West Auckland Airport History
After operating from 'Helensville Airfield' at Helensville from the 1930s in Mill road opposite Liberty Brewing, the Helensville Aero Club moved to Green Rd at Parakai in the 1960s and the aerodrome was renamed 'Parakai Airfield'. In the 1980s the runway was rebuilt on a new alignment, and in 2011 it was renamed 'West Auckland Airport'. In 2020 the West Auckland Airport Company Ltd was granted 'Airport Authority' status by Govt Order in Council, effective 1st April 2020.
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 manoeuvring areas, hangars, control tower, terminal with cafe and airport ancilliary buildings as required. 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. They have constructed hangars, renovated the original buildings, upgraded the runway and taxiways, built an airport manager's house, obtained 'Airport Authority' status, and continued to improve the facilities to serve Aviation for the West and North West of Auckland.
Skydiving: For the past 50 years, commercial 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.
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 20,000 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.
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. Further Mosquito Operations were held in early 2019 to eradicate a different type of mosquito that had been found in the Kaipara harbour area.
Regular Passenger Transport (RPT) Operations: In the late 1990s Parakai Aviation Ltd ran a scheduled passenger operation to Great Barrier Island, using mainly the Partenavia ZK-PFT and a Cessna 'Caravan' aircraft, ZK-VAN.
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 gliding attempt. 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.
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. West Auckland Airport makes its training aircraft available at discounted rates for volunteer instructors to take up the cadets for flight experience and a turn on the controls.
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.
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.
Most pilot training during the 1980s and 1990s used Cessna and Piper aircraft. During the 2000s the pilot training moved to European Tecnam aircraft running Rotax 912S engines with muffler systems meeting the European noise specs and a slow turning (geared) propellor to reduce noise. In accordance with the Airport's strong requirement for environmental sensitivity, a factor in the choice of aircraft was their low fuel consumption (around 7L/100km, lower than many cars), and engines designed to use standard unleaded petrol.
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 which depends on the usable runway length available. 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.
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.
'Brokenwood' Mystery TV Series: The Airport's Tecnam ZK-CDL was used for the Brokenwood series in 2016, with the Airport Manager dressed as a double for the flying shots with the takeoffs and landings.
In 2017 the Airport was dressed as 'Brokenwood Airport' for production of the 'parachute with cut lines' episode screened in November 2017. The Skydive Auckland PAC 750XL, ZK-SDF, was used with a green screen for the aircraft scenes.
'Shortland Street': The Airport was used for the scenes of the 'Plane crash' Christmas 2018 cliffhanger episode, with a 'crash' scene set up in the undeveloped area to the NE corner of the property