Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Co. Ltd was formed in August 1916, and purchased land for a flying field 3 months later. The Company was chaired by Sir Henry Wigram, who had tried to have a state-backed flying school established and when that attempt failed, decided – along with his fellow directors – to establish their own. By the end of December that year, 40 pupils had enrolled to learn to fly.
The first flight was made by instructor Cecil M. Hill (pictured at left) on 7 May 1917, and by 1919, 182 pilots had been trained.
In 1923 the government decided to take over the company and run the airbase under a military umbrella: in June the base was officially handed over and renamed Wigram Aerodrome. Sir Henry Wigram continued his support: donating £2500 to the Government for the purchase of an aeroplane – a Gloster Glebe fighter – and gifted a further 81 acres of land in 1932.
Over the years the Wigram Aerodrome has been part of not just local, but national history as well:
The Museum opened on 1 April 1987, and the Base itself closed to commercial air traffic in March 2009. The final Wigram Air Show was held the previous month.
- Wigram Air Base
- Wigram Airbase Timeline
- Sir Henry Wigram
- Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Company Digitised resource, Christchurch City Libraries
- The Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Co.: the first hundred pilots Digitised resource, Christchurch City Libraries
- Read about the biplane and the crash which killed instructor Cecil Hill