Invercargill goes international
Their flight having featured on the Tullamarine arrivals board, Southland punters soak up the Flemington atmosphere.
After years of speculation and conjecture, Invercargill Airport has recorded its first international passenger flight. Local travel agent Tony Laker chartered an Air NZ A320 to fly 150 southerners for a day trip to Melbourne and return on 3 November for the Melbourne Cup. The airliner left Invercargill Airport at 7.15 that morning and landed back at 1.30am the next day.
The flight has aroused considerable interest throughout the south. Packages of $2340 per person, including in-flight and on-course hospitality, were sold by House of Travel Laker in Invercargill. Because Invercargill is not a regular base for international flights, the Southland Aero Club facilities, adjacent to the airport terminal, became an international arrival and departure base.
The main airport terminal was being used to capacity with domestic air traffic, so Customs, border control and CAA staff were based in the aero club building for the flight departure and arrival.
This wasn’t the first time Tony Laker had tried to arrange a one-day flight and return to the Melbourne Cup. On some occasions he had been able to engage an aircraft but could not find a place to land in Melbourne, and on others he had the reverse experience.
However, everything came together this year and Tony says, “It was great all the way there and back. Everyone had a wonderful day out. There were no complaints—only congratulations.”
Invercargill Airport is currently undergoing a $13m upgrade to be completed early in 2016. The airport is 97 per cent owned by the Invercargill City Council company Invercargill City Holdings Ltd (Holdco).
Its first scheduled service was in 1944 by a Union Airways’ Lockheed 10 Electra flying from Dunedin. The terminal facilities were little more than two small sheds at the time; and a Union Airways limousine bus service provided passengers a direct link to the downtown terminal located on The Crescent.
When the government nationalised all airlines to create NAC in 1947, the Electra service was replaced by de Havilland DH89s. Once the new paved runway was created in 1956, along with a new substantial but temporary terminal, Douglas DC-3s began operating.
Meanwhile Amphibian Airways had started the Stewart Island route in the early 1950s, using Grumman Widgeon amphibians which also serviced isolated lighthouses and their settlements. Stewart Island Air Services took over in the late 1970s and was in turn taken over in 1981 by Southern Air which still provides the air service to Stewart Island as Stewart Island Flights.
The runway was lengthened periodically over the years to cater for larger aircraft in time, and the airport has had aspirations from the 1980s through to the 2000s as an international destination with proposals that have failed to get off the ground, with nearby Queenstown being developed as a more direct route for jet aircraft. However, thanks to its longer runway completed in 2005 it is occasionally used as the fill-up point for international services.
- Report by John King, photography supplied.
» Summer success at the Walsh
» The luxury of living in the Ivory Tower
» Comper moves swiftly
» UAV usefulness increasing
» Woodville’s even dozen
» 60th birthday party for ZK-BNL
» New airline MRO facility
» Hands across the Southern Alps
» Praise earned in tough place