Opening of international flight academy in Whanganui

By Tema Hemi

Whanganui iwi are hoping to see more Māori pilots take to the sky with the opening of The New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy at Whanganui Airport this week.

The flight academy opened on Thursday signifying new ties between the airport and Whanganui iwi.

COE of the academy, Phillip Bedford says, "We are ecstatic about having iwi here and we're partnering very close with iwi around a number of co-operative projects.  We have a very special relationship and we feel very privileged to have iwi support our opening today. We moved into this purpose-built flight training complex in September last year and its been going very well."

Iwi representative Ken Mair says, "What we really want is to put the call out to our people of the river, to its descendants, to come and enroll at this learning institute to learn the different skills that pertain to aviation and being an aircraft pilot."

Mayor Hamish McDouall says Whanganui has a long history in aviation. 

"The very first person to fly out of the airport was Jane Winstone, who was a very famous spitfire pilot and she was flying Charles Kingsford-Smith's famous old Southern Cross which was the first plane to do the Trans-Tasman flight."

Mair says, "It's is a special day for us all." 

Whanganui iwi hope to ensure some of their own are in the next line-up of cadets.