Historic images of Whenuapai when it was Auckland's main airport

Historic images of Whenuapai when it was Auckland's main airport
Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library

The possibility of domestic flights leaving from Whenuapai Airport in the future has been put back on the table by Air New Zealand's departing CEO, Christopher Luxon.

35mm colour slide showing a Teal airplane on the runway at Whenuapai.
35mm colour slide showing a Teal airplane on the runway at Whenuapai. Photo credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

In a statement yesterday that labelled Auckland International Airport 'well below the standard (passengers) expect for the main entry point into our nation's largest city,' Luxon said the airline had been looking into the commercial viability of running flights to and from Wellington and Christchurch.

NAC (National Airways Corporation), Whenuapai, Auckland, showing buildings and airplanes.
NAC (National Airways Corporation), Whenuapai, Auckland, showing buildings and airplanes. Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

There was the possibility of adding flights to Queenstown, Napier, Nelson and Palmerston North.

Whenuapai Airport, Waitakere, Auckland.
Whenuapai Airport, Waitakere, Auckland. Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

But this wouldn't be the first time Whenuapai Airport had been used by airlines for commercial flights, in fact at one point it was an international airport with flights operated by airlines from around the world.

In the 1940s, Whenuapai was one of just three airports in the country that had sealed runways.

Pan American World Airways model in front of PAA airplane at Whenuapai Airport.
Pan American World Airways model in front of PAA airplane at Whenuapai Airport. Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

At this time, Auckland had three airports operating frequent commercial flights.

Tasman Empire Airways operated seaplane flights to Australia from a terminal at Mechanics Bay, a domestic airport operating on a grass runway at the site of what is now Auckland International Airport, and international flights operated by airlines including Pan American took off weekly from Whenuapai.

Passengers waiting inside the terminal at Whenuapai Airport.
Passengers waiting inside the terminal at Whenuapai Airport. Photo credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

In the late '40s following the closure of Mangere Airport by the government, the National Airways Corporation flew weekly flights to Norfolk Island from Whenuapai as well as trans-Pacific services that operated via Norfolk Island, Nadi, Apia, Tongatapu, Aitutaki and Rarotonga.

Pan American Airways Clipper Rainbow and crew at Whenuapai.
Pan American Airways Clipper Rainbow and crew at Whenuapai. Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Whenuapai operated as Auckland's main airport into the sixties, but pressure from airlines to build a new airport that could handle the larger aircraft such as the Boeing 707 forced the construction of what is now Auckland International Airport which opened in 1965, just a year later, commercial services ceased to operate out of Whenuapai.

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