Rare bird returns home to Queenstown this weekend

A Dominie during its last flying days at Queenstown in 1969

A Dominie during its last flying days at Queenstown Airport in 1969


A ‘rare bird’ will take flight over Queenstown this weekend as part of the Aviation Pioneers’ 70th Anniversary Reunion, which runs 7-9 April.

The 1943 de Havilland DH89 Dominie ZK-AKY biplane, known as ‘Tui’, arrives at Queenstown Airport at midday on Friday (7 April) and will be the centrepiece of the celebration. 

Dominies were the main aircraft used for scenic, scheduled and charter work at Queenstown Airport from the mid-1950s to the early 70s.

On Friday night, more than 120 former staff from the region’s original airlines – Southern Scenic Air Services, Ritchie Air Services, West Coast Airways, Tourist Air Travel, and Mt Cook Airline - and their families will come together from all around NZ and overseas for a social event, swapping stories and examining photos and memorabilia.

On Saturday, the Dominie will take to the skies for the first time with scenic flights for reunion attendees planned for 9am, 10:30am and 11:30am.  Interested members of the public can also register their interest for flights in the afternoon by contacting Air Milford ($75 per person).

On Sunday 9 April, a Palm Sunday service will be held at Frankton Presbyterian Church focussing on Queenstown aviation pioneers and paying tribute to those who died in early operations.

Then all eyes will be on the skies for the big finale at 10:30am as the Dominie and four veteran Cessnas take off at Queenstown Airport and perform a tribute flypast in formation over Frankton and Queenstown Bay. 

At 84 years young, retired pilot Russell Troon from Christchurch is the ‘most senior’ reunion attendee and says he can’t wait to catch up with his old mates and see the Dominie back in action again.

“I started work as a pilot at Queenstown Airport – or Frankton Aerodrome, as it was known then – in 1953 and the Dominie was always a favourite, especially after the open Tiger Moth cockpit.  The various Dominies did us proud over the years and we were all very fond of them.  I am so looking forward to seeing ZK-AKY.  It’s really going to take me back when I hear the sound of the engine and see her airborne again.”