Whangarei Airport

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Whangarei Airport
Whangarei Airport Logo.png
Whangarei Airport.jpg
Whangarei Airport, on the Onerahi peninsula, surrounded by Whangarei Harbour
WRE is located in Northland Region
Location of airport in Northland
Airport type Public
Operator Whangarei District Airport
Location Whangarei
Elevation AMSL 133 ft / 40.5 m
Coordinates 35°46′06″S 174°21′54″E / 35.76833°S 174.36500°E / -35.76833; 174.36500
Website www.whangareiairport.co.nz
Direction Length Surface
ft m
06/24 3,599 1,097 Asphalt
14/32 1,558 475 Grass
Statistics (2009)
Aircraft Movements 18,770 [1]

Whangarei Aerodrome (IATA: WREICAO: NZWR) is a small airport 4NM (7.4 km) to the south east of Whangarei city, in the suburb of Onerahi, on the east coast of Northland on the North Island, New Zealand. The airport has a single terminal with two gates.


The first aerodrome in Whangarei was located on Pohe Island, in the upper reaches of Whangarei harbour. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s aircraft, the Southern Cross, even landed on Pohe Island in 1928.[2] This event was recorded in The Northern Advocate local newspaper. This airstrip was not of high quality due to it being built on boggy reclaimed land, so a more suitable site was required. Another site was also considered, at Kensington Park, but in May 1939 the current site was opened at Onerahi. [3]

With the outbreak of World War II immediately after the esablishment of the airfield, the airport taken over by RNZAF to serve as a training base there which became RNZAF Station Onerahi. Flight Lieutenant "Lou" Gates became one of the station commanders.[4] Pilots practiced bombing raids on the nearby Matakohe Island and Rat Island.[5] The airport was established with three grass runways. No. 20 Squadron RNZAF was formed here in August 1942 with Hawker Hind biplanes, personnel and aircraft provided from No. 6 (AC) Squadron RNZAF at Milson, Palmerston North.[6] The squadron was disbanded in July 1943 (before being reformed elsewhere later in the war). The station was reduced to two runways (06/24 and 32/14) shortly after the war, and being converted for public use. Some of the old airforce barracks are still present today, having being converted into residential properties.

The NAC (National Airways Corporation) began regular commercial flights between Whangarei and Auckland in 1947. The runway, 06/24 was upgraded and sealed December 1963 to its current length of 1097 m, with NAC operating DC3 aircraft from the new sealed runway from the 8th of June 1964. A new control tower was also built.[7]

The 1970s saw an increase in domestic travel from Whangarei, so a new airport terminal was built on the northern side of the main runway to cater for this. There was also a large amount of private flying from Whangarei, and so The Northern Districts Aero Club opened their new clubrooms and hangar nearby in 1977.

The control tower was closed down in 1988 as the airport was too small to warrant the service.

The 1990s saw the introduction of a new airline, Ansett New Zealand, as competition to Air New Zealand. Both airlines flew Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirantes, with Ansett also flying Dash 8's, and the terminal was further upgraded due to this growth. [8]

Ansett went into liquidation in 2001, and this resulted in Air New Zealand's subsidary Eagle Airways being the only major airline operating out of the airport. This allowed the airline to expand operations and in 2002, direct flights linking Whangarei to Wellington International Airport were begun. This service took advantage of Eagle Airways new Beechcraft 1900s and subsequently became Eagle's longest regular flight service at 626 km with 90 min flight.[9]

In 2007, Sunair begun daily air services between Whangarei, Tauranga, Rotorua and Napier.[10] This service was discontinued in 2009.

In 2008, Salt Air begun an "xpress" service between Kerikeri, Whangarei and Auckland. These flights land at North Shore and transfer passengers to Auckland CBD within 60mins of leaving Whangarei. This service was sold in 2012 to Flight Hauraki who will continue the route.[11]

Airport growth[edit]

Whangarei Airport, shortly after 2009 upgrades.

In 2009, airport passenger numbers were increasing steadily, with flight numbers increasing also, reaching a peak of 10 return flights to Auckland and 2 return flights to Wellington on weekdays.[12] This resulted in the airport's capacity reaching a peak of around 140,000 departing and arriving passengers per year. However this growth slowed due to global economic downturn, and subsequently capacity was reduced slightly because of less demand.

The Whangarei District Council (WDC) approved an upgrade of the main runway and this was completed in April 2009. This upgrade now allows larger aircraft including ATR 72 with their landing weight reduced to land, and to help cater for future growth. The project cost $1.5 million, extended the runway 30m and resealed the runway surface.[13]

This upgrade allowed Air New Zealand, through its subsidary airline Air Nelson, start trialing flights with their new Bombardier Q300 aircraft. This included a flight from Wellington on 4 February 2012, and daily flights from Auckland commemcing in August 2013. This trial was successful, and resulted in most of the Auckland-Whangarei flights being replaced by Air Nelson's Bombardier Q300, except one flight on Friday and Sunday operated by Eagle Airways, from February 2014. This also overcame the issues with the operational requirements of the Beech 1900 to Whangarei changing, and demand for the aircraft type declining, with a preference for larger aircraft.[14]

The daily Wellington service will continue to be flown by Eagle Airways Beech 1900D.

The change in aircraft type restored capacity to 136,656 seats available on Air New Zealand per year.

The WDC predicts a high growth rate in aircraft movements over the next 15 years, potentially reaching 45,500 aircraft movements by 2027. [15]

On the 1st of October 2013, thanks to Northpower, the airport had installed free wifi available to everyone.

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Three Eagle Airways Beechcraft 1900Ds at Whangarei Airport

Whangarei has several scheduled flight destinations, the furthest away being Wellington at 626 km.

Airlines Destinations
Air New Zealand Link operated by Air Nelson Auckland [16]
Air New Zealand Link operated by Eagle Airways Auckland, Wellington
Great Barrier Airlines Great Barrier Island, Kaitaia, Kerikeri, North Shore

Airport services[edit]

The new glass walk through tunnel, shortly after completion, 2011

The airport has a modern air-conditioned terminal building with free wifi and a cafeteria (called Airport Cafe), which services Air New Zealand's subsidiaries, Eagle Airways and Air Nelson. The terminal was recently upgraded to include a glass walk through tunnel, to protect passengers from the weather when accessing the tarmac, and parking gates 1-4. The airport terminal has secure parking, and three rental car companies.

Whangarei District Airport no longer has an Aero Club due to a drop in membership and private flying. Flight training using micro-light aircraft is still available. A tandem and sport skydiving company (Skydive Ballistic Blondes) operates from their base on Gloyn Road. Helicopter operators Skywork and Twin Coast Helicopters both operate from the airport. One aircraft maintenance facility (Northland Aviation Ltd) is available, which conducts maintenance for Eagle Airways and many aircraft across Northland.

There are also several private aircraft hangars situated around the airport, including one that previously housed a Aero L-29 Delfín jet in 2008.

Private jets are also catered for when they arrive about twice a year, as well as larger group charters which are fairly common.

The runway is lit by pilot activation of the lights, and Av-Gas and Jet A1 are available by fuel card payment.

Incidents and Accidents[edit]

Northern Advocate photo of 2010 accident.

On 19 November 1955 a Tiger Moth owned by the Northland Districts Aero Club crashed into Whangarei Harbour and two people were injured. ZK-BEC was a complete write off but three months later was replaced with another tiger Moth.

A Waco owned also by Northland Districts Aero Club crashed into Whangarei Harbour on 29 September 1957 after suffering an engine failure after take-off.[17]

On 22 November 2005, a PAC Fletcher top dressing plane en route to Whangarei Airport crashed 5km west of Whangarei in the Pukenui Forest due to loss of the vertical stabiliser. Both the pilot and his passenger were killed. [18]

On 9 February 2007, a Robinson R22 helicopter training at Whangarei Airport crash landed in Whangarei Harbour. Both people on board were uninjured. The drive belt for the rotor was believed to have failed resulting in the accident. [19]

On 2 July 2010, a Cessna 172 leased by Skydive Ballistic Blondes crashed onto Church St at the beginning of runway 24 due to an engine failure on approach. The pilot was uninjured but aircraft was extensively damaged. [20]

Photo Gallery[edit]

Click on images to enlarge

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.wdc.govt.nz/PlansPoliciesandBylaws/Plans/SustainableFutures/Documents/Sustainable%20Infrastructure/30-50-Whangarei-Airport.pdf
  2. ^ http://www.wdc.govt.nz/FacilitiesandRecreation/ReservesandOpenSpaces/ReserveManagementPlans/Documents/William-Fraser-Memorial-Park-on-Pohe-Island-Management-Plan.pdf
  3. ^ http://www.whangareiflyingclub.com/history/
  4. ^ http://www.cambridgeairforce.org.nz/RNZAF%20Stations%20North%20Island.htm#Onerahi, and 'RNZAF: A Short History'.
  5. ^ http://www.onerahi.org.nz/download/Publications/Orbits/20%20Orbit%20Nov_2011.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.thescale.info/news/publish/Hawker-Hind-RNZAF.shtml
  7. ^ http://www.whangareiflyingclub.com/history/
  8. ^ http://www.departedflights.com/AKL96p5.html
  9. ^ Eagle Airways - Our Destinations
  10. ^ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503450&objectid=10950906
  11. ^ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503446&objectid=11078745
  12. ^ Air New Zealand
  13. ^ http://www.wdc.govt.nz/xml/ps.aspx?fn=/resources/13149/top-flight-job-done-on-runway-extension.html
  14. ^ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10895747
  15. ^ http://www.wdc.govt.nz/PlansPoliciesandBylaws/Plans/SustainableFutures/Documents/Sustainable%20Infrastructure/30-50-Whangarei-Airport.pdf
  16. ^ http://www.northernadvocate.co.nz/news/move-to-bigger-aircraft/1937626/
  17. ^ http://www.whangareiflyingclub.com/history/
  18. ^ https://www.caa.govt.nz/safety_info/fatal_accident_reports.htm
  19. ^ https://www.caa.govt.nz/Script/Accident_Details.asp?Oc=07/324
  20. ^ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10656400

External links[edit]