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West Auckland Airport, 76 Green Rd, Parakai, West Auckland. Road Map.. Ph 09 420.8010
 

 

 

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History of West Auckland Airport:

 

 

Parakai Airfield in the 1980s

 

Parakai Airfield in 1995

 

GA Operations: After operating from 'Helensville Airfield' at Helensville from the 1930s (an original 1940s round hangar can still be seen across the road from the parachuting sausage sign in Mill Rd), the Helensville Aero Club moved to Green Rd at Parakai in the 1960s and the aerodrome was renamed 'Parakai Airfield'. In 2011 it was renamed 'West Auckland Airport'.

Almost every type of General Aviation (GA) operation has been carried out from the facility at Parakai over the last 50 years.

In May 1984 the Rodney County Council (as it was then) gave 'Planning Consent' for the aerodrome to be realigned onto its current position and to subdivide its 1015m x 150m block onto a separate title in order to secure its long term future as an aerodrome. The consent authorised the construction, as necessary over time to support changing activity, of a runway up to 1000m x 60m with aircraft manouvering areas, hangars, control tower, terminal with cafe and the usual airport ancilliary buildings.

As a designated aerodrome the controlling body is the Civil Aviation Authority, which carries out regular inspections and whose regulations cover the clearances and conditions of operation.

The Pine Family owned the land in the 1980s and they and the club members raised funds and with considerable volunteer labour built up an all-weather runway, and constructed the major facilities: Customer reception, clubrooms, cafe, flying school offices, briefing rooms, parachute packing building, bunkhouse and the supporting infrastructure such as aprons, parking areas and Aircraft refuelling.

Along with club activities, flying school and scheduled air transport operations, many types of General Aviation were developed with an emphasis on Sports and Tourist Skydiving operations. In 1992, 2003 and 2012 the NZ National Skydive Championships were held at West Auckland Parakai.

The Lockie family purchased the property in 2005, 'The Parakai Story', Pacific Wings Magazine. They have constructed hangars, renovated the original buildings, upgraded the runway and taxiways, built an airport manager's house, and continued to improve the facilities to serve General Aviation for the West and North West of Auckland.

 

 

Helensville Aerodrome site from 1930s to 1960s (outlined in red with large white building now filling the end of what was once the runway)

 

Old H'ville aerodrome was across the road from this sign

 

Tiger Moth, photo Tim Lockie
Tiger Moth over West Auckland Airport

Beaver ZK-BVR lifted Skydivers at West Auckland Parakai from 1994.

Islander ZK-KHB

Cessna Caravan, ZK-VAN

 

Three Pac750XL Skydive planes on the apron

 

Skydiving: For the past 50 years, skydiving has been a major activity at West Auckland Parakai, with various operators and a wide variety of aircraft.

One of the early heavy lifters was the Beaver, ZK-BVR with a large radial engine. This aircraft started life with Central African Airways in 1951. It moved to Australia and flew as VH-EPY with Western Aerial Crop Spraying, and in 1994 this Beaver moved to West Auckland and worked as the main skydive jump ship under its NZ registration, ZK-BVR.

When replaced by the Nomad ZK-OUT and the Islander ZK-KHB, the Beaver was sold and in 2010 was still active, as N888KM, in Washington State USA

Parakai Aviation operated a gas turbine powered Cessna Caravan, for both scheduled air services to Great Barrier Island and to lift large numbers of skydivers. See Mag Article #1 and #2 .

Skydiver in 1960s with an early steerable chute

Air Traffic Control: Skydiving from West Auckland makes use of the Civil Aviation Authority's officially approved Parachute Drop Zone based on the airfield. The airspace up to 2500 feet is under control of the pilots using the CAA allocated Parakai/West Auckland frequency of 123.5 mhz, and above 2500 feet Air Traffic 'Approach Control' for Auckland International Airport clears the airspace to 16,500 feet as required for skydiving or aerobatics.

Many Kiwis and Overseas Visitors have experienced the thrill of tandem jumps over the sandhills near Muriwai Beach. From 10,000 feet there is a view from Whangarei to Mt Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki in clear conditions.

 

Tandem Skydive about to touch down

Southern Saltmarsh Mosquito: The discovery of this species of Australian mosquito (vector of the Ross River fever) in the area led to intensive low level helicopter operations for five years from 2003 to 2008, flown by Hawkes Bay Helicopters working out of the West Auckland Parakai airspace.

The eradication program was officially opened by the Minister for the Environment at the time, Marian Hobbs, on 21st Feb 2003.

Hawkes Bay Helicopter's 'Bell 500' ZK-HRF, did the drops and inspections.

 

ZK-VAN, a Gas Turbine (Jet prop) Cessna Caravan, loading passengers at West Auckland (Parakai). This aircraft flew scheduled passenger airline operations to Great Barrier Island and other destinations, and during its spare time lifted large loads of skydivers.

Scheduled Passenger Operations: In the 1990s Parakai Aviation Ltd ran a scheduled passenger operation to Great Barrier Island, using this Cessna 'Caravan' aircraft, ZK-VAN. See Mag Article #1 and #2 (after loading click on the small page image to expand to readable size).

Aircraft Types: Aviation is a constantly changing industry, and many different types of aircraft have worked from West Auckland Parakai over the years... the heavy radial engined Beavers, twin engine Nomads and Islanders, gas turbine Caravans and PAC XL750s used to lift large numbers of skydivers and their tandem masters, the Navy with its Sea Sprite helicopter training sorties, Search and Rescue aircraft of various types, and the Sports Aircraft and Helicopters of more recent times. Click on Aircraft portraits to see some of the aircraft that operate out of West Auckland (all photos taken at West Auckland Airport).

 

Gliding: The West Coast is a good gliding range, and gliders find West Auckland's closeness to the Muriwai sand dunes, and the hills on the eastern side, useful for providing lift to get home.

World Record. Towed off from West Auckland Parakai on 15th March 2007, Murray Wardell of the Auckland Gliding Club achieved the distance for a World Gliding Record for PW-5 Distance using up to 3 turn points = 597.1km.  Flight time 6 hours 45mts.

Cessna 172 tug towing a Murray Wardell off on his successful record attempt (the obstructing trees in this photo have since been trimmed to clear the approach/climb out fan).

 

NZ Navy Sea Sprite (Aerial-Imagery photo)

Military: The Navy Sea Sprites based at Whenuapai with #6 squadron, and Air Force Iroquois helicopters from #3 squadron based at Ohakea, plus the Air Force fixed wing aircraft, make use of West Auckland Airport for training exercises for their specialist staff to practice operations, for military and rescue purposes.

The Air Training Corps, holds regular training camps at West Auckland Airport to give air cadets flying experience prior to many of them taking up a professional flying career.

 

 

Civil Defence and Emergencies: West Auckland Airport Parakai is available 24/7 for Search and Rescue, Police, Fire, Ambulance and Coastguard services to use as required.

If emergency aircraft have to wait for further instructions, they prefer to do so on the ground rather than in the air with risk of later running low on fuel. Even helicopters will use an airport if possible as the position is precisely known and they can be sure that there will be no obstructions on approach at night or in poor visibility.

The airport is listed on NZ and International airspace maps as Parakai Aerodrome 'NZPI' and in the Jepperson database for Air GPS systems, for emergency use by any aircraft in distress. It is part of the NZ's alternate infrastructure for civil defence in case of earthquake or other disruption to roads.

Over the years there have been many uses by various organisations, and 'any port in a storm' landings by aviators caught out by lowering cloud and decreasing visibility and so requiring a West Auckland airfield at sea level.

 


Coastguard Cessna 172 at West Auckland. (Bob Dedekind photo)

'Wings' Magazine Oct 1992 advert.

Parakai Flying School 1990s

     'Tecnam P92 Echo Super', the main training aircraft in 2005.

Training: Many of today's commercial pilots learned to fly at West Auckland Parakai, starting as 'Ab Initio' Students and progressing through a Private Pilots Licence (PPL) and Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) with the Aero Clubs, Flying Schools and Air Transport Operations based on the airfield. One of the flying schools specialised in Beach and Short Airstrip training, using local topdressing strips and nearby beaches in combination with West Auckland Parakai for the training.

Mag Article #1 and #2 (after loading click on the small page image to expand to readable size).

Pilot training has used Cessna and Piper aircraft, such as the Cessna 150 Aerobats ZK-DRJ and ZK-DPL during the 1990s. During the 2000s training moved European Robin aircraft for PPL/CPL, and Tecnams running Rotax 912S engines with muffler systems meeting the European noise specs and a slow turning (geared) propellor to reduce noise. These are environmentally friendly aircraft with a fuel consumption of around 7L/100km using standard unleaded petrol. 

Cessna Aerobats on Pouto Beach

 

Agriculture:

The cost of air drops for farmers is determined by the distance from the landing strip to the drop zone and the load able to be carried on each flight, and hence the usable length of the runway.

Ag aircraft save fuel, time and costs for local farmers by using West Auckland's long runway and clear approaches to carry full loads and so complete the task with the minimum number of flights.

 

 

Super Air Ltd's Cresco topdressing plane loading cricket baits. (Aerial-Imagery photo)

 

 

Winter 2007...

"Lights, Camera, Action" as the Chatham Islands Embraer aircraft ZK-RDI is lined up on runway 25 apparently ready for takeoff.

Video and film production: Many videos have been produced at West Auckland Airport Parakai, with Chris and Leanne Pine running a specialised video production business on the airfield during their time of ownership up to 2005.

This video connection has continued. The wide range of backgrounds and non-public environments is attractive to film crews.

Here a film crew is simulating an airfield on the South American pampas, with the toitoi in the background at West Auckland looking much like pampas grass of South America.

 

More History: If anyone has old photos, club or flying school magazines, additional information... or just stories of times gone by about events on the Helensville Airfield / Parakai Airfield / West Auckland Airport, please let us know so we can build up this History page. We're especially keen to get photos of aircraft or skydivers on the airport with the background being as interesting as the subject...

 

 

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