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General News Last modified on May 18, 2016

A look back at 50 years of operations at Auckland International Airport

Auckland International Airport is 50 years old this year, and as our historic old photos show, it has always been popular with the locals.

Talking earlier this year about the gateway reaching its half century, chief executive, Adrian Littlewood, enthused: “Fifty years is a long time and an important milestone worthy of celebration.

“New Zealand was very different back in 1966. It was a country still finding its own independence, shifting its primary focus away from Europe.

"Keith Holyoake was Prime Minister; we still had pounds, shillings and pence; we had visits by both the United States’ Vice-President and President in the same year and for followers of popular culture, the very first episode of Country Calendar screened.

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“On the 29th January 1966, there was a three day air pageant to commemorate the official opening of Auckland Airport, attended by more than 100,000 Aucklanders or 20% of our city’s residents. 

"The airport’s official opening marked the start of the international jet age for New Zealanders – with new destinations and faster and bigger aircraft.

"However, the opening was not without its own challenges – it had taken almost 25 years and countless studies, reviews, funding debates and much political discussion before a decision was made to locate New Zealand’s international airport in Mangere.

"For a period options for a new airport even considered the Orakei foreshore, Devonport, Glenn Innes and even Brown’s Island in the Waitemata Harbour.”

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He goes on: “In the 50 years following its official opening, Auckland Airport has played a key role in connecting New Zealanders with the rest of the world and as our country and city have grown and changed, so have we.

"We’re no longer just a place for travel, but one of New Zealand’s largest companies playing an active role in helping drive growth in travel, trade and tourism for New Zealand. 

"Auckland Airport itself is now a hub of economic growth, home to hundreds of local and global businesses where 30,000 people come to work every day.”

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Looking to the future, he notes: “As Auckland Airport looks to its next 50 years, we can be proud of our past and confident in our future.

"We have grown from 700,000 passengers in 1966 to 16 million this year and while there will always be challenges along the way, we can continue to accommodate passenger growth here into the foreseeable future. 

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"Indeed, our 30-year vision for the airport of the future, announced in 2014, suggests we have the capacity to process 40 million passengers in 2044 with room to continue growing.

“Whatever our future holds, we will be guided by our past experience and the importance of both remaining flexible to meet the ever changing needs of our city, our customers and the aviation industry."