A grand old lady of Queenstown’s aviation history will return to the skies this April as part of a 70-year airline pioneers reunion.
With financial and operational support from Queenstown Airport, the 1943 de Havilland DH89 Dominie ZK-AKY biplane known as ‘Tui’ is being brought in from Mandeville to guest star at the reunion, which runs 7-9 April.
From the mid-50s to the early 70s, Dominies were the principal aircraft used for scenic, scheduled and charter work at Queenstown Airport.
The 8-seater ‘Tui’ was built for the Royal New Zealand Air Force and was the last of its type to be based in Queenstown. Now fully restored for commercial operation, the plane is owned by the Croydon Aviation Trust in Mandeville and will offer public flights for $75 a head during the reunion.
Aviation historian Rev. Dr Richard Waugh QSM is organising the reunion and is “absolutely delighted” that more than 120 people from around New Zealand are planning to attend
“We have former staff and family members coming from the original post-war airlines of Southern Scenic Air Services, Ritchie Air Services, West Coast Airways, Tourist Air Travel, and the early Queenstown operations of Mount Cook Airline so it will be a quite a momentous occasion.”
The programme includes a Friday night get-together, public flights on Saturday and Sunday at the airport, and a PalmSunday service at Frankton Presbyterian Church focussing on Queenstown aviation pioneers and paying tribute to those who died in early operations.
Weather permitting, the Dominie and 4 Cessnas, originally operated by the early airlines, will do a tribute fly-past over the church and then over Queenstown on Sunday 9 April at around 10:30am.
Hank Sproull, long-time owner of Air Milford, has been closely involved with the organisation of the reunion and is looking forward to catching up on the “old days” when he was a young flyboy at the airport.
With over 45 years’ aviation experience, Hank is one of the longest serving members of Queenstown Airport’s general aviation community, starting his career in the 1970s as an apprentice engineer for Mt Cook Airline and going on to become a pilot.
“It’s been 70 years since Queenstown’s first airline, Southern Scenic Air Services, was founded and 60 years since the company introduced a scheduled Queenstown to Invercargill service, flying the Dominies.
“I was 18 when I first started working at Queenstown Airport and I was really lucky to get exposure to a variety of aircraft, from float planes to ski planes. It was great hanging out with the older more experienced pilots – they loved sharing their stories and really looked out for us young ‘uns,” he said.
For more information and full programme details please visit www.queenstownairport.co.nz.