21 kms south of Taihape on State Highway 1, ‘Mangaweka International Airport’ once housed a petrol station, cafe and adventure tourism hub. These days it stands empty but the DC3 still attracts plenty of selfie taking tourists. (For more on Mangaweka, click here –Mangaweka magic.)
History of the Mangaweka DC3 from Final Approach – The Last of the Dakotas at
ZK-APK was delivered to the RNZAF in August 1945, then sold to the newly-formed National Airways Corporation (NAC) in 1947 and given the name Poaka. NAC was New Zealand’s domestic airline company until 1978, when it was amalgamated into the international airline Air New Zealand. In 1964 Poaka, along with many of the NAC DC-3’s, was uprated with more soundproofing, a revamped interior, and larger windows. These planes were designated Skyliners, and Poaka was renamed Kaikohe. Kaikohe was very briefly leased to Fiji Airways in 1967, then spent the 1970’s as a topdressing plane. She finally retired in 1981 having logged 42,764 flying hours.
Stored for years in Palmerston North, Kaikohe was purchased by Rangitikei River Adventures, tarted up and transported to Mangaweka. She was craned onto a pedestal on November 1, 1986 to begin her new career as a cafe. The tiny township south of Taihape has a population of only 200, and the large airplane suspended in a permanent holding pattern (road signs warned drivers to beware of low-flying tearooms) was far and away its most notable feature. In early 2000 the Poaka/Kaikohe was removed from its pedestal for refurbishment and repainted as a Cookie Time biscuit billboard before being lifted back. More recently it has happily been returned to a more conventional finish as the Mangaweka Skyliner.