Hawke’s Bay Airport kicks off celebrations for 60th anniversary year

Friday 16 February, 2024

Yesterday Hawke’s Bay Airport commenced the celebrations of its official 60th anniversary year, and its much longer history dating back to the 1930s.

Wendie Harvey, Chair of Hawke’s Bay Airport, says celebrations will happen throughout the year, and involve the community.

“We are thrilled to be marking 60 years of connecting people and places, and more than 90 years of history overall. Our airport, which is owned by Napier and Hastings councils and the Crown, and therefore by the people of Hawke’s Bay, is a fantastic asset for our region.

“Having a strong, commercially successful airport is critical for regional connectivity with the rest of New Zealand and the world, for resilience, and for future growth.

“Every year our airport facilitates around 20,000 aircraft movements from commercial airlines and the general aviation community, and last year passenger numbers rebounded to 640,000 after several years of pandemic impact.

“Our new terminal and Watchman Road entry reflect our unique location, and are especially designed to highlight the adjacent flora and fauna which are such a significant feature of our surrounds.

“It is a wonderful platform to build regional connections and growth as we look forward to the next 60 years of airport developments - greater air connectivity, and developing our planned business park and solar farm,” says Mrs Harvey.

The airport’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations kicked off yesterday with the cutting of a special 60th anniversary cake and commemorative photo in the terminal with shareholders, tenants and key community and business partners. Also unveiled was a new historical timeline on the mezzanine floor that tells some of the unique stories of the airport from 1931. A super-sized ‘60’ sign representing the flora and fauna of Hawke’s Bay is being installed at the terminal entrance as an ‘insta’ worthy installation for travellers, customers, and visitors. There will be other special activities and celebrations throughout the year including a new kids’ play area, with festivities culminating with the much loved ‘run the runway’ event.

The airport is situated on land that rose from the seabed during the 1931 earthquake. East Coast air connections began in 1935 between Napier and Gisborne originally from the Embankment airfield, transferring to the current airport site (known as Beacons Aerodrome) shortly after. Commercial airlines had been using Beacons Aerodrome since the 1930s. In 1961, a Committee of Enquiry recommended the airport be developed to carry jet-prop aircraft. A new 1310m sealed runway was constructed and the first Fokker Friendship aircraft landed on the new runway in December 1963, and the airport was officially opened on 15 February 1964.

The airport’s general aviation community paved the way for commercial flight connections, and remains an integral part of Hawke’s Bay Airport, servicing our region’s agricultural hinterland, providing vital air ambulance needs, and delivering fixed wing and helicopter maintenance facilities.

John Mason, committee member of the Napier Aero Club says that the club was the force behind building an airfield for Napier.

“Club members acquired the land, cleared the stones, and levelled the ground to make it a suitable landing area. These efforts were acknowledged when regulations required the Airport board to include an Aero Club member.
“Many pilots commenced their pleasure and professional flying from this airport where the Napier Aero Club is the social centre for all the local aviators and aviation business personnel based at the airport.
“The new Chief Flying Instructor is actively promoting flying training for those with an aviation interest," he says.