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Documenting the new Auckland International Airport

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Documenting the new Auckland International Airport

Auckland Anniversary weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Auckland Airport. In the early 1960s, Māngere photographer Trevor Penman documented the transformation - from an aerodrome to an international gateway.

A high flying commission

The first flight to Auckland Airport was the delivery of an Air New Zealand DC8 arriving non-stop from California on 20 July 1965. The airport officially opened the following year.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-2008-8-U2A.

In 1959, work started on converting the Māngere Aerodrome (home of the Auckland Aero Club) into a major airport for Auckland. Māngere photographer Trevor Penman was commissioned by the Ministry of Works to document the new airport which was completed in 1965. The official opening was in 1966 on Auckland Anniversary weekend.

As a local photographer based in Māngere and later Papatoetoe, Trevor Penman revisited the site regularly over a number of years observing everything from land clearance and preparation, construction of buildings and runways to a range of visiting aircraft. The images he produced saw publication in several capacities publicising the new airport.

Runway and clearance

The area where the runway was constructed required a substantial amount of reclamation of the Manukau Harbour. The runway itself took a large portion of the site, but the new airport buildings also featured an extensive car park.

Auckland Airport under construction.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-2008-8-J61.

Building a jet base

The other substantial structure on the site was the new TEAL/Air New Zealand jet base constructed in 1965. The base coincided with TEAL's transition to the government owned airline, Air New Zealand. The new international airport site would take the company's new Douglas DC-8 aircraft, along with their Lockheed L-188 Electras.

The base opened on 20 July 1965. The first flight to Auckland International Airport was the delivery of ZKNZA - an Air New Zealand DC8 arriving non-stop from Long Beach, California. Disembarkation was at the jet base.

In 1965, Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), was renamed Air New Zealand. A new jet base was opened at the Auckland Airport site to accommodate the airline's new DC8 fleet.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-2008-8-D93.

Air pageant and opening

Air New Zealand's new DC8s were a highlight at the opening of Auckland Airport.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-2008-8-W77.

The airport was officially opened on 29 January 1966 by the Governor General, Sir Bernard Fergusson. Opening day visitors could walk around the tarmac and look at the buildings, including the Air New Zealand area. Outside the attendees could view a wide range of civilian and military aircraft from all over the world.

The action was not just on the ground, but also in the air. Throughout the event, aircraft (including the New Zealand and United States airforce) performed spectacular flybys, and there were aerobatics and large parachuting displays. Crowds literally lined the runway to watch the show.

Inside the air pageant (also called a sky pageant) there were displays arranged by airlines and associated businesses. These displays were staffed and offered a glimpse at future prospects opened up by the new international airport.

One display in particular shows the ambition of one of the early providers of international air service to New Zealand, Pan American. Their display featured a "Concord Supersonic" promoting their pre-ordered Concorde line. The Pan Am Concorde was not to be as the company later cancelled citing the high cost of supersonic travel.

Pan American display on opening day at Auckland International Airport.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-2008-8-V116.

Cite this article

Higgins, Shaun. Documenting the new Auckland International Airport. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 26 January 2016. Updated: 11 March 2016.

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