06 April 2011

Rex Air Charter - The Cessna Operator

This post, written by Bruce Gavin, gives a background to Rex Air Charter who in the 1970s and 80s ran scheduled services to the West Coast and Waiheke Island. These services will be the subject of the next two regular Sunday historical posts.

Rex Air Charter’s origin was in Rural Aviation Ltd in New Plymouth. Rural was formed by Miles King, who during World War II had been an RNZAF Corsair pilot in the Pacific. He formed Rural Aviation Ltd on 16 December 1949 and the company became one of the pioneers in aerial topdressing in New Zealand, initially flying converted DH.82A Tiger Moths.

Miles King was keen on expansion and the company grew steadily. A major move was in 1953 when he gained the agency for the Cessna range of aircraft for Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. To cater for the greatly expanded business a separate public company, known as Rex Aviation (NZ) Ltd was formed and Rural Aviation Ltd became one of its subsidiaries. Headquarters were established at Ardmore and later a smaller South Island base at Dunedin's Momona Airport.

To increase aircraft sales and servicing the company took over the Ardmore based Auckland Flying School Ltd (which had been established by Jim Bergman and Earl Cox). This became known as the Rex Flying School. Further flying schools were either bought or established at Paraparaumu, Christchurch and Dunedin. Air charter operations were operated as an adjunct to the flying schools and ultimately there was to be air services operating from two of these centres. In Paraparaumu the established Paraparaumu Flying School was taken over by Rex with Harry Jenkins managing this operation.

Rex Air Charter became the air charter service operating beside these flying schools with Rex Air Charter developing regular air services between Ardmore and Auckland Airports and Waiheke Island and from Paraparaumu to the South Island’s West Coast.

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