Press Release

First in Flying – Marlborough Aero Club Turns 90

The Marlborough Aero Club will be celebrating its 90th anniversary on 4th July 2018. A weekend of celebration is planned for 6th, 7th & 8th July. The Aero Club hopes to reunite many of the people and the planes that have contributed to its success over the past nine decades. Members and former students have flown and are still flying in every corner of the world.

The Marlborough Aero Club was established by flying enthusiasts in 1928 “to promote, encourage, and develop the study, research and practice aeronautics” – part of the wording of a motion that was carried at a public meeting in Blenheim on 4th July 1928, formally constituting the organization.

Encouraged by the Canterbury Aviation Company a local Marlborough Committee prevailed upon the then Borough Council to put aside 30 acres of the Marlborough Domain for an aerodrome, this was increased to 75 acres the following year. It became the historic Omaka airfield which is still owned by the Marlborough Aero Club.

The Marlborough Aero Club was the first in New Zealand to have its own aeroplane. The Club was loaned one of the first Gypsy Moth aircraft by the Government in 1929 and flying operations began on 19th February 1929, a DH60G Gypsy Moth registration G-NZAX then, on 19th March ZK-AAA was presented to the Aero Club and from there it grew.

Marlborough, the Aero Club and the Omaka airfield have a colourful history with close ties to the pioneering exploits of New Zealand’s early aviators. From the world’s first recorded topdressing flight by hot air balloon in the 1890s to New Zealand’s first air pageant in 1930 at the new Omaka aerodrome.

When Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm made the first trans-Tasman flight from Sydney to Christchurch in the Southern Cross on September 11 1928,
Marlborough’s new aero club encouraged him to use the field for the historic return flight on 13 October 1928 and the famous aviatrix Jean Batten brought her Percival Gull to Omaka during her nationwide tour to celebrate her famous solo flight from England.

Omaka has also produced its own record breaking aviator – Arthur Clouston – who learned to fly there, found fame in 1938 for flying around the world from London (via Australia). After landing at Omaka Aerodrome, he turned around the very next day and headed back to England, completing the epic trip in under 11 days.

The Aero Club continues to go from strength to strength boasting a membership of over 350 and there is as much enthusiasm today as there always was. They are all about keeping the fun in flying. Home of the Healthy Bastards Bush Pilots Championships, the club also runs regular strip flying courses to enable the skills of those early aviators to be passed on to a new generation, while the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre ensures that the skies over Marlborough are still alive with the fabulous and amazing flying machines of yesteryear.

For further information please call Marlborough Aeroclub – 03 578 5076.

or email –


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