|The first Friendship flight to Hokitika. ZK-NAH at Hokitika on 4 November 1967. Photo : Robbie Condon|
Following this visit, in February 1968, NAC received permission to use Hokitika airport for Friendship services and preparations were made for the launch of a regular Christchurch-Hokitika Friendship service to begin in December 1968. On the 3rd of September 1968 a promotional Friendship flight was made to Hokitika by ZK-BXC. The Nelson Evening Mail recounted that the airline officials and invited guests were wooed with words, an airport welcome by the Kokatahi Band, schooners of beer, more whitebait than they could eat at lunch and greenstone gifts as they departed. One of the guests was 84 year old Mr T. E. Y. Seddon, son of “King Dick”, Richard John Seddon and himself M.P. for Westland from 1906 to 1920 and again from 1925 to 1928. Mr Seddon recalled that he rode in a cattle truck on the first train from Greymouth to Hokitika in 1983! During the day scenic flights were to be offered around Mount Cook but cloud around Mount Cook prevented the Friendship getting that far south.
|Greymouth Evening Star, 2 December 1968|
NAC inaugurated its Christchurch-Hokitika Friendship service on the 20th of December 1968. Fokker Friendship ZK-BXI flew the first flight which was under the command of Captain R W Patterson and First Officer R F Trowsdale with a local woman, Joan Gilbert, as hostess. On board were the mayors of Christchurch, Mr A. F. Guthrey, Hokitika, Mr W. J. Richards, (Hokitika), Greymouth, Mr O. H. Jackson and Westport, Mr W. A. Craddock, and Mr W. J. Harrington, who made the first trans-alpine flight in 1925 and Mr Frank Molloy, former NAC chief pilot of Hokitika.
|Hokitika Guardian 20 December 1968|
|Greymouth Evening Star, 20 December 1968|
The trans-alpine initially operated on a daily basis with the Christchurch flight connecting with the DC-3 flight from Wellington, Nelson and Westport as well as the Mount Cook Air Services ski-plane service to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier (http://3rdlevelnz.blogspot.co.nz/2011/02/south-westland-skiplane-air-service.html).
|Great evidence of Hokitika's gravel runway. ZK-BXC at Hokitika in December 1968. Photo : W Cropp|
|From the NAC timetable 20 December 1968, showing the first Friendship flights. These ran daily over the summer before the schedule reduced to four flights a week.|
Hokitika saw further expansion onthe 1st of November 1970 when the Westport Airport was reopened. A two-way service Friendship service from Wellington to Nelson, Westport, Hokitika and Christchurch which operated six days a week, though the two Friendship services departed at similar times to each other.
|Friendship ZK-BXG at Hokitika a few days before the DC-3 service ended. The DC-3's wing is to the left of the photo. Photo taken at Hokitika on 2 June 1970 by B Whebell|
While the trans-alpine service continued to be successful the Nelson-Westport-Hokitika service continued to be a loss maker. There was very little through traffic on the Nelson-Hokitika and Westport-Christchurch links. Only 1.8 passengers travelled from Westport to Christchurch each day, 1.4 from Westport to Hokitika and 1.85 from Hokitika to Westport and Nelson. NAC announced it was going to withdraw the flights between Westport and Hokitika from the 6th of June 1972 with Hokitika receiving a Sunday to Friday service from Christchurch and Westport a Sunday to Friday service from Wellington and Nelson. This cut saved the National Airways Corporation some $ 85,000.
|The daily summer holiday schedule with flights to all centres being via Christchurch, 21 December 1973|
|Christchurch Star, 17 September 1974|
In 1975 NAC introduced its new "Wings of the Nations" orange and red colour scheme and it carried this scheme until the merger with Air New Zealand in 1978.
|From the NAC Sales Brief, November 1975... Above "Dad's Army" and below long time NAC agent Des Wright|
|The two Friendship timetable as in the NAC timetable, effective 31 January 1977|
|Friendship ZK-NAH at Hokitika on 25 September 1977. The new terminal on the left is still under construction while the original terminal that was used on the Southside aerodrome by Air Travel is behind the Friendship. Photo : B Whebell|