Today in Transportation History – 1921: An Aviation Pioneer Introduces Airmail to New Zealand

In New Zealand, aviation pioneer George B. Bolt inaugurated the first regular airmail service between the cities of Auckland and Whangarei. This venture marked only the latest of his major contributions to airborne transportation in his homeland.

Bolt, who had been born in the city of Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island in 1893, developed a strong enthusiasm for flying while he was still a teenager and eventually mastered various types of aircraft. He took the first aerial photographs of New Zealand in 1912. In addition, Bolt set a number of New Zealand flight records during the course of that decade. One of these was establishing an altitude record of 6,500 feet off the ground in 1919.

It was also in 1919 that Bolt first began making experimental airmail flights. In January 1921, he initiated New Zealand’s first regular airmail service with flights from Christchurch to the port city of Timaru and town of Ashburton. He launched the Auckland-Whangarei airmail route just a little over three months later, initially using a Submarine Channel flying boat and eventually piloting such other aircraft as Avro planes for postal deliveries.

More than a month after Bolt began transporting mail between Auckland and Whangarei, someone named W.A. Waters accompanied him on a run and then wrote about the experience for the Auckland Star newspaper. His article even noted how he felt after he and Bolt had completed the flight. “It was with feelings of regret that I stepped off that Avro H 2990, feeling sorry that such a delightful trip was finished,” reported Waters.

Notwithstanding the best efforts of Bolt and the positive tone of Waters’ article, the Auckland-Whangarei airmail route did not prove to be profitable and soon came to an end. While short-lived, this mail-delivery enterprise also underscored Bolt’s pioneering spirit and his determination to make the most of airborne transportation opportunities in New Zealand. Bolt, who died in 1963, continued to pursue his passion for aviation in various ways. The main access road to Auckland International Airport was named after him.

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