Skip to main content

First fatal accident on a scheduled air service in New Zealand

8 February 1931

The ill-fated Desoutter ZK-ACA
The ill-fated Desoutter ZK-ACA (Steve Lowe Collection)

All three people on board a Dominion Airlines Desoutter died when it crashed near Wairoa in northern Hawke’s Bay. This was the first fatal accident involving a scheduled passenger air service in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s first regular scheduled passenger service began in 1930, when Air Travel launched a tri-weekly service between Christchurch and Dunedin using a De Havilland DH50 borrowed from the government. Passenger numbers were low and, after nine months, Air Travel closed down.

Soon afterwards, Dominion Airlines Ltd began a daily service between Gisborne and Hastings. This proved invaluable in keeping the areas ravaged by the Hawke’s Bay earthquake in contact with the rest of New Zealand. Unfortunately just five days after the earthquake, the company’s Desoutter II monoplane crashed after a bag of telegrams was dropped in a field near Wairoa. When its engine stalled, the Desoutter nosedived into nearby railway yards, killing pilot Ivan Kight and passengers Walter Findlay and W.C. Strand. The accident forced Dominion Airlines into liquidation.

How to cite this page

First fatal accident on a scheduled air service in New Zealand, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated