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Queenstown Airport marks 85 years

Queenstown Airport began serving the communities of the Southern Lakes region 85 years ago on Friday, August 14, making it one of the oldest commercial airports in New Zealand operating on its original site.

Through the decades the airport has evolved from an airstrip to the international airport it is in 2020.

In 1935 the population of Queenstown was about 1000. Today it is approximately 28,000. The airport and the businesses operating here have grown with the district as both the resident population and visitor numbers have increased over time. It is a unique situation – a small population hosting an international airport, and because of the thriving general aviation activity in and around Queenstown, one of the busiest airfields in the country.

“Queenstown Airport has been an integral part of the district’s fabric throughout its history supporting and contributing to a vibrant and prosperous place," says Queenstown Airport chief executive Colin Keel.

"As we mark its 85th birthday, albeit in very different circumstances than we expected when we began our planning at the start of the year, it is timely to reflect on the gumption and pioneering spirit of those who founded the airport and developed this alpine aviation base over the decades.”

“We’ve been flying to Queenstown since the 1960s and have since worked closely with the airport to achieve several milestones like night flying in 2016 and most recently the Required Navigation Performance (RNP AR) technology on our ATRs which means bad weather will have less of an impact on our flights," says Air New Zealand Group general manager airports Leanne Geraghty.

"Queenstown continues to be a popular destination for Air New Zealand customers.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Queenstown Airport and the local community to support the region’s long-term success.”

“My first acquaintance with Queenstown Airport was in 1966 when as a very young student pilot my logbook tells me that I flew in from Invercargill in a Victa Airtourer," says Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult.

"The 'terminal' in those days was something of a shed, and the facilities were rudimentary indeed. I think I am right that the sealed runway did not arrive until the late ‘60s when the impending arrival of Mount Cook Airlines’ Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft made this essential. Many extensions and upgrades later, I still well recall the original terminal with a partial wire fence separating the public from the aircraft.

“From those very humble beginnings, Queenstown Airport has developed over the last 85 years to be a vital gateway for the district’s economy, for locals to visit friends and whƒÅnau, and as a starting point for worldwide travel. And as well as serving up one of the most stunning entry points to our area, it also provides an essential lifeline in times of crisis and emergency. How wonderful it is to have our airport so close to us, and I’m not surprised at the number of locals who frequently comment to me about its convenience.

"I, for one, am delighted the airport has endured and I am sure will be here for future generations to enjoy whatever advances in flight technology are in store in the decades to come," says Mayor Bolt.

“Happy birthday and congratulations to Queenstown Airport, celebrating 85 years of connecting people with one of our country’s most beautiful destinations," says Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood.

"Few places on earth are as spectacular and as aviation gets past its current challenges, we know the airport will continue to serve the people of Queenstown and Central Otago for many years to come.”

“Community has been at the heart of Queenstown Airport throughout the decades and the airport is literally at the heart of the community," says Colin. "As we pay tribute to those early aviation pioneers, I’d also like to acknowledge and thank the many people in our community who work at the airport now or have in the past.

“We all carry forward an important legacy as we continue to adapt and innovate in shaping the future of Queenstown Airport for generations to come.”

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