A Major Milestone for One of New Zealand’s Leading Airports

May 18, 1940

On New Zealand’s South Island, an airport located in the community of Harewood (about 7.5 miles [12 kilometers] northwest of the central part of the city of Christchurch) was officially opened for commercial flights. Originally called Harewood Airport, this complex is now known worldwide as Christchurch Airport.

The genesis of that airport can be traced to 1935, when the Christchurch City Council purchased land in Harewood as the site for such a facility. A couple of years later, the initial infrastructure for the airport was built. This infrastructure consisted of a 3,002-foot (915-meter) runway and a 646-square foot (60-square meter) terminal.

Bob Semple, New Zealand’s minister of public works, presided at the opening of the airport to commercial traffic on May 18, 1940. Approximately 1,000 people attended this Saturday event, during which Semple unveiled a commemorative tablet at the entrance to the airport’s administrative offices.

In addition, several Royal New Zealand Air Force pilots flew their planes both above the airport and onto its grounds. These pilot “gave exhibitions of formation flying, diving, taxi-ing and taking off,” according to one newspaper account.

A decade after those inaugural festivities, Christchurch Airport achieved another notable milestone when it became New Zealand’s first international airport. This facility now ranks second only to Auckland Airport as New Zealand’s busiest airport in terms of both passengers and aircraft movements.

Photo Credit: CHCBOY (licensed under Creative Commons)

For more information on the opening of Harewood Airport (present-day Christchurch Airport) for commercial flights, please check out https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/press

Additional information on this airport’s history is available at https://www.christchurchairport.co.nz/about-us/who-we-are/airport-history/

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