Hokitika received its first true airliner service on the 2nd of March 1953 when NAC introduced its 24-seater Douglas DC-3 service from Paraparaumu (Wellington being closed for the construction of the new airport), Nelson and Westport. Mr R Nossiter, the traffic control officer at Hokitika told the Hokitika Guardian that the Dakota was really too large for passenger potential but that the corporation did not have at present any smaller machine. The first one plane service from Wellington to Hokitika was operated by Lodestars for three months following the opening of Hokitika’s new airport. The re-introduction of the one plane service from Wellington was largely due to agitation by the Hokitika Progress League, with NAC insisting that it was for a trial period only, after which the position would be reviewed.
|NAC timetable, effective 13 April 1953|
|Douglas DC-3 ZK-BKD at Hokitika. Photo : I Woolhouse|
In the early 1960s NAC upgraded fourteen of their DC-3 aircraft. These were designated as Douglas DC-3 “Skyliners” and they featured larger windows and a more mordern passenger cabin.
|An example of the 'updgraded' Douglas DC-3 Skyliner ZK-AWP taken at Hokitika in the late 1960s or 1970. Photo Robbie Condon (Mike's Dad)|
NAC timetable effective 24 August 1964
Greymouth Evening Star, 5 November 1963
Meanwhile, Hokitika continued to press for the introduction of a trans-alpine Fokker Friendship service to Christchurch and in May 1966 Sir Andrew McKee, NAC’s chairman gave Hokitika an assurance that a daily return service to Christchurch would be provided by 1968.
|Hokitika Guardian, 7 December 1967|
On the 1st of April 1968 passenger loads to and from Westport were reduced with the imposition of new weight restrictions on DC-3 aircraft with seating on the aircraft being cut. The restrictions were to give the DC-3s a better performance on take-off, especially if the aircraft encountered an engine failure on take-off. The immediate effect of the restriction was that on the Nelson-Westport route the aircraft was restricted to 21 passengers southbound and 23 northbound. Because of the higher temperatures during the summer the limitations were 18 passengers between Westport and Nelson and 19 between Nelson and Westport. This of course impacted on to loadings out of Hokitika. To compensate for this the DC-3 service to Hokitika was flown Monday to Friday inclusive from February 1968 until the 20th of May when the winter timetable reverted to Monday, Wednesday and Friday flights.
NAC timetable, effective 20 December 1968... the DC-3 operating the service north to Westport, Nelson and Wellington and the Frienship to Christchurch.
|Douglas DC-3 ZK-BEU at Hokitika on 1 June 1970, a few days before its final service to Hokitika. Photo : B Whebell|
The final Douglas DC-3 flight to Hokitika was on the 5th of June 1970 in DC-3 ZK-BEU under the command of Captain Max Schlegel, N.A.C.’s youngest captain, and First Officer Tony Foley with Pam White being the hostess. Among those on board was Captain Jimmy Cane who flew the first NAC Hokitika-Westport service on 1 October 1947. The Nelson Evening Mail recorded the final flight to Hokitika. Its last call at Hokitika was also marked with presentations - a picture of a DC3 to the people of the town from N.A.C. and signed by all the incoming passengers, was handed to the Mayor, Mr W. F. Richards, by Mr Bryan. Again there were short speeches touching on the sadder side of the day and again a final run over the town to give a last glimpse of a sight which has grown to be so familiar. Even Mount Cook came from behind the clouds to gaze in white splendour.
De Havilland Fox Moths and Dragon Rapide/Dominies