What's in a name? Aviation history fun facts

ZQN 1948 Pioneer aviators with Proctor ZK AJY Barry Topliss Fred Popeye Lucas Trevor Cheetham Bill Hewett via Malcolm Topliss
Queenstown Airport 1948, pioneer aviators (from left to right): Barry Topliss, Fred ‘Popeye’ Lucas, Trevor Cheetham, and Bill Hewett with the Proctor ZK-AJY.  Thanks to Malcolm Topliss for sharing this historic photo!

Aviation history fun facts - airport street names

Ever wondered how the streets around Queenstown Airport got their names?  They’re all based on aviation pioneers… 

  • Lucas Place (SH6 to Remarkables Park):  Named after Frederick Lucas, better known as ‘Popeye’.  ‘Popeye’ served with RAF Bomber Command and later commanded an RNZAF Transport Squadron in the Pacific.  With ex-servicemen Bill Hewett and Barry Topliss, he formed Southern Scenic Air Services in 1947, pioneering freight, scenic charters, topdressing, scheduled passenger services, and supply drop flying. 
  • Tex Smith Lane (laneway into GA precinct):  Legendary bush pilot Tex Smith MBE was the longest serving pioneer general aviation pilot in this area, clocking up over 23,000 hours.  Although he was a man of few words, Tex was revered by the GA community - hence the inspiration for the name.
  • Sir Henry Wigley Drive (main road into airport):  Sir Henry "Harry" Rodolph Wigley was a pilot, entrepreneur and pioneer of NZ’s travel and tourism industry who was well liked and respected nationwide.  He became a flying instructor for the RNZAF, a fighter pilot, a businessman and an inventor – landing the first ski plane on the Tasman Glacier in 1955, a feat which became a part of Mt Cook’s core tourism offering.  He was also captain of the NZ ski team in 1936-37 and, after the war, led his company in establishing new ski-fields and facilities at Coronet Peak and Ohau.