17 September 2020

Trying to Preserve NZ's Airline History

This blog is all about preserving New Zealand's domestic airline history. My interest in the NZ airlines started off when I was a child... I remember the West Coast Airways Dominie and NAC DC-3 flying into Hokitika. Later, when the Friendships started flying into Hokitika, we use to have a NAC Friendship operating to and from Christchurch, a NAC DC-3 operating to and from Westport Nelson and Wellington and a Mount Cook Airlines Cessna 185 skiplane operating to and from Franz Josef and Fox Glacier all on the ground at the same time!

The meeting of the air services... NAC Friendship ZK-NAF and Mount Cook Air Services' Cessna 185 ZK-COH at Hokitika. As there is no DC-3 present it was either taken after the 5th of June 1970 or, if before that, on a Sunday. 

And then, in my high school years, Capital Air Services were flying through Greymouth and later Westland Flying Services flew Hokitika-Greymouth-Christchurch. My Capital Air Services flight was cancelled but I got to fly on Westland Flying Services on a number of occasions. The local travel agent gave me a number of timetables - though I did make a mistake some years later in throwing some out - and I started doing some scrapbooks of airline news. 

Westland Flying Services had a counter in the Hokitika terminal but all the flights left using the company's office in the Hokitika Aero Club hangar.

In my early days of taking aircraft photos I met Ian Coates in Greymouth who gave me the number one and two lessons in taking photos - always get the registration in - record when and where the photo was taken. 

Capital Air Services' Cessna 402 ZK-DNQ in Greymouth in 1978 - no date! There is just enough of the N and Q under the wing so I could work out what aircraft it was

Later I met Bruce Gavin from Matamata who quietly and unassumingly has recorded airline histories for a long time. It was Mike Condon, also from Hokitika, who encouraged me to do this blog. Before and since then I have met a lot of people in the aviation industry who have shared information with me and a passion for our New Zealand airlines. For me the collection of material I have managed to put together is not just amassing it but sharing it for others to enjoy.

On Sunday I did a large post on Float Air... The background to this post began with John Low sending me an email about Float Air and suggesting I do a post on this company. I had a certain amount of material on Float Air but John sent me some photos and put me on to his father Gordon, a Float Air pilot and, for a time, owner of the company. He put me on to Jim Anderson who sent me a copy of his incredible write up of Float Air, photocopies of his scrapbook pages on Float Air, and a stack of photos which I scanned and sent back. The result I think was a fantastic account of an interesting operator.

All the newspaper articles I receive I scan into the computer with Optical Character Recognition which means I can paste it into a Word document. In the case of Air Chathams, for example, I have 131 pages of information scanned from magazines and newspapers in a Word document. This sort of information often becomes the basis of my posts on airline posts. These days, as newspapers report less I keep checking out the company's social media posts and websites to get my updates. This information also gets saved. 

Newspaper adds go through Photoshop to tidy them up...

Timetables also are an important part of recording the airline history, but like newspapers are becoming a thing of the past. Nonetheless I have managed to get together a good collection of various airlines' timetables and from that I can deduct all sorts of things about the airline. These days the airlines, sadly, are not even putting a PDF file timetable on their websites and this means a bit of trawling through on line registrations.

Another important source of information is when I get feedback the posts... A couple of nights ago I got details on the first RNZAF passenger flight to the Chatham Islands including the pilot, co-pilot and aircraft registration. All these details help out fill out the history. 

What I am wanting to suggest is the recording of information and keeping it is important, all of it. To often we throw stuff out or after we've gone other people throw it out. That's how history gets lost. Instead of throwing out can I suggest finding someone or some place to throw it towards where it will be preserve. Also, for those who have flown or worked for airlines write your history down and find somewhere to deposit the history. Your story soon enough becomes history. 

My hope in writing this is that the reader will think about their collection of photos, stories, memorabilia etc and think how am I going to ensure this doesn't get lost. Preserving history is something we all can do.

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