coast, being one of the Cook Strait Airways’ Dragon Rapides, ZK-AGT, that had pioneered the Wellington-Nelson-Westport-Greymouth-Hokitika route. After being impressed into service with the RNZAF during the Second World War as NZ558 the Dragon Rapide was allocated to Air Travel (NZ) Ltd and was registered as ZK-AHS until NAC took over Air Travel’s services. AHS continued to serve with NAC until the South Westland service was sold to West Coast Airways in 1956. It continued to operate the South Westland service until 1967 when, with the newly opened Haast Pass offering a road alternative, the South Westland service ended.

First Day Cover for the first NAC flight Hokitika-Westport-Nelson
The grass surfaces and susceptibility to flooding of both Hokitika’s Southside airfield were always problematic. On the 9th of August 1948 the Southside airfield at Hokitika was closed to de Havilland Dragon Rapides and Dominies and de Havilland 83 Fox Moths had to provide NAC’s West Coast services. At this point Greymouth was included as part of NAC network.  

NAC Cook Strait and Wesr Coast services timetable effective 9 August 1948, the first time Greymouth appeared.
The Corporation offered a Monday to Saturday through service from Hokitika through to Wellington. A de Havilland 83 Fox Moth feeder flight would leave Hokitika around 11.00 am arriving in Greymouth 20 minutes later. After a ten minute stop the flight would continue on to Westport to connect with the Lockheed L18 Lodestar flight from Wellington and Nelson. Upon the arrival of the plane from Wellington the Hokitika based Fox Moth would fly the return flight to Hokitika via Greymouth arriving at Hokitika at 2.00 pm.

Fox Moth ZK-AGM about to depart Greymouth for Westport. Photo : D Walker

NAC operated three Fox Moths, ZK-AEK (c/n 4033), ZK-AGM (TS2810, ZK-ASP (c/n 4097). All three Fox Moths saw service with Air Travel, the latter being previously registered as ZK-ADI before being impressed into RNZAF service as NZ566.

The Fox Moth service was temporary, however, as plans were well underway for a new airport at Hokitika. The new Seaview airport opened on the 17th of December 1951, though Dominies were able to operate from the new airport before the official opening. The opening also marked the extension of the Lodestar service to Westport southward to Hokitika and the introduction of the larger Lodestar marked the end of NAC services to Greymouth. From this point on a road link between Greymouth town centre and Hokitika Airport was established to connect with NAC’s scheduled flights.

Fox Moth ZK-AGM at Greymouth with Commander Frank Molloy in overalls. Does anyone know the occasion and who the other people are in the photo.

Preparing the NAC service... mail bags and luggage

The Greymouth "terminal" facilities...

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