16 June 2024

Inchbonnie 90

Inchbonnie and New Zealand’s first licensed scheduled air service

Inchbonnie will have a national aviation and social focus on 18th December 2024. The small farming settlement, 16km west of the Otira Gorge, was where Captain J.C. ‘Bert’ Mercer of Hokitika-based Air Travel (NZ) Ltd picked up passengers 90 years earlier to begin New Zealand’s first pioneering licensed scheduled air service and airmail service. On the afternoon of inaugural operations, 18th December 1934, Captain Mercer flew Fox Moth ZK-ADI to Inchbonnie Airfield, on the property of Randall Topliss, to pick up Mr H. Worrall and Mr G.H. Christie, who had arrived at the nearby Inchbonnie Railway Station from the Christchurch express train. The Fox Moth then flew to Hokitika and onto Franz Josef for the celebration of the new daily service. Later that same day Captain Mercer returned the two passengers to Inchbonnie in time for them to catch the train back to Christchurch. The pioneering 1934 flights were a portent of future domestic airline development for New Zealand, and Inchbonnie was frequently used in the early years of the pioneering West Coast air service.

On the late morning and afternoon of Wednesday 18th December 2024 festive events are planned at the historic Inchbonnie Airfield site on the Kumara Inchbonnie Road, about 3½ km south of Lake Brunner. The 90th anniversary of the historic flights of New Zealand’s first licensed scheduled air service will be marked by the unveiling of a commemorative plaque/Information board, aircraft fly-in, and a range of creative events prepared by local community organisations. 

Everyone is welcome. Plan this important date in your diary now. Specific times and further exciting details will follow.

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