Rarotonga International Airport with its 2300 metre concrete runway opened for international jet operations in November 1973.
Immediately after World War 2 travel to the Cook Islands was by NAC and RNZAF DC3 that plodded along at a sedate 150 knots via Fiji and Samoa. Then in the 1950s and early 60s the DC3 service gave way to TEAL Shorts Solent flying boats that operated the renown Coral Route connecting Fiji, Samoa, Aitutaki and Tahiti with a weekly service.
From 1963 to 1973 Hawker Siddley 748 turbo-props of Air Pacific and Polynesian Airlines flew the route from Samoa to Rarotonga returning via Aitutaki once each week. The arrival of Air New Zealand’s McDonnell Douglas DC8 jets in 1973 heralded the beginning of the tourism industry for the Cook Islands growing from a few hundred annual arrivals to more than 120,000 visitors in 2012. Air Rarotonga was founded in 1978 with a twin engined 5 passenger Cessna 337 operating non-scheduled services and charter mainly around the Southern islands, with the occasional flight to distant Tongareva-Penrhyn.
Piston engined aircraft gave way to the first turbo-props when the company introduced the 15 passenger Embraer Bandeirante in 1989 adding two more of the type in subsequent years. Increasing demand on the Aitutaki route saw the introduction of the modern 34 passenger Saab 340 Regional Airliner in 2000.
|Saab 340 - the 34 passenger regional airliner joined the fleet in 2000 and this aircraft now |
provides the core scheduled service between Rarotonga and Aitutaki up to five frequencies per day.
|Wing Span||21.44 m|
|Crew||2 pilots, 1 flight attendant|
|Propulsion||2 x General Electric CT7-9B, 1730 shp each|
|Crusing Speed||250 knots, 463 km/h|
|Cruising Altitude||Maximum 25,000 feet, 7.600 m|
|Range||935 nm, 1735 km|
|Embraer EMB110P1 'Bandeirante' - provides excellent scheduled passenger service and charter to the smaller islands |
of the group being an ideal size, with a large cargo door, and proven reliability on short unpaved coral runways.
|Wing Span||15.40 m|
|Propulsion||2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34, 750 shp each|
|Crusing Speed||195 knots, 360 km/h|
|Cruising Altitude||10,000 feet, 3.050 m|
|Range||1060 nm, 1964 km|
Cessna 172 'Skyhawk' - this aircraft is used for pilot training and scenic flights. Its high wing design and the large
|Wing Span||11 m|
|Crew||1 or 2 pilots|
|Capacity||2 or 3 passengers|
|Propulsion||1× Lycoming O-320 D2J engine, 160 hp|
|Crusing Speed||100 knots, 186 km/h|
|Service Ceiling||13500 feet, 4116 m|
|Range||687 nm, 1272 km|