NAC Tour

New Zealand Commercial Airline History


The 60th anniversary of NAC-New Zealand National Airways Corporation, was commemorated and celebrated all around New Zealand in March and April 2007. NAC was synonymous with commercial aviation in New Zealand for over 3 decades, and NAC's fleet throughout the 1950's was significantly dominated by the DC-3, followed mainly by Viscounts, F-27's, and Boeing 737's.The last scheduled DC-3 service with NAC was in 1973. NZ is an aviation minded country-due to the countries North-South and mountainous two-island geography, and her isolated placement on the planet. Kiwis are so used to travelling from A to B with their widely spread population is part of our everyday economic, social, political, sporting and business life. Letters and courier parcels move by air; Nanas fly to Tauranga from Timaru to grandchildren's christenings; offspring students fly off to Otago University ( and back for Christmas) and politicians and corporates fly off to Wellington and back for the day, or the week on business. We hear planes flying overhead and look up and see aircraft contrails. Smaller Air NZ Link or other operators aircraft fly overhead, doing exactly what was done 60-70 years ago...flying passengers for a hundred different reasons around this wonderful country.

NAC was the keystone in the development of true commercial aviation in NZ. The Board of NAC met for the first time in August 1946 under the chairmanship of the former Chief of Staff of RNZAF, Leonard Isitt. Fast paced change in 1946, after WW2, saw large numbers of pilots and engineers recruited to meet the demands of the corporation from the RNZAF. They provided considerable wartime aviation, command, 'rank and file', and especially C-47/ Dakota experience. During the war, many or all air services in New Zealand and the South Pacific were operated by the RNZAF Transport Command and these were all then handed over to NAC in 1947. Many of the new NAC aircraft were the most visible expression of the transfer of NZ and American owned wartime assets to NZ civilian aviation purposes. DH89 Dominies, were among the first new additions along with Lockheed Lodestars and Electras . The significant step forward was the takeover of the Dakota transport aircraft from the RNZAF in June 1947 and the introduction from October of that year, of these modified and refurbished DC-3 aircraft now renamed in NZ as "Douglas Airliners". These aircraft soon flew the direct Auckland to Christchurch service and were to be synonymous with NAC for the next 27 years. The change from predominantly RNZAF scheme to NAC livery in 1947-with hybrid interim paint schemes-half RNZAF, half NAC has been serendipitously reflected in the repaint early in 2007 from the NZ Warbird Dakota's nostalgic D-day paint scheme to the crisp RNZAF. She was prepared and presented to NZ for 2007 and the Commemorative Tour of NZ resplendent in NAC decals placed around her brand new RNZAF livery DC-3 to celebrate and commemorate the 60th anniversary of NAC. How wryly historic indeed. In January 1947 new air routes were pioneered into Northland- Whangarei, Kaikohe and Kaitaia had been waiting for an air link since the 1930's, and had the advantage of expansive runways built during the war years.

The only airports with all-weather runways were at Auckland, Paraparaumu, and Woodbourne with Christchurch opening its runway in 1950. Dunedin did not have a sealed runway until 1962. Profits from the few profitable trunk routes were expected to cross subsidise the numerous unprofitable services. In 1949, the Labour government was swept from power and the new National Government offered to sell NAC to the highest bidder. The National Governments/Owners disinterest in NAC had a significant effect on the airlines progress with no major investment until 1956. NAC had to achieve the fine balance of setting up and running a successful commercial operation, alongside the tradition of 'number 8 wire' 'we can do it' attitude, and a public social service for the still colonial country in the outreaches of the British Empire, whose technical manpower had all but, been sent around the globe in WW2. The aviation world in NZ immediately post-war was a human factor hybrid of local experience with pioneering airways and the new RNZAF military structure. The developing post-war Nationhood of New Zealand embraced all things Kiwi-with staff, crew, and the NAC family developing the sense of pride in what it was and is to be a unique kiwi airline. The late 1950's were a time of continued growth-the introduction of Sunday flying and air hostesses, It continues today with concepts that are quintessentially 'can-do', 'will-do' to ensure this Classic aircraft continues to be seen in New Zealand Skies.

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