History of the Northland Districts Aero Club
Now way back in 1928 an equally enthusiastic group of aviators were searching for an airfield in order to start a flying club and promote flying in the Whangarei area. In February 1928 the Whangarei Aeroplane Club was formed. Kensington Park (Now the Sport Northland Fitness Centre.) was initially used as the airfield and was adequate for the smaller aircraft of the Auckland Aero Club that in 1930 were flying into Whangarei. Interest in flying faded however with the great depression and the club dwindled.
In 1932 there was great public interest in the Southern Cross flying the Tasman again and visiting provincial centres in New Zealand. This inspired a group of people fascinated with flying to reform and on 15 December 1932 the Whangarei Aero Club was launched. A pageant was held at Kensington Park and this was attended by hundreds of people and six planes from the Auckland Aero Club.
Due to its length Kensington Park was deemed not suitable for the Southern Cross to land at and the Whangarei Borough Council was beginning to object to the amount of aircraft using it. Attention turned to the recently reclaimed land between Kioreroa and Limeburners Creek and Pohe Island was used as an airfield for some time.
On 1 February 1933 the Southern Cross landed at Pohe. People came from everywhere but eventually Pohe Island was deemed unsuitable because of regular surface flooding.
In May 1939 the Whangarei Aerodrome at Onerahi was opened but was immediately taken over the by RNZAF during the Second World War. The Aero Club was forced into recess and reformed in 1946 using the Onerahi Aerodrome as it’s base however it never acquired any aircraft. At that time Tiger Moths were often given away by the government however only clubs with existing aircraft were eligible to receive them. Without aircraft available it was hard enough to achieve a pilot’s licence let alone keep it.
The Northland Districts Aero Club Inc. was formed in February 1953 and was initially based in Kaikohe. This club was formed due to disgruntled Whangarei, Kaikohe and Dargaville members resigning from the Kaitaia Aero Club. Instructor Trevor Peek resigned from the Kaitaia Aero Club when the committee decided to sell their two Tiger Moth instructional aircraft.
A meeting was called to wind up the Whangarei Branch of the Aero Club and to pass the funds to the Northland Districts Aero Club Inc.
On January the 25th 1954 the Northland Districts Aero Club Inc. took delivery of their very first aircraft, ZK-BEC a Tiger Moth, and flying training really took off in both Whangarei and Kaikohe. Trevor Peek remained as C.F.I. and Manager. Students from all around Northland took this opportunity to learn to fly and the club prospered.
Unfortunately on 19 November 1955 the aircraft crashed into the Whangarei Harbour and two people were injured. ZK-BEC was a complete write off but three months later was replaced with ZK-BNF, another Tiger Moth.
A Waco was introduced into service in 1956. Unfortunately this also crashed into the Whangarei Harbour on 29 September 1957 after suffering an engine failure after take-off.
In 1957 the club purchased a Piper Cub.
The Northland Districts Aero Club Inc. then decided to move its headquarters to Whangarei where most of the flying activity was centred. Flying hours increased when the government of the day introduced subsidies to help train pilots. Branches were opened in Kaitaia and Dargaville, and the Club continued to grow.
The Club increased its fleet with addition of a Tri-Pacer and the Tiger Moth was sold.
In 1960 the C.F.I. Trevor Peek D.F.C. (Distinguished Flying Cross) resigned at age 40 to pursue a new career.
After years of planning work commenced in December 1963 to build a sealed runway at Onerahi Aerodrome. On 8 June 1964 National Airways Corporation started operating DC3 aircraft from the new sealed runway.
The Northland Districts Aero Club built and opened their new clubrooms in 1977 and operated from those premises until mid 2012. By 2005 however interest in general aviation flying had dwindled with most recreational aviators embracing the new Microlight category. This was cheaper and more accessible to recreational flyers. The Whangarei District Council, in its infinite wisdom, also increased the Club’s ground lease by over 300% making the club financially unviable.
In 2006 negotiations started with the Northern Recreational Flying Club Inc. (Now the Whangarei Flying Club Inc.) to investigate the possibility of merging the two clubs. In 2009 the decision was made to merge the club with the Whangarei Flying Club Inc and the NDAC premises were put on the market. Although a purchaser was found who offered a reasonable marked value, the Whangarei District Council objected to the proposed uses of the premises (as a Church and Community Centre) so the sale fell through. This effectively made the premises unsalable and eventually the Whangarei District Council purchased the premises for just $100,000. This was well below the rate able valuation of $450,000 however the Club chose to accept it in the absence of another purchaser.
In mid 2012 the Northland Districts Aero Club transferred all of its assets to the Whangarei Flying Club Inc. in what was considered a very successful merger and this has made both clubs a strong and unified single operation.
We now in 2022 own two high performance microlights, ZK-KFP and ZK-TNZ these are both Tecnam P92 aircraft that have a very high safety record. We have a third aircraft in the makings. A savannah S STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft. this will increase our fleet size to three aircraft. We hope you can fly with us soon!
As of March 2023 we now have completed our Savannah S kitset build. ZK-JUN is now a part of the Whangarei flying club fleet and brings our aircraft selection up to three. ZK-JUN is available for booking and type ratings now! We hope to see the aircraft used long into the clubs future!
As of May 2023 we have recently purchased another Tecnam P92, ZK-DDE is a similar model to ZK-TNZ but slightly older. Fitted with a STOL kit its takeoff and landing speed is greatly reduced. To fund this purchase we are selling our beloved ZK-KFP, it has served us well but is time to move onto a more similar aircraft fleet for maintenance. Waikato aeroclub has offered us a deal and we are currently in the sale process.
As of September 2023 we have now sold our Tecnam P92 ZK-KFP to the Waikato microlight club. The aircraft will continue operation with them. This brings the club back to 3 planes, ZK-TNZ, ZK-DDE, ZK-JUN.
We are excited about the growth and the future of recreational aviation here in Northland and we can’t wait to share that with you.