History of the Whangarei Flying Club
The origin of Microlight flying in Northland began in the early 1980’s on a farm paddock at Mititai, near Dargaville, where a small group of enthusiasts attempted to fly a very basic aircraft that they had imported from the United States. This aircraft had a fabric covered wing with a metal framework and hanging below the wing was a seat and a very small two stroke motor. Only one of these enthusiasts had any flying experience and so he was charged with the responsibility of teaching his companions the concepts of how to fly. Unfortunately it was a single seat aircraft so talking about flying was as close as the others got before they committed themselves to their first take off.
In Northland, the original club was called “The Northern Cowboys” which fairly reflected the early attitudes of the day. This club went into abeyance for some time and then was re-invented as The Northland Microlight Club some time later.
By 1991 the club had a membership of eighteen to twenty members operating five privately owned fabric covered “rag and tube” machines. It became evident however that a dedicated aircraft was required for pilot training.
The Northland Microlight Club approached a retired agricultural pilot, Bert Gregory, and asked him to become the club’s Chief Flying Instructor. Bert had a long and successful aviation career and was instrumental in setting up Mount Cook Helicopters in the South Island. He was heavily involved in many search and rescue operations in the Southern Alps and also had extensive flying experience in the highlands of new Guinea. He was also a well respected top dressing pilot.
The first dedicated training aircraft was Bert’s own aircraft, a Bantam, however because of its two stroke motor it proved to be a financial disaster. Something had to change and it did.
Italian built Tecnam aircraft arrived in New Zealand and with them a whole new world of aviation opened up. These aircraft are high performance factory built aluminium skinned aircraft with a cruise speed of over 180Kph. No longer did pilots have to put up with sitting out in the wind in unreliable and uncomfortable flying machines.
At this stage the Northland Microlight Club and the Northern Wairoa Aero Club formed a management team to operate the newly founded Northern Recreational Flying Club and this was operated from the Dargaville airfield for a couple of years. The club purchased its first high performance Microlight ZK-EKO and for the first time affordable, safe flying training was offered in a quality aircraft.
The Northland Recreational Flying Club decided to move to the Whangarei airfield to meet demand in what was considered quite a controversial decision at the time. Initially the club operated out of Bob Foster’s hangar until we built our own premises two years later.
After two more successful years of operation the club built its own hangar and clubrooms. (Hangar 10.) The building of the hangar was accomplished almost entirely by the voluntary effort of our club members. There is room in the hangar for five aircraft and it is usually fully occupied. There is also comfortable and well equipped club rooms attached to the hangar and ample parking outside.
In December 2008 it was decided to sell the club’s long serving Tecnam Echo trainer and purchase a new Tecnam Eaglet (ZK-WTF). This has proved to be an outstanding training platform and the club is presently experiencing a healthy increase in membership.
In June 2010 the club changed its name to the Whangarei Flying Club Inc. to more accurately refelct the community to whom it serves.
In mid 2012 the Whangarei Flying Club Inc. merged with the Northland Districts Aero Club. This merge has been extremely successful and has made both clubs a single unified body dedicated to recreational aviation
In August 2012 we ordered another Tecnam Eaglet (ZK-WCF) with a full Dynon Glass cockpit.
The aircraft was delivered in December of 2012. This aircraft is a state of the art machine on the cutting edge of modern aircraft design. Below is a picture of club members taking delivery of ZK-WCF. From left Bruce McKenzie (Past president.), Shaun Sutherland (C.F.I.), Mark Norgate (I.A.), Bob Foster (President.) and Giovanni Nustrini from Tecnam NZ.
The Whangarei Flying Club Inc. is proud to continue the long and established aviation heritage which began way back in 1928 by the Northland Districts Aero Club and invite you to visit us. You are always guaranteed a warm welcome and fantastic hospitality.
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 the 15th of 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 the 1st 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 eligable 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 intially 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 and on the 8th of 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 clubs 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.) and 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 rateable 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 are excited about the growth and the future of recreational aviation here in Northland and we can’t wait to share that with you.