28 November 2010

Why Wairoa? - Eastern Air Services

This is the second post of the many the operators that have operated through Wairoa. So why fly a service to Wairoa? For most of the operators that have operated through Wairoa have served it primarily for the cartage of freight, especially the Dominion newspaper contract, or courier items. For later operators this has made my research very difficult as there was often nothing I could find in the Wairoa Star to indicate the beginning or end of the courier services.  Eastern Air Services is different in that it looked primarily to the provision of a passenger service to Wairoa.

On the 31st of January 1963 Eastern Air Services, the commercial wing of the Napier Aero Club, inaugurated a new passenger and freight service between Napier and Wairoa. According to the Wairoa Star the move which prompted the introduction of the service was that aero clubs had been subsidised by the Government in the training of pilots, but this had ceased in March 1962. Another reason cited elsewhere was that the aero club wanted greater use made of its Cessna 170 aircraft, which was an economic burden on the club. This aircraft was the air ambulance for the region and the club decided to investigate the need for an air service between Napier and Wairoa and, “after consideration, it was decided to go ahead with the venture in the hope that the service would subsidise the club’s cost to the extent of about 50 per cent” Mr R Kenah, the president of the Napier Aero Club, told the Wairoa Star.  

It was considered an historic moment by local body leaders of Hastings, Napier and Wairoa when the inaugural flight of Eastern Air Services was made between Napier and Wairoa last Thursday. The Mayors of Hastings and Napier were guests on the flight and they are shown arriving at Wairoa with other members of the party. They are Messrs R. Kenah (president of the Napier Aero Club), Jim Tait (chief pilot), R. V. Giorgi (Mayor of Hastings), Mr R. F. Shortt (Mayor of Wairoa ) and Mr Peter Tait (Mayor of Napier). Wairoa Star, 4 February 1963

To mark the inauguration of the new service Eastern Air Services flew the mayors of Napier (Mr P Tait) and Hastings (Mr R Giorgi) along with the president of the Napier Aero Club (Mr R Kenah) to Wairoa where they were received by the mayor (Mr R E Shortt) and 50 businessmen and local body officials at a special function at the Municipal Chambers. The six day a week air service commenced for the public on the following day, Friday, the 1st of February 1963. Mainstay for the air service was Cessna 170B ZK-BLT (c/n 26831) with a Piper Pa22-108 Colt, ZK-BYQ (c/n 22-8159), being used as the backup aircraft. The chief pilot was Jim Tait, the Napier Aero Club’s club chief instructor. In welcoming the service the Wairoa mayor, Mr Shortt, said “the inaugural flight, coupled with the development being carried out at Wairoa aerodrome, marked a new era in commercial aviation between the town and other centres of the province.” 

Mainstay of the service, Cessna 170B ZK-BLT at Napier. Photographer Unknown

Wairoa Star, 23 February 1963

The chief pilot, Jim Tait said the extension of the service to Gisborne was a natural and a must. “People should be enabled to continue their business in Napier, Wairoa and Gisborne in the one day,” he said.

The backup aircraft, the Napier Aero Club Piper Colt, ZK-BYQ.

Despite an increasing amount of freight being carried the air service did not meet Eastern Air Services expectations and petered out sometime in 1963. Max, Crarer, a Wairoa Borough Councillor, writing a public opinion piece in the Wairoa Star of the 6th of January 1964, questioned the expense of developing the Wairoa Aerodrome. He wrote, “Some months ago, with much fanfare, Eastern Air Services commenced a daily passengers and parcel service. Prominent members of the Airport Committee spoke of the great help they would be to the town and of fulfilling a very necessary service. Just how necessary that service was is demonstrated by the fact that Eastern Air Services could not even average two passengers a day. That they persevered longer than six months give truth to the old proverb, ‘Hope springs eternal’.”

People Included:

Jim Tait- chief flying instructor/ chief pilot
Tom Gavin- commercial pilot

Thanks again to Bruce Gavin for his help with this post. The next post in this series will be on long-time Wairoa operator Cookson Airspread/Cookson Air. If you have any information on services to Wairoa or were a pilot who has flown a regular service to Wairoa I would love to hear from you by emailing westland831@gmail.com


  1. Wonderful effort by Steve i really appreciate that fabulous record keeping of the Newzeland small cargo services, i also like the pic have you taken of small Aeroplanes fantastic work guys.air freight

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