History of the
Napier Aero Club

Napier Aero Club. 1934/35

1907 - 1928


With the return of Ogilvie and Hawkins, about 1912,
from the disappointing UK venture, activity around the
'hangar' site would have more than likely been confined to
dismantling the launching ramp, disposing of the last 'machine'
and probably pondering the futility of any further
flying experiments.
A sad time for all.

Throughout the 1914-18 war and the influenza epidemic which followed, flying interests would have been
overshadowed by the grief and family commitment these two events created.
We have no record of hangar-happenings through this period. However, there is a story...

Ogilvie, Hawkins and others were experimenting to develop a system of
'dipping' a motor vehicle's headlights from the blinding 'high-beam'.
With an increase of vehicles appearing on the roads around then,
this problem was becoming more apparent.


Richmond Block

With the gradual termination of the the influenza epidemic, and the return
from service of some Royal Flying Corps personnel, the hangar, it seems, became
the meeting place of the aviation-minded locals. They realised that powered-flight
had a future, so set about building an aerodrome, close to the hangar - roughly where
Maraenui borders Riverbend Road, (at that time it was called Richmond Block).


The airstrip, (prone to flooding),provided for a short time a landing area for
visiting pioneer aviators who, at this time, were attempting to promote and
demonstrate the various aircraft becoming available for sale. These pioneers were
also attempting to set up a network of hazard-free landing-strips between
New Zealand towns and cities for future passenger and mail services.

Dominion Airlines Ltd.


At the same time the airstrip was in development, a glider was 'in-build' in the hangar.
This project came about via some very coincidental events.
This glider shot, (right), taken on the Embankment drome, could possibly be
similar to the one being built in the Riverbend Road hangar,
but was wrecked along with the hangar in the 1931 earthquake.


The area around the 1907 hangar site sited the homes of Captain Hawkins and Lew Harris,
(later Sir Lew Harris, whose family is still involved with the Napier Aero Club). Napier's Collector of Customs also lived near the hangar. Next door, unused tobacco from the National Tobacco Coy was occasionally burnt,
(to avoid duty that was paid only on the used product).

The young son of the company's Founder - Tye Husheer - possibly supervised the tobacco's transport to the site.
With his interest in aviation, eventually linked up with the Ogilvie-Hawkins team.
The Husheer family had links to the Walsh Brothers and their flying school at Kohamaramara.
So, too, a young pilot by the name of
Arnold Wright - gaining his pilot's certificate, (1918),
at the Walsh Bros flying school.

So...the two periods of Napier's early aviation came together.
The Napier Aero Club was formed from the old 1907 hangar in Riverbend Road on 10th.October 1928.


During a special General Meeting of the Napier Aero Club on Thursday 14th.March 1946,
the Chairman, Mr. E.N.H. Stewart, (a first world war R.F.C. pilot), outlined the club's past history.
The minutes reveal he mentioned; "..from it's founding after the first world war."
Many records of Napier's history were destroyed in the fire of damaged buildings
at the time of the 1931 earthquake. We are attempting to trace more info.

1928 - 1939    
An inspection of the Riverbend Road airstrip as a proposed airport for Napier,
by Squadron Leader
L.M. Isett, ( Commanding Officer of the NZ Permanent Air Force base
at Auckland), produced an adverse report - particularly since his visit coincided with
heavy rain and flooding. This confirmed what had already been discovered earlier
by some visiting pilots.

S/Ldr. L.M. Isett
This outcome sealed the fate of any further commercial development in this area.
A sad disappointment for the Napier Aero Club members, who had spent so much time and effort to develop the airstrip.
February 3rd 1931
The day of the Earthquake (7ยท5 Richter scale) which destroyed the Napier & Hastings
business areas, and caused destruction throughout Hawke's Bay.



Hastings Street, Napier,
looking up towards
Shakespeare Rd. after
partial clean-up. 1931
The Napier club's hangar was completely wrecked, including the glider inside. What a sudden end to Napier's
historic site of early aviation pioneers... and,for a short time,a frustration as to 'what next ?'

Cnr. Hastings-Emerson Sts.,
Napier. March/April 1931.

Looking down
Emerson St.
Feb/March 1931

Hastings Street, Napier,
from bottom of Shakespeare Rd.
after partial clean-up. 1931
The Earthquake raised, (by about 8-feet), and drained the Napier/Ahuriri inner harbour - a very large area.
Previously, it was normally well under water - a popular sailing
and swimming 'lagoon.' But now, here was a large area of
'new land' with 'potential.'
The members of the club were quick to realise this.

Inner harbour prior to earthquake
This 'gift from the sea' was their possible answer to
establishing an aerodrome.
They set about obtaining a lease of an area they felt could be
successfully drained - also capable of handling
most aircraft types flying in New Zealand at that time.

This site became known as the 'Embankment Drome' to
local folk because the area ran alongside a road and rail
embankment. Eventually, it was called 'Napier's Aero Club.'

The sea-bed area,
now exposed after the earthquake.
Photo - 1932.
With the leasing of this 'new land,' and the commitment by the members of the club,
it was obvious there would be considerable effort involved to drain areas still under slush and sea water,
clear patches of salt weed and to compact the spread of sea shell layers over most of the site.
Napier Aero Club Page 2..