26 April 2020

Douglas DC-3 ZK-AWP - Her 75 year history

25 April 1945
What was to become ZK-AWP was manufactured in the USA for the United States Army Air Force as as a Douglas C-47B-30-DK, with the number 44-76803

13 May 1945
The C47 was allocated to the Royal New Zealand Air Force becoming NZ3543
With the RNZAF on Norfolk Island  in 1947

15 July 1952
The DC-3 was withdrawn from the RNZAF and registered to the NZ National Airways Corporation (NAC) as ZK-AWP, named Powhaitere.  

23 March 1953
ZK-AWP was converted from its wartime Douglas C47B desingation to a civilian airliner, a Douglas DC-3C, at Palmerston North
At Whenuapai in the 1950s

13 August 1963
ZK-AWP was converted as to "Skyliner" configuration named "Skyliner Kaitaia" - notice the much bigger windows
At Hokitika in the standard Skyliner configuration and colour scheme

2 February 1970
The New Zealand registration ZK-AWP was cancelled and aircraft went to Western Samoa for service with Polynesian Airlines Ltd as 5W-FAI
5W-FAI at Christchurch on 8 March 1972

8 June 1973
The Western Samoan registration 5W-FAI was cancelled and the DC-3 returned to NAC for sale with its New Zealand registration ZK-AWP restored. 

3 August 1973
ZK-AWP was sold to Southern Air Super Ltd for conversion to a topdresser.
In Palmerston North in 1974 after conversion as a topdresser

14 July 1975
Ownership of Southern Air Super passed to Fieldair Ltd, Palmerston North
At Palmerston North of 20 February 1985

30 October 1986
ZK-AWP was transferred to Classic Air Services Ltd and converted to freighter configuration for Fieldair Freight's contract with NZ Railways
At Nelson on 24 October 1989 an early morning freight service 

27 August 1993
ZK-AWP as sold to the Wanaka-based Alpine Deer Group Ltd 
Newly acquired by the Alpine Deer Group - at Wanaka on 29 August 1993

11 March 1994
The DC-3 was sold to Classic Air Ltd, Wellington and converted back to airliner configuration
At Wanaka on 24 April 1995

14 December 1995
ZK-AWP's ownership changed to Mackley Aviation Ltd, Milford, Auckland 

28  August 1998
ZK-AWP's ownership changed to NZ Aerial Mapping Ltd (Historic Flight) Albany, Auckland 

5 July 2000
ZK-AWP's was leased to Pionair Adventures Ltd, Christchurch who used it for tourist flying in New Zealand and Australia
At Hamilton on 8 December 2000 while on a national tour commemorating SPANZ

21 December 2001
Flight 2000 Limited, Ardmore, Auckland 

24 May 2002
ZK-AWP was finally sold to Pionair Adventures Ltd, Christchurch
At Cairns while doing air tours around Australia for Pionair

21 November 2005
The New Zealand registration ZK-AWP was cancelled and the DC-3 went to Tonga for service with Peau Vava'u Air as A3-AWP
As A3-AWP with Peau Vava'u Air, at Fua'amotu Airport, Tonga, on 5 September 2006

September 2010
After not being used in Tonga for 3 years A3-AWP was restored to airworthiness and entering service with Chathams Pacific in Tonga
As A3-AWP with Chathams Pacific, at Fua'amotu Airport, Tonga, on 6 January 2011

25 November 2013
The Tongan registration A3-AWP was cancelled and and the DC-3 returned to New Zealand for service with Air Chathams back as ZK-AWP and renamed named Powhaitere. ZK-AWP continues to be used on sightseeing flights and for a brief period on scheduled services between Auckland and Whakatāne
Doing engine run ups at Whakatāne before operating a scheduled service to Auckland on 8 November 2015

With new titles on scenic flights at Tauranga on 28 January 2018

Repainted in NAC Skyliner colours at Auckland on 14 December 2019


  1. Very good piece of history Steve thanks for your research. It has had so many different paint jobs along the way....

  2. Thanks Jarden... I was delighted to fly in AWP on a scheduled service between Whakatane and Auckland

  3. Hi Steve do you have any more history since 2013?

    1. It has been with Air Chathams since as seen in the three photos below the 2013 heading

  4. Carey Taylor-ForbesMarch 12, 2023 5:28 PM

    My father flew this aircraft while it was with Polynesian and I flew in the jumpseat on more than one occasion between APW and PPG.

  5. Carey Taylor-ForbesMarch 12, 2023 5:32 PM

    My father flew this aircraft while both it and he were flying for Polynesian, and I flew in the jumpseat on more than one occasion between APW and PPG.