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100 Years of Flight

June 4

Plane lands on Hokitika Beach

An important new transport connection from the West Coast to Canterbury was made on 4th June 1924 when Captain Maurice Buckley and mechanic Bill Harrington, flew Avro 504K (H5241) Blazing Arrow from Greymouth to Christchurch, pioneering the very first aerial crossing of the Southern Alps. The aircraft had flown the first flights on the West Coast as a key feature of the British and Intercolonial Exhibition, a small world’s fair, held at Hokitika between 15 December 1923 and 2 February 1924. Buckley and Harrington flew off West Coast beaches for several months doing joy-riding with more than 500 passengers and as far north as Westport and Karamea. A highlight flight was on 22 January 1924 when the Blazing Arrow flew the first flight to South Westland and return. When the joy-riding was all over, Captain Buckley (a WWI trained pilot), with Harrington, after a delay due to the weather, left Greymouth at 2.20pm on 4 June 1924 and flew to the Sockburn Airfield at Christchurch in a flight time of about one hour and 30 minutes. A height of about 8,000ft was reached by the Avro. The first-trans-alpine flight was a start to the revolution of air travel to come – and which continues as an essential aspect of domestic air travel to and from the West Coast to this very day.

On Tuesday 4th June 2024 – the 100th anniversary of the first trans-alpine flight -passengers on all Air New Zealand scheduled flights will be informed of the milestone day, along with some festivities at the Hokitika Airport Terminal. Local aero clubs are planning special flights (weather dependent), and newspaper feature articles on both sides of the alps will pay tribute to the aviation pioneers and celebrate the trans-alpine air route – surely one of the most scenic in the world.


June 4
Event Category:


150 Years of Connection Project
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