Taking to the air in Manawatu in the 1920s and 1930s
When Union Airways (later to become firstly the National Airways Corporation then Air New Zealand) was formed in 1935 the aerodrome at Milson, Palmerston North became the headquarters of the inter-island service. Union’s main workshop and hangar were built here. A Palmerston North — Blenheim — Christchchurch — Dunedin service began in January 1936 and an Auckland — Palmerston North — Wellington service began the following year along with a service to the East Coast of the North Island. Palmerston North was then one of the principal centres of commercial aviation in the North Island.
There was a huge interest in aviation in Manawatu, with two aero clubs formed by local enthusiasts in the 1920s. The Manawatu Aero Club was established in 1928 and it was this club that first leased land on the site of the present day Palmerston North Airport. The Milson Aerodrome Inc. raised Â£500, ploughed, leveled and resowed 50 acres of farmland, built a hangar and officially opened the airfield with an air pageant on December 3, 1931. The Palmerston North City Council bought the Milson Aerodrome in 1937 for Â£9,500
In Feilding a group of enthusiasts used a farm paddock at Ernest Short’s ”Parorangi” property near Cheltenham as an airfield from 1920. In 1928 local members of the newly formed Manawatu Aero Club began using this 60 acre paddock as their landing strip until they leased the Milson land.
On June 8 1930, the Feilding Aeroclub was formed and used the “Parorangi” airfield until 1937 when the Taonui Aerodrome land was purchased. At Taonuui the land was cleared and levelled by unemployed labour under the auspices of the Public Works Department and officially opened on March 28, 1938.