06 November 2021

The Mount Cook Lily Took Off - 60 Years Ago


60 years ago today, on the 6th of November 1961, the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company commenced scheduled services operating a tri-weekly Christchurch - Mount Cook - Cromwell/Queenstown - Manapouri/Te Anau service. ZK-BKD was flown under the of Captain J G Irving and First Officer G L Small. Mr W A Burns was purser and flight clerk.  The Press of the 7th of November 1961 reported on the first flight... 

Sixteen passengers were aboard the blue, white, and silver DC-3 belonging to the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company which yesterday left Harewood on the first passenger flight of a regular tri-weekly service to Te Anau. Eleven of the passengers made the one-day return flight over mountains and lakes. They included three representatives of the New Zealand Government Tourist Bureau. From Christchurch was the manager of the bureau (Mr W. A. Pickford), from Sydney the department’s travel commissioner (Mr R. W. Coupland) and from Melbourne (Mr N. Reid), also a travel commissioner. Mr F. Rooke, a sales promotion executive for the Government Tourist Bureau, also of Sydney, was also on the flight During the next few weeks, it is believed, the company will carry several representatives of travel agencies so that they can familiarise themselves with the new service.

Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Co Ltd's Douglas DC-3 at Mount Cook in 1962

A few days before, on the 2nd of November, the Press reported on a proving flight that had been flown on the 1st of November. It gave a few more details on the new service... 

The first DC-3 aircraft carrying passengers to land at the airstrips at Mount Cook and between Te Anau and Manapouri touched down yesterday. The aircraft shown at the Mount Cook field, was making a proving flight for a new service to be inaugurated by the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company, Ltd., next Monday. The 27-seater aircraft left the Christchurch airport early yesterday morning and took on a full load of passengers, who were the guests of the company, at Timaru. Smoking wart permitted on the aircraft except during take-off and landing The new service will operate three days a week from the Christchurch airport to Mount Cook, Cromwell (from where the passengers will be taken to Queenstown by bus). Te Anau-Manapouri and return. The company has put down a 5300 ft airstrip at Mount Cook and a 5200 ft strip between Te Anau and Manapouri. Residents of Cromwell constructed a 5200 ft strip there during the week-ends and in their spare time. “They have done a wonderful job,” said the managing director of the company (Mr H. R. Wigley) yesterday. The airfield at Cromwell will be used by the company until about Christmas, when it is hoped the field at Queenstown will have been extended and authorised for DC-3 aircraft. Because of the co-operation of the residents the company will continue to use the airstrip at Cromwell after this has been done. It was only this week that the Civil Aviation Administration authorised the use of the airstrips at Mount Cook and between Te Anau and Manapouri by DC-3 aircraft. The company also has an airstrip at Glencairn, 10 miles from Lake Pukaki, which will be used if that at Mount Cook is closed because of snow or the weather. Radio stations are operated by the company at Mount Cook, Fox Glacier, Fairlie,.Te Anau and Cromwell. After leaving Christchurch in overcast weather the white, blue and silver DC-3 with the Mount Cook daisy emblem on its tail fin took off from Timaru in fine weather. Those on board included Mr Wigley, the secretary of the company (Mr G. A. Duncan), the transport manager (Mr A. McWhirter), a director of the company. (Mr L R. Jordan) and the Timaru public relations officer (Mr A Abernethy). The pilot was Captain J. G. B. Irving, and the co-pilot was First Officer G. L. Small. Mr W A. Burns was the purser and flight clerk. After half an hour’s flight the aircraft landed at Mount Cook, where the airstrip has been surrounded by an electric fence to keep stock off Passengers were taken by bus to the Hermitage, where they had morning tea Mount Cook and the surrounding peaks were shrouded by cloud. After taking off at 11 30am the aircraft flew over the Hunter Hills and alone the Hakataramea valley and passed Lake Pukaki. It went over the Lindis Pass and flew along the course of the Clutha River for a time. The plane made a sweep over Queenstown, which was bathed in brilliant sunlight, and flew along Lake Wakatipu and at 1pm landed at the strip between Te Anau and Manapouri. The airstrip is about eight miles from the Te Anau township on the shores of the lake, and the passengers were taken by bus to the Te Anau Hotel for lunch. Some of the passengers went on a launch trip on the lake. At 4.15pm the aircraft took off on a direct flight to Timaru, where most of the passengers disembarked. It arrived at the Christchurch airport shortly after 6pm.

The Press, 9 December 1961

Another early photo of Mount Cook's DC-3 ZK-BKD at Mount Cook

My history of Mount Cook Airlines to the end of the 748 days can be found here

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