21 August 2012

Okuru - NAC's end of the line in South Westland

The New Zealand National Airways Corporation took over Air Travel (NZ) Ltd’s services from Hokitika north to Westport and Nelson and to South Westland on the 1st of October 1947. NAC's South Westland service had a Monday to Saturday service being flown by Fox Moth aircraft from Hokitika to Haast and Okuru calling at Wataroa (now spelt Whataroa), Waiho (Franz Josef) and Weheka (Fox Glacier) as required. Okuru is some 14 km south west of Haast airfield and the NAC service to Okuru's Mussel Point airstrip was an extension of Haast service that carried mail, supplies and passengers for and from Okuru, Upper Okuru and Jacksons Bay.

Mussel Point Aerodrome Chart 1945
First NAC flight, Okuru to Hokitika, 28 May 1948

An early undated photo of Okuru airfield
Mussel Point airstrip today from Google Earth

The first NAC flight to Okuru was flown by Commander Frank Molloy in de Havilland 83 Fox Moth ZK-AGM, Matuhi on the 1st of October 1947.

NAC wanted to replace the Fox Moths with De Havilland 89 Dragon Rapide or Dominie aircraft on the South Westland service and it did so on the 1st of June 1948. The DH89s were not licenced to use Okuru and so it was dropped from the network, the last flight to Okuru having been flown again by Commander Frank Molloy in De Havilland 83 Fox Moth ZK-AEK, Mohua (c/n ) on the 28th of May 1948.
Last NAC flight, Okuru to Hokitika, 28 May 1948

This was not the end of the Okuru service, however as from the 9th of August 1948 Hokitika’s Southside Airport lost the licence allowing De Havilland Dragon Rapides and Dominies to use it. Fox Moths were again put on the service and Okuru regained its air service, as did Greymouth which had lost its air service when NAC took over from Air Travel (NZ).

NAC timetable, July 1949

The reinstated air service to Okuru did not last long, however, and ceased to be mentioned in the NAC timetable in 1950.

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