Hood Aerodrome – A Brief History

Hood Aerodrome started when the Wairarapa and Ruahine Aero Club received a donation of land for a Masterton airfield on South Road near the Waingawa River. Working bees were organized to clear the stony land, and on 14 March 1931 the first official North Island Air Pageant was held at the new airfield, with 33 aircraft attending. During the Air Pageant, Masterton’s airfield was officially named ‘Hood Aerodrome’ after Captain George Hood, a Masterton born aviation pioneer who had died trying to fly the first Tasman Sea crossing, along with Lieutenant John Robert Moncrieff, in January 1928.

In 1939, the Royal New Zealand Air Force impressed all the aero club aircraft for pilot training. 1940 saw the Royal New Zealand Air Force occupy Hood Aerodrome and more land was bought by the government to increase the airfield’s size, and 3 runways were constructed. By April 1942, No. 14 Squadron had reformed at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton, using American built Harvard trainers and P-40 Kittyhawk fighters. Later in 1943, 14 Squadron left Masterton to fight the Japanese in the South Pacific.

At the completion of World War 2 in 1945, aircraft returned to Hood and the aero club began flying again using Tiger Moths, Proctors and Auster aircraft.

In 1949, Hood Aerodrome played an early part in the trials for aerial topdressing using RNZAF Avenger aircraft. Early pioneering firms such as Air Contracts soon began topdressing, using Tiger Moths, with Hood Aerodrome as their base. Trials were also conducted in 1954 using a Bristol Freighter dropping 6 tonnes of fertilizer. Aerial topdressing still makes up a large portion of the commercial aircraft fleet at Hood Aerodrome, with Super Air and Wanganui Aero Work firms both using Hood as one of their bases.

Between 1960 and 1966, South Pacific Airlines of New Zealand (SPANZ) was operated by Masterton’s Rex Daniell along with Bob Anderson. SPANZ flew DC-3 Viewmasters to service smaller cities and towns around New Zealand (including Masterton).

From 1978, Hood Aerodrome became the home of New Zealand’s Sports and Vintage Aviation Society. The Society built a large hangar at Hood and more recently acquired the neighbouring Metservice glider hangar. The Society has also developed the ‘George Hood Museum of Aviation’ on site and holds the biennial Wings Over Wairarapa airshow to support the venture.

The main runway (06/24) was upgraded in March 1986 with a sealed all weather surface allowing greater utilization by heavier aircraft including air ambulances and commuter airlines, including Wairarapa Airlines and Air Wairarapa.

Today, Hood Aerodrome is the home of numerous period and replica aircraft from the two World Wars, with the growth of the Vintage Aviator collection and the Old Stick and Rudder’s collection, along with Ace Aviation, a flight school specializing in tail dragger aircraft instruction. With other aviation users such as Sky Diving, Homebuilt Aircraft and Microlight organizations, Gliding, Radio Controlled Model Aircraft, and various privately owned GA aircraft, Hood Aerodrome is well placed for a healthy future..