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Scotland crosses Southland in pioneering flight

20 February 1914

J.W.H. Scotland’s plane at Ōtaki
J.W.H. Scotland’s plane at Ōtaki (Te Papa, B.012165)

James William Humphreys Scotland flew a Caudron biplane from Invercargill to Gore, the first cross-country flight in New Zealand. He and his aircraft then travelled north by train, making exhibition flights at Dunedin, Timaru and Christchurch. On 7 March, 4000 people watched an exhibition flight over Addington showgrounds. Scotland shipped his plane by ferry to Wellington, where his tour came to an uncomfortable end on 25 March when he crash-landed in a tree beside Newtown Park.

Kaipara-born Scotland was educated in England, where he gained his pilot’s certificate – the second New Zealander to do so, after Aucklander J.J. Hammond. Returning to New Zealand at the beginning of 1914, he joined New Zealand Aviation Ltd. In an attempt to popularise aviation and promote commercial opportunities, the company arranged for Scotland to make a series of flying displays, the first in Ōtaki on 25 January. 

According to the Christchurch Sun, Scotland carried a small parcel and a letter on his flight at Timaru. ‘Passing over Temuka I dropped a parcel for a friend of mine, Mr Andrews’, the pilot recalled. ‘There was nothing breakable in it.’ This was New Zealand’s first airmail delivery.

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Scotland crosses Southland in pioneering flight, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated