From 1943 to today, Ardmore’s history spans generations of aviation. We’ve been the stomping ground of WWII fighter pilots and Grand Prix drivers, Empire Games athletes and pioneering engineers. And today, we remain a central powerhouse of the New Zealand aviation industry.
Ardmore Airport was established in 1943 as a WWII operational base, at the request of the US Air Force. Construction finished in 1945, and Ardmore became an important base for training New Zealand pilots and returning servicemen, as part of the post-war demobilisation effort.
Training + Engineering
After the RNZAF departed Ardmore, New Zealand’s 5th Teachers’ Training Unit was established on the old base. That year, the Auckland University School of Engineering also set up base on the area now known as the South East apron. Both facilities remained until around 1974.
Home of the Empire Games
For a brief but unforgettable era, Ardmore’s facilities were used to accommodate competitors in the Empire Games. A swimming pool and running track were built to provide practice facilities, and remained in use for the local community right up until the Teachers College closed.
The start of general aviation
While Ardmore was predominantly used by the Ministry of Education, in 1952 the Ministry of Transport took control of the operational parts of Ardmore for general aviation purposes. The same year, the Auckland Gliding Club made its base at Ardmore – where it remained until 1973.
Hosting the Grand Prix
In 1954, Ardmore began hosting the New Zealand International Grand Prix – transforming into a playground for world-famous racecar drivers for a few days each year. The event was held at Ardmore until 1963, when it moved to a purpose-built raceway at Pukekohe.
Growth in general aviation
To make way for the construction of Auckland International Airport, the Auckland Aero Club moved to Ardmore from December 1960 to January 1961. During this pivotal period, Ardmore Airport’s use as a general aviation facility blossomed.
Auckland International Airport opens
Auckland Airport’s opening marked the beginning of a long and illustrious relationship. Auckland Airport’s efficiency relies on Ardmore’s ability to provide an alternative facility for general aviation. This historical separation of scheduled flights and general aviation continues today.
Sale of assets
June 1995 brought significant change for Ardmore Airport, when the Ministry of Transport sold the assets to Ardmore Airport Limited. Ardmore Airport Limited was – and remains – committed to positive change, and building lasting relationships with the local community and airport users alike.
A national strategic asset
To this day, Ardmore Airport remains a unique facility and premier aviation resource. The Airport is a significant contributor to both the local and national economies – with major growth areas including helicopter maintenance, aircraft restoration, and aircraft assembly industries.
While Ardmore enjoys a predominantly rural environment, it also lies in close proximity to Papakura, Manukau, and Auckland’s CBD. Approximately 20% of the country’s population is within 30 minutes’ reach – making Ardmore’s potential client base, both recreational and commercial, the largest in New Zealand.
Over 600 people are employed on Ardmore’s grounds, across more than 95 airport tenants. Our tenants span industries such as engineering, repairs and maintenance, and (of course) aviation. Businesses include flying schools, air charter services, aircraft sales, and more. Many of our tenants have been with us for 20 to 30 years. This thriving business network has helped us evolve into the premier general aviation airport we are today. It’s vital to our success – both up until now, and into the future.
As a training centre for the aviation industry, Ardmore is second to none. A significant number of New Zealand pilots undergo their training at Ardmore. We currently have two large helicopter schools and four major fixed wing flying schools on-site, including Ardmore Flying School. Student pilots flock to Ardmore – not only from all over New Zealand, but from all over the world. Most spend around 18 months completing their courses. During this time they’re generally based around the local districts, bringing economic benefits directly to the community.
Ardmore is a popular recreational resource. Its convenient location and unique facilities give both enthusiasts and newcomers the chance to explore all aviation has to offer. Our open days bring thousands of members of the public to Airdmore every year, where spectators can explore our NZ Warbirds and immerse themselves in our history.
As many as 40 classic NZ Warbirds are housed in Ardmore Visitor Centre. Ardmore Airport is the only place in the greater Auckland area where these historic aircraft can be viewed in a safe and controlled environment. This makes the Airport a significant resource for Warbird enthusiasts, and a large number of tour groups visit regularly.
From January to April each year, Ardmore becomes the country’s major NZ Warbirds activity base. Numerous Warbirds take off from Ardmore, to go forth and demonstrate their aircraft and flying skills at Airshows around the country – with events including the renowned Warbirds over Wanaka.
The public can also enjoy scenic flights over Auckland in the classic Dakota/DC3, which departs from Ardmore. Contact Fly DC3 for information on flights and tours.
Come fly with us
Experience all New Zealand’s premier aviation facility has to offer.