History

History

Explore our history

Since Arthur Schaef used Lyall Bay beach as a runway for his homemade aircraft in 1911, the location of Wellington Airport and the length of its runway has been continuously controversial. Wellington’s lack of flat land has meant that the history of its airport has been one of construction preceded by years of argument.

The consistent thread has been the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce and City Council aimed at ensuring that the city has a convenient airport, which can accommodate changing aircraft and keep the region connected to the rest of the world.

1910 — 1929

1910—1929

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 350m

1929
350m
1929 350m

Events

1911-14

Arthur Schaef trials his homemade monoplane on Lyall Bay beach.

September 1928

On 11 September 1928 Australian Charles Kingsford-Smith and crew completed the first Tasman flight from Sydney. They circled Wellington but had nowhere to land so flew on to Christchurch to complete their 14 hour 25 minute journey.

1929

Wellington City Council designates 30 hectares of Rongotai as aerodrome.

1930

1930

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 1000m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1929 350m
1938 +650m

Events

1934

Chamber of Commerce study identifies Rongotai as the best site for Wellington’s airport

1935

Wellington’s first scheduled services are to Nelson and Blenheim by Cook Strait Airways

1936

A Miles Falcon crashes killing the pilot, the airports only aircraft fatality

1937

Rongotai De Havilland factory opens and eventually builds 344 aircraft for the RNZAF

1940

1940

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 1100m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m

Wellington Airport passengers

1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2014
6m
3m
Wellington population
Domestic passengers
International passengers

Events

1942

PM Peter Fraser backs Rongotai as the best airport site for Wellington

1945

Chamber of Commerce backs Rongotai and the construction of an extended N/S runway able to accommodate international services.

1947

Wellington City Council puts forward a plan for a N/S runway on top of Rongotai College. Estimated cost £2.8m

1940

RNZAF 42 squadron takes over the airport. TEAL is established with Qantas and the NZ Government as the main shareholders (100% NZ owned in 1961)

1946

A Lodestar Lockheed landing on the 1,095m E/W runway overruns onto the golf course

1947

NAC is established and starts using DC3 on domestic services. These can’t use Rogotai’s E/W runway so services are moved to Paraparaumu

1950

1950

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 1650m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1959
+550m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m
1959 +550m

Wellington Airport passengers

1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2014
6m
3m
Wellington population
Domestic passengers
International passengers

Events

1950

Government and City agree to progress the construction of a N/S runway on the current site

1953

Ownership agreed at 34% City and 66% Government (Auckland councils received 51% of that airport)

1952-59

Construction of a 1,660m runway requiring the movement of three million cubic metres earth at a cost of £5 million

1950-54

TEAL Short Solent flying boat services link Wellington and Sydney

1954

TEAL introduces Lockheed 188c Electra turboprops with link Auckland and Christchurch with Australia

1959

The airport opening ceremony. At Wellington NAC starts domestic services with Vickers Viscounts. TEAL starts international services with Electras (62 passengers)

1960

1960

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 1650m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1959
+550m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m
1959 +550m

Wellington Airport passengers

1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2014
6m
3m
Wellington population
Domestic passengers
International passengers

Events

1962

Chamber of Commerce starts agitating for a runway extension as 1,660m is too short for international jet services

1964

TEAL becomes AirNZ. AirNZ introduces the Douglas DC8 jet on international services, but not from Wellington which because of its short runway is stuck with Electras

1968

First landing of an NAC B737-200

1970

1970

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 1920m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1959
+550m
1972
+270m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m
1959 +550m
1972 +270m

Wellington Airport passengers

1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2014
6m
3m
Wellington population
Domestic passengers
International passengers

Events

1970

Wellington City Council recommends the runway be eventually extended to 2,440m, but to 1,980m immediately so the Airport can cope with DC8s. The advice is accepted by Government

1972

Completion of the southern extension of the runway by 270 metres at a cost of $3 million. It is announced that a “new terminal is essential

1972

Wellington DC8 services start on the Tasman (131 passengers)

1972

NAC and Air NZ are merged by the government

1980

1980

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 1920m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1959
+550m
1972
+270m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m
1959 +550m
1972 +270m

Wellington Airport passengers

1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2014
6m
3m
Wellington population
Domestic passengers
International passengers

Events

1981

Air NZ DC8 services terminated
Qantas initiates Tasman services with B747SP which operate until 1985

1985

AirNZ B767-200ER service Wellington- Sydney

1987

Ansett builds its own terminal (the main terminal was jointly owned by AirNZ which refused access to a competitor) Ansett B737-100 initiates services with Auckland and Christchurch, and hot food on flights and airport lounges

1988

Government sells AirNZ to a consortium of airlines and BIL, later 30% is listed

1990

1990

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 1920m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1959
+550m
1972
+270m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m
1959 +550m
1972 +270m

Wellington Airport passengers

1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2014
6m
3m
Wellington population
Domestic passengers
International passengers

Events

1998

Crown sells 66% of Wellington Airport to NZ Airports which six months later becomes 100% Infratil owned

1999

A new $116 million terminal finally replaces the 1937 De Havilland factory

2000

2000

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 2050m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1959
+550m
1972
+270m
2009
+130m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m
1959 +550m
1972 +270m
2009 +130m

Wellington Airport passengers

1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2014
6m
3m
Wellington population
Domestic passengers
International passengers

Events

2009

The airfield is extended 130 metres at a cost of $35 million to meet increased safety standards and to allow larger aircraft to provide Tasman services

2010

The Rock is officially opened

2010

2010

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 2050m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1959
+550m
1972
+270m
2009
+130m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m
1959 +550m
1972 +270m
2009 +130m

Wellington Airport passengers

1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2014
6m
3m
Wellington population
Domestic passengers
International passengers

Events

2011

The first commercial flight of the Boeing 787 and clear evidence that it would not be able to fly from Wellington’s runway fully laden to Asia

2015

Consenting of a 300 metre extension of the runway into Lyall Bay

2016-19

Construction of a 300 metre extension

2020

2020

Incremental runway extension

Total length of runway: 2350m

1929
350m
1938
+650m
1946
+100m
1959
+550m
1972
+270m
2009
+130m
2020
+300m
1929 350m
1938 +650m
1946 +100m
1959 +550m
1972 +270m
2009 +130m
2020 +300m

Events

2020

Potential first direct flight Wellington to Hong Kong