The Canterbury Aviation Company Was Founded – 20th September 1916

On 20 September 1916, the Canterbury Aviation Company was founded by Sir Henry Francis Wigram – Christchurch’s 25th Mayor (1902 -1904).

It was a return trip to England in 1908 that changed his life forever. He saw his first plane. Upon his return, he approached the government about the great need to introduce aviation to New Zealand – for air defence in case of war and also for commercial use. Believing that New Zealand was too remote from the world for planes to be of any use, Henry was met with a wave of non-interest.

Undeterred, Henry purchased land in Sockburn and opened his own flying school. It was known as The Canterbury Aviation Company and it was the second of its kind in New Zealand. Three Caudron Biplanes were purchased from England and by 1919, the company owned 10 planes and 182 pilots had been trained. This area of Christchurch is now named Wigram to honour his memory.

The first flight of a plane in Christchurch took place on 7 May 1916.

For a more in depth look at Sir Henry Francis Wigram:

*image courtesy of The Wings Over New Zealand Aviation Forum

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2 Responses


    My father, JOHN EDWARD ROYDS,1897-1970, was one of the first 100 pilots who trained and flew Caudrons at Wigram. He trained and went to war with his best friend Ro Ronaldson. Fortunately they survived although Dad always said he was killed several times flying! He had a great sense of humour.

  2. Jenna Gray says:

    My Grandfather Captain Douglas Gray (1896-1969) joined the Canterbury Aviation Company after returning from England in 1920, where he was trained as a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service.

    Douglas Gray flew for the Canterbury Aviation Company on several cross-country flights in 1920 and 1921, including cross-channel flights and a Christchuch to Wellington Flight on September 12. an Avro 110 (Lerhone engine) on her maiden trip.

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