09 February 2016

85 years ago yesterday - First ever fatalities on a scheduled air service in NZ

For a full history of Dominion Airlines see 

All three people on board a Dominion Airline Desoutter were killed in a crash near Wairoa on 8 February 1931. This was the first fatal air service accident in New Zealand.

The plane left Gisborne for Hastings at 12:45 pm.

The pilot was asked to drop a mailbag of telegrams at Wairoa as disruption to the roads in the area due to the recent Napier earthquake prevented the mail from being speedily delivered any other way.

The drop was carried out successfully, but as the Desoutter pulled up to climb away it stalled and dived onto the side of a road.

The aircraft was completely wrecked and rescuers had great difficulty in removing the occupants.

Two of the persons on board were found to be dead and the third expired within minutes of being extricated from the wreckage.

The three were Pilot Flt-Lt Ivan Louis Kight, a former Air Force officer and a barrister in civilian life, and his passengers Mr Walter Findlay and Mr W.C. Strand.

Dominion had helped maintain contact between the areas devastated by the recent Hawke’s Bay earthquake and the rest of New Zealand.

The first regular scheduled passenger service began in 1930, when Air Travel launched a tri-weekly service between Christchurch and Dunedin using a DH 50 borrowed from the government. Passenger numbers were low and after only nine months Air Travel closed down. Soon afterwards Dominion Airlines Ltd began a daily service between Gisborne and Hastings.

This proved invaluable in maintaining contact between the areas ravaged by the Napier earthquake and the rest of New Zealand. Unfortunately just five days after the earthquake, the company’s Desoutter monoplane crashed at Wairoa, killing its three occupants. Dominion Airlines was forced into liquidation.

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Capacity: 2
Length: 7.9 m
Wingspan: 10.9 m
Wing area: 183 ft²
Empty weight: 536 kg (1,180 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 863 kg (1,900 lb)
Powerplant: 1 × De Havilland Gipsy III 4-cylinder,
inverted air-cooled inline engine, 90 kW (120 hp)

Maximum speed: 109 knots
Cruise speed: 86 knots
Stall speed: 40 knots
Range: 432 nm
Service ceiling: 17,000 ft
Rate of climb: 1000 ft/min

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