14 August 2022

The Northern Wairoa Aero Club's Dargaville Air Taxi

The Northern Wairoa Aero Club was formed in January 1933 following the Dargaville Racing Club allowing the proposed club the use of a portion of the Awakino Point racecourse as an aerodrome. A fly in at the new aerodrome was held on the 25th of January 1933 with five aircraft attending from Auckland; and two from Whangarei. All the machines circled the town before landing. Most of the morning was devoted to joy-riding, and a large number of residents took the opportunity of making their first flight. In the afternoon the pageant was held, when Flight-Lieutenant D. M. Allan and Major Cowper gave a thrilling exhibition of stunt flying. Several competitions kept the spectators interested until late in the afternoon. 

By 1935 there were moves to find a new aerodrome site but nothing was found before the Second World War when the Aero Club went into recess. Following the War a new airstrip was established at Turiwiri and coinciding with this the Northern Wairoa Aero Club was revived in May 1947.

As far back as 1937 there was talk of developing an aerodrome on Awakino Rd next to the Dargaville hospital but nothing ever came of this proposal. In 1955 Doug Lock and Frank Brookes established Northern Aviation Topdressing Ltd and established a topdressing strip on Awakino Road. The site was cleared of tea-tree and scrub and levelled sufficiently for their purposes. Eventually, Northern Aviation Topdressing Ltd. moved to Whangarei and when the Northern Wairoa Aero Club became an incorporated society in October 1956, the airfield - such as it was then became available to it. The club set about filling a large gully and this work cost the club some £550. Other work included the felling and topping of trees, sowing the grass and preparing the runways.  

In late 1963 the Northern Wairoa Aero Club applied for a licence to operate a non-scheduled services using their Piper PA22 Tripacer and Morane-Saulnier 880B Rallye between Dargaville and Whangarei, and between Dargaville and Auckland initially using Whenuapai and Mangere when Auckland's international airport moved there. The Club told the Air Services Licensing Authority We envisage operating this service for passengers and/or freight as required, in conjunction with NAC through their agent in Dargaville. We also wish to operate an Air Charter and/or an Air Taxi service as required to any licensed aerodrome in New Zealand, as well as Scenic flights and Joyrides, under Charter and Taxi rights, from the licenced aerodromes used by this club. We envisage charges for Charter and Taxi services based on a rate of £6.10.0, per hour, and freight charges based on this rate for a fully loaded aircraft, but these freight rates will be subject to negotiation The non-scheduled services would be introduced at £2.10.0, per seat Dargaville - Whenuapai , with a minimum load of two passengers, or equivalent freight; and the Dargaville Whangarei service at £1.0.0 per seat, with the same restriction as above. These rates may be altered after we have evaluated the available job density. Joyriding may be operated at a reduced rate on a local basis, but scenic flights of thirty minutes or more would be charged at charter rates. 

The Northern Wairoa's Aero Club's Morane-Saulnier Rallye ZK-CDC at Whenuapai

The Authority heard the application at a sitting in Auckland on the 7th of February 1964 noting that the licence would provide a useful service in lieu of the now suspended NAC Auckland-Whangarei link. The Whangarei service had been suspended while the airport there was upgraded for DC-3s. Despite a similar application by Rent-A-Plane Services whose licence had been brought by Executive Air Travel the licence was granted. 

The service was offered soon after but was not particularly popular.  It operated on an as required basis and did not operate on a timetabled basis. Only 30 passengers were flown between the 1st of April 1964 to the 7th of July 1964 and 14 between November 1964 and February 1965. 

In the years the Aero Club operated the service the numerous aircraft which may have been used on the non-scheduled service including Piper PA22 Tripacer ZK-BSE, Morane-Saulnier Rallyes ZK-CDC and ZK-CGY, Cessna 172F ZK-CHO, Piper PA28 Cherokee 140 ZK-CUH and Piper PA28 Cherokee 180 ZK-DFL. The advertising also suggests Club used their aircraft for air ambulance and charter work.

The Northern Wairoa's Aero Club's Cessna 172 ZK-CHO at Ardmore

In 1975 the Aero Club reported to the Civil Aviation Division that Since the quarter ended 31 December 1973 the Club has not undertaken any revenue flights. The Club does not operate an aircraft, therefore, we have not been filing returns. This information has previously been advised to you.” The Air Services Licensing Authority saw this as the Club abandoning their services and the Northern Wairoa Aero Club's licences were revoked on the 24th day of February 1976.

Northland Times Supplement, 7 June 1967

In April 1981, the Awakino Road aerodrome adjacent to the hospital was replaced by the current airfield at Hoanga. 

The Northern Wairoa Aero Club continues to operate as the Dargaville Aero Club. 

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