Invercargill Airport

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Invercargill Airport
Airport typePublic
OperatorInvercargill Airport Ltd
Elevation AMSL5 ft / 2 m
Coordinates46°24′44″S 168°18′46″E / 46.41222°S 168.31278°E / -46.41222; 168.31278Coordinates: 46°24′44″S 168°18′46″E / 46.41222°S 168.31278°E / -46.41222; 168.31278
Invercargill Airport is located in New Zealand
Invercargill Airport
Invercargill Airport
Location of Invercargill Airport in New Zealand
Direction Length Surface
m ft
04/22 2,210 7,251 Asphalt
04R/22L 695 2,280 Grass
07/25 426 1,398 Grass
12/30 913 2,996 Grass
Statistics (2013)

Invercargill Airport (IATA: IVC, ICAO: NZNV) is a controlled aerodrome located 1 nautical mile (2 km) west of the city centre of Invercargill at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand. It is the southernmost controlled airport in the Commonwealth. Formed on land reclaimed from the Waihopai/New River Estuary in 1938, the airport was prone to flooding, notably in 1984 when it was inoperable for two months. The Invercargill City Council considered moving the airport back to Dawson Farm, Myross Bush, the original site up to 1942. Instead, a large flood protection scheme was built, but during its construction heavy rain and an unusually high tidal surge flooded it again in 1987.[3] There have been no problems since. The airport has a single terminal and 4 tarmac gates.

Netball sculpture, Invercargill Airport, Southland, New Zealand, 22 July 2005
Flight to Stewart Island, Invercargill Airport


Today's airport is located on what was a tidal estuary lake. The site was chosen as it is closer to the city than the original aerodrome, Dawson Farm, located a then considerable 10 km away northeast of Invercargill. The draining and stabilising of land began in 1936. The continual draining of the surrounding land was (and still is) achieved with the use of a large canal and tidal pumping system. It took until 1939 before a rudimentary landing strip was considered acceptable for light aircraft to land. By then World War Two had begun and the RNZAF used it as an auxiliary field while Dawson Farm remained the air force's aerodrome of choice as heavier patrol bombers could land there. The city council built two hangars and the air force a larger facility. Pre-fabricated office blocks provided basic administration facilities.

The airport's first scheduled service was in 1944 by Union Airways' Lockheed 10 Electra flying from Dunedin. The terminal facilities were little more than two small sheds at the time; and a Union Airways limousine bus service provided passengers a direct link to the downtown terminal located on The Crescent.

When the Government nationalized all airlines to create NAC in 1947, the Electra service was replaced by de Havilland DH.89s. Once the new paved runway was created in 1956 along with a new substantial but temporary terminal, Douglas DC-3s began operating. Meanwhile, a local airline, Amphibian Airways had started the Stewart Island route in the early 1950s, using Grumman Widgeons. The amphibians also serviced isolated coastal lighthouses and their settlements. Stewart Island Air Services took over in the late 1970s, and was then taken over by Southern Air in 1981, which still provides the air service to Stewart Island as Stewart Island Flights.


The runway was lengthened periodically over the years to cater for larger aircraft in time, such as NAC Fokker F27s (1961), NAC Vickers Viscount (1969), culminating with NAC's Boeing 737-200 type in 1975. Other aircraft such as RNZAF Boeing 727-100 and Ansett New Zealand BAe 146s have used the runway with ease. Currently the runway length is 2200 meters.

Terminal facilities[edit]

The passenger terminal facilities originally developed around a striking "Festival of Britain" styled two-level structure built in 1963, which featured a distinctive lozenge-shaped roof and fully glazed airside walls giving great views of the runway from the upper deck. A ground-level outdoor viewing gallery allowed passengers and well wishers to mingle; this area was in 2002, closed to all but passengers. It was built against the original small 1956-built "temporary" terminal which was turned into the freight and baggage area. The small control tower in the original structure became a convenient skylight upon the completion of a standard NZCAA five-storey "flowerpot" control tower in 1962. A jetway was added by Air New Zealand in 1988 to ease passenger comfort during inclement weather. Airlines also provided premium club passenger lounges for their member patrons. As frequency of air services increased, the ground floor space became cramped while the upstairs space was usually empty. After Air New Zealand removed its jetway in 2012, it was decided to look at refurbishing the ground floor and extending it, or replace the structure which had to be brought up to new Earthquake safety codes.

New Terminal Building, 2016

In 2013 the airport announced a new terminal building was to be constructed at a cost of $13.3 million, with construction funded by Invercargill City Holdings Ltd (Holdco); the then current terminal was over 50 years old and had major seismic issues that needed to be brought up to new safety codes. It was deemed more economical to demolish and rebuild a new terminal. Construction of the new single-storey structure began in 2014 and gradually built over the site of the old terminal in three stages over approximately 20 months. Opened in 2016, it has an area of 2,900 m2, only slightly bigger than the existing terminal of 2,600 m2 but makes better use of the floor area. Air New Zealand installed a new premium passenger lounge for its frequent flyers. Fitted out in local materials to enhance the region's tourist attractions, the terminal is designed for further expansion and has movable walls airside to provide security for occasional jet and international air services.[4][5]

Small is more[edit]

Regular jet services operated into the airport until 1995, when Air New Zealand restructured all its secondary provincial routes after subsidiary Mount Cook Airline introduced the 68-seat ATR 72-200 into service.[6] Though a turboprop aircraft similar in size to the Viscount, it allowed a higher frequency of departure choices up to eight every weekday including late evenings. The larger-capacity 737s were restricted to three departures a day (including a short morning flight to Dunedin and onto Wellington) with the last flight out at 1630hrs. Air New Zealand resisted local pressure not to remove the jets, convincing Southlanders that the smaller ATR (and later, Q300) aircraft would allow for a higher frequency of service with minimal time difference. When fellow subsidiary Air Nelson joined the Invercargill route with the 50-seat Q300 (an aircraft the size of a Fokker F27-500), this allowed a new non-stop route to Wellington, giving Southlanders direct access to the nation's capital city.

Return of jet services[edit]

In December 2018 Air New Zealand announced it would trial a direct service to Auckland, using the Airbus A320. The service will operate from 25 August 2019, departing Invercargill at 0600 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and returning at 2130 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and will be the airline's longest domestic flight. Air New Zealand said the new service is due to increasing demand for flights to Auckland, and it had worked with locals to achieve this.[7]


In 2005, the runway was extended to 2,210 m at a cost of NZ$5 million, as of 2012 it is the third-longest civilian runway in New Zealand, capable of handling aircraft of Boeing 737/Airbus A320, and weight restricted Boeing 777-200/787-9 type sized aircraft. The airport has adopted a masterplan to cater for diversions. The terminal apron and gates can permanently sustain aircraft to the size of Airbus A320. Baggage container handling equipment and airstairs were installed in 2016 after the new single level passenger terminal was opened.

Regular types using the airport now are the ATR 72 and the Dash 8 Q-300. Occasionally Boeing 737s or Airbus A320s are diverted to Invercargill due to inclement weather in Queenstown or Dunedin and for charter flights and sports events.[8]

Larger aircraft such as RNZAF C-130, Boeing 757-200 and USAF C17 Globemaster transports are occasional visitors. The apron currently undergoing new gate markings which will enable aircraft to park nose in to the terminal. Air New Zealand have based a tug at the airport for future push-back operations.[9] Runway resurfacing with a fresh top of asphalt over its older sections in 2011 has helped to increase weight limits for aircraft usage.[10]

Commercial operators[edit]

Air New Zealand is the major carrier operating from the airport. Subsidiaries Air Nelson and Mount Cook Airline operate Bombardier Q300 and ATR-72 types, respectively. Air New Zealand itself will commence operating the Airbus A320 from Auckland in mid-2019. Air Nelson has a small maintenance base to service Q300s and ATR-72s as up to three aircraft are stabled overnight.[8] Stewart Island Flights operate inter island services to Oban, the main settlement on Stewart Island up to three time per day. Also on demand for pre-booked groups. Mainland Air operate flights to and from Dunedin on behalf of the Southern District Health Board. This service is used to transfer medical staff on a daily basis and have seats when available for purchase by the general public via their web site.

International technical stopover[edit]

Invercargill Airport has had aspirations from the 1980s through to the 2000s as an international destination with proposals that have failed to get off the ground with nearby Queenstown being developed as a more direct route for jet aircraft. Nonetheless, Invercargill is now used as a fill-up point for international services thanks to its longer runway.

Since July 2012, Air New Zealand has used Invercargill as a technical stop when conditions in Queenstown restrict aircraft from taking off with sufficient fuel to fly directly to Australia due to inclement weather or operational reasons (e.g. high payload). In the past such flights have been routed through Christchurch, adding two hours to the journey, but by comparison going via Invercargill saves one hour. As this is a technical stopover passengers are not able to leave the aircraft. During 2012 only two A320s were routed through Invercargill.

Invercargill does not have the appropriate border control measures to service international flights. Customs Officers from the nearby Port of Bluff provide official security services when aircraft are uplifting fuel. Virgin Australia and Qantas are also looking to use Invercargill as a standby technical stopping point for their Queenstown service to Australia, once again due to the benefit of the airport's longer runway.[11]

On 3 March 2013, Invercargill handled over 400 passengers on International flights that were diverted from Queenstown due to low cloud.[12]

Minor military and Antarctic operations role[edit]

Although only ever a backup airport during the Second World War, military operations have remained rare due to Christchurch being chosen as the main Operation Deep Freeze Base in 1949 and what was then Dunedin's Taieri Aerodrome acting as a departure point for shorter range aircraft heading south. The occasional Antarctic flight did land at Invercargill if Taieri was closed. JATO power was needed to assist heavily laden aircraft off the ground. After the runway was lengthened and paved, larger aircraft such as the C-124 Globemaster, and C-121 Constellation used the airport for emergency and technical stopovers. [13]

Today the airport is visited by aircraft of the United States ANG, Australian RAAF, Italy's Aeronautica Militare and RNZAF as part of Antarctic flight diversion training. The RNZAF has used the airfield area for their Wise Owl week-long exercises at least twice a decade.[8]

The largest aircraft to land at Invercargill is the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, although the runway has been "buzzed" by USAF KC-10 Extenders, Lockheed C-141 Starlifters and C-5 Galaxy for emergency diversion practise.[14]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Late afternoon, Invercargill Airport, Southland New Zealand, 22 July 2005


Air New Zealand Auckland (begins 26 August 2019)[15]
Air New Zealand Link Christchurch, Wellington
Stewart Island Flights Oban


Airwork Christchurch

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2013 Annual report
  2. ^ 2014 Annual report
  3. ^ Poole, Michele (26 July 2013). "Could a flood this bad happen again?". The Southland Times. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  4. ^ "Departure tax may fly to help pay for new terminal". Stuff.
  5. ^ "New terminal building for Invercargill Airport". Invercargill City Council. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  6. ^ "History - Air New Zealand".
  7. ^ "Air New Zealand's first ever direct service between Auckland and Invercargill to begin in August". 14 December 2018. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Invercargill Airport Limited
  9. ^ Invercargill Airport Ltd|website
  10. ^ Cowlishaw, Shane (26 July 2013). "$5.5m facelift unveiled for Invercargill Airport". The Southland Times. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  11. ^ Harding, Evan (17 May 2012). "International at last". Southland Times. Fairfax. Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  12. ^ "Invercargill airport goes International for a day". Southland Times. Fairfax. 4 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-04.
  13. ^ Southern DC3 Oddisey, 1996 | Christchurch Antarctic Centre | Southland Museum
  14. ^ Invercargill City Council/Library Archives
  15. ^ "Tickets on sale for direct Invercargill-Auckland flight". Scoop. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 25 January 2019.

External links[edit]