08 August 2021

Norfolk Island - Just 4 hours away by NAC


Six days ago, on the 2nd of August, Air Chathams were to introduce a second weekly flight between Auckland and Norfolk Island. This was thwarted by the closing of the bubble brought about by the Covid pandemic. But the current pandemic is not the only one to interrupt the Auckland-Norfolk Island flights. The first instance happened in 1947 just after the civilian air service commenced.

On the 1st of April 1946 the RNZAF inaugurated a civilian service flying from Auckland-Norfolk Is-Tonga-Western Samoa by a return weekly service and Auckland-Aitutaki-Rarotonga by a return fortnightly service. The N.Z. terminal was RNZAF Station, Whenuapai. It is believed small mails may have been carried but no covers have been examined.

On the 1st of November 1947 the New Zealand National Airways Corporation took over the responsibility of the Pacific air services that had been operated by the RNZAF. Operating to Fiji, NZNAC Short Sunderland flying boats operated a weekly service between Auckland and Suva and a fortnightly between Suva and Labassa. Douglas DC-3s were used operate a return flight each Sunday between Auckland and Norfolk Island with a further service every second Sunday from Auckland to Norfolk Island, Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa and the Cook Islands. An additional return flight was offered fortnightly between Rarotonga and Aitutaki in accordance with traffic requirements. 

The first NZNAC service to Norfolk Island was flown by Douglas DC-3 ZK-APB "Popotea" under the command of Captain M L Pirie. The fortnightly Auckland - Suva (Fiji) - Tonga - Apia (Western Samoa) - Aitutaki (Cook Islands) - Rarotonga and return service commenced on the 16th of November 1947.

On the 16th of December 1947, some six weeks after the first Norfolk Island flight, NZNAC announced that a total ban had been imposed by the Australian Government on all travel from New Zealand to Norfolk Island due to the poliomyelitis (polio) epidemic. 

The weekly service was suspended until the 27th of July 1948 when it was reported that the Australian Government has authorised the lifting of the quarantine on air travel from New Zealand to Norfolk Island. The quarantine was originally imposed as a precaution against poliomyelitis. The lifting of the quarantine comes into force immediately and is the result of a recommendation by the Administrator of Norfolk Island. The only persons who will have to be individually cleared by the medical officers before they are able to enter Norfolk Island are those who have actually had poliomyelitis. It is believed that approximately 100 persons are awaiting transport to Norfolk Island.

Douglas DC-3 ZK-APA aircraft 'Puweto', Norfolk Island. It is dated 25 July 1948 so perhaps the flights through to Fiji and beyond were still allowed to transit Norfolk Island. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-13957-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22702916

NZNAC timetable effective August 1948

Norfolk Island proved to be a popular destination. On the 16th of June 1949 the Gisborne Herald reported that Besides improving the airport facilities at Norfolk Island, the Australian Government intends building a tourist hotel, costing £100,000. The increasing popularity of the island is reflected in the number of air services now operating from Australia and New Zealand. Qantas Empire Airways began the first Skymaster service from Australia to the island replacing yesterday the Lancastrian plane. A flight is made every week. The New Zealand National Airways Corporation operates a similar service with a Dakota and once fortnightly there is an additional flight when another Dakota calls at the island on the service to Rarotonga. The National Airways service takes an average of 18 passengers to Norfolk every week.

Norfolk Island airport with National Airways corporation aircraft ZK-AOZ on the ground and groups of people standing around. Photo : Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-23122-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22881919

Photo : Whites Aviation Limited. 14 Nov 1949. NAC Douglas DC-3, 14-5672. Walsh Memorial Library, The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).

Two NAC crews. Enid Qunital and Alma Edward with New Zealand National Airways Corporation Dakota crew on Norfolk Island, from left are Bob Bruce, J Doid, Mr Robinson, R Purdie, J G Aspray, G Walker. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-14236-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22701994

Otago Daily Times, 18 September 1950

In December 1950 the Otago Daily Times reported that the National Airways Corporation has developed a new route to Sydney through Norfolk Island, which allows passengers to have a short holiday at that Pacific resort. By special arrangement with Norfolk Island guest houses, air travellers can spend either two or four-and-a-half days on the island before continuing to Sydney on a Qantas Airways service. The round-trip fare includes the return flight from Sydney to Auckland by flying-boat. Travelling to Sydney first and then to Norfolk, passengers can spend either three or five days holiday before returning to Auckland by the NAC service. NAC airliners fly to Norfolk Island twice a week.

New Zealand National Airways Corporation. New Zealand National Airways Corporation :Norfolk Island; just 4 hours away by NAC. [Printed by] W&T Ltd [1947-1955]. Ref: Eph-D-AVIATION-1947-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/31985748

NZNAC timetable, effective 18 December 1950

On the 1st of November 1952 all NAC's Pacific network, with the exception of the Auckland-Norfolk Island service, passed to TEAL. NAC continued to operate to Norfolk Island with two DC-3 flights an hour apart going to Norfolk Island each Sunday.

NZNAC ticket to and from Norfolk Island 

NZNAC bag tag for Norfolk Island, the reverse side with a map of the Pacific network

The two-flight Norfolk Island service from NAC's timetable effective 17 December 1954

On the 14th of September 1955 NZNAC ended its Douglas DC-3 service from Auckland to Norfolk Island. The decision of the Australian Government to reduce the "all-up" weight of DC-3s by 700lb made the service uneconomic for NAC to continue these flights. 1955, The service was replaced by a TEAL service from the 6th of November 1955. TEAL used Douglas DC-4 VH-EBO "Pacific Trader" chartered from QANTAS.

NAC was, however, to return to Norfolk Island. A charter flight was operated to Norfolk Island by Fokker F27-100 Friendship ZK-BXC on the 30th of June 1973.

But on the 4th of June 1975 a regular NAC Fokker F27-500 Friendship service was inaugurated. While service was operated by NAC it was on behalf of Air New Zealand and followed the retirement of QANTAS' last Douglas DC-4. The first service was operated by ZK-NAN. Two of the new 48-seat, 500 series Friendships, ZK-NAN and ZK-NAO, were used to operate the service. They were equipped with the large hydraulic cargo doors. However, ZK-NFC was also recorded as operating the service. The NAC Friendships operated to Norfolk Island four days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The Air New Zealand service to Norfolk Island operated by NAC's Fokker Friendships.

NAC Fokker Friendship ZK-NAN at Norfolk Island at 6 January 1976 

Paul Sheehan, author of the book, The Aircraft of Air New Zealand and Affiliates since 1940 and of the  Air New Zealand Aircraft - 75 Years digital resource was a cabin crew member with Air New Zealand joining the company of the 10th of March 1980 and crewing the Norfolk Island service. He tells me the Air New Zealand service was the same on NAC. He writes.... 

The normal domestic configuration for the 500 series Friendship was 48 seats, 12 rows of 4 with 2 each side. For the Norfolk Island run, the first row in from the rear (entry door side) had the seatbacks folded down flat on the seat cushion and a liferaft pallet strapped on to the top of the seat backs. Up front, rows 11 and 12 were removed (8 seats) to make way for the galleys to be installed. That also of course meant the bulkhead at the front of the cabin had to be removed each time as well.  

On the port side we had a large benchtop type stowage which held sufficient meals for the round trip. We had no ovens on board so the meals were all cold salads, with bread rolls, starter, dessert and tea or coffee. They were in my opinion the best meals we ever served on Air New Zealand! As we only had a maximum of 38 passengers each way and two of us serving, we’d do 2 or 3 rounds of pre-meal drinks and fill a silver jug with fresh cream and go through the cabin offering cream on the desserts. We also carried a selection of liquers (Baileys, Khalua, Brandy etc) in miniatures and offered those with coffee and tea.

On the starboard side we had a smaller galley that we equipped with hot water urns and a large waste bin beneath. The crew member who was seated at the front had a fold down seat facing rearward attached to this galley.

We did two Air New Zealand services a week and for a while we did 2 services a week for Qantas. The ONLY difference on board was that the cocktail napkins changed (NZ ones for our service) and QF ones for theirs!!

It was my most favourite duty – The passengers were mostly regulars but we did carry our share of “newly weds, and nearly deads” as we called them!! As crew we would take fresh bread, cream etc to the island for the staff up there and in return, they’d lend us a car and we’d roar into the shopping centre to grab a few items we couldn’t get in NZ. The female cabin crew always bought their kids Lego up there as it was just so cheap. Oh bring back those days...

Fokker Friendship ZK-NAN at Norfolk Island in December 1977

NAC operated the Norfolk Island service with its Fokker Friendships until the 31st of March 1978 when NAC was merged with Air New Zealand and thereafter operated under that name.


  1. Norfolk is a beautiful place, with a lot of history, friendly people, stunning landscapes. We usually head up to see family and friends 4 times a year.

    I remember flying up on Norfolk Airlines a wee ways back. Plus the Air NZ 737s.

    Air Chathams run a fabulous service although the Saab is no match for Connie...

  2. ZK-NFC was a regular on the Norfolk Island route after joining NAC in 1977. On 16 December 1977 it claimed fame in being the first aircraft to depart on an international flight (to Norfolk Island) from the new Auckland International Terminal. It was the only F-27 in NAC/Air NZ to not have a name and also the only one to crash. It had gone to Gisborne on 17 February 1979 with spare parts and engineers to attend to ZK-BXD grounded there. The weather was very bad, so much so that ZK-NFC's trip to Norfolk Island and back that day had been cancelled.