The Omarama Airfield is a public airfield operated by the South Island gliding community. It is jointly owned by the Waitaki District Council and the Omarama Soaring Centre, a committee of all the South Island and some of the North Island gliding clubs of New Zealand. The Airfield is located on State Highway 8, 1 km north of Omarama town.
Omarama is a small rural town with about 350 permanent residents. It has a supermarket, petrol stations and restaurants. There are very good hot tubs, a fashion shop* and a curiosity shop.
For more information about Omarama visit: discoveromarama.co.nz
Clubs and commercial operators offer various soaring services on the airfield, seven days a week for most of the year.
Three large hangar complexes beside the 1.5km (5,000 foot) long irrigated grass runway house up to 80 sailplanes and four tow planes. There are secure tie downs for another 40 aircraft.
A large terminal conversion from the original airfield hangar was opened in December 2003. Now the hub of airfield activities, the terminal contains club house facilities, briefing rooms and offices and becomes the control centre when contest flying and other events occur at the airfield.
On site are comfortable privately owned Chalets which are available for rent. The Omarama Soaring Centre operates the excellent, well provisioned and protected Camping Ground. The Kahu Cafe The airfield boasts a large Hotel located on the western threshold. With other hotels, motels, bed and breakfast options and camping grounds in the village all within easy walking distance from the airfield terminal pilots and their families have a variety of accommodation choices.
Dick Georgeson of Irishman Creek Station first brought gliding to the Mackenzie Country in 1952. The first of Dick’s many gliders was a Prefect, ZK-GAB.
In 1954 English World Champion Phillip Wills attracted the first of much international attention to the area when he flew his Weihe to 33,000 feet over Mount Cook to break the British Empire altitude record.
By the end of the 1950’s regular gliding camps were happening in the district and world records were being shattered – first from Simon’s Hill and then from Omarama.
In 1960 a permanent gliding site was established at Omarama Station 4 km south of Omarama town. This airfield known as “Wardells” is still operated by the South Canterbury Gliding Club during holiday periods.
Development of the present Omarama Airfield began in 1991 for the 95 World Championships. Bill Walker and his team of heroes transformed a deserted dust bowl into an irrigated airfield with grass, trees, hangars, tie downs, chalets and a camping ground. It was this action that enabled a truly international soaring site to emerge at Omarama.
The future for the Omarama Airfield
Since then development has accelerated. Three roll in roll out hangars with subsequent extensions have been built. The hangars are owned by private companies subscribed to by clubs and glider pilots.
Six new chalets have been built recently, in addition to the twenty one built previously. The Waitaki District Council has developed housing sites along the airfield entrance road. There are long-term plans for extensions to the clubhouse, a glider maintenance workshop, extensions and widening of the active runways.
Omarama Airfield development has reached a snowballing critical mass and seems to be going places!
* we use the term fashion shop to broadly define the category of retail as opposed to its high street status. The fashion shop and curiosity shop are in fact one and the same store.
Surface: Grass (irrigated)
Length: 1500m (5,000 ft)
Direction: 09 / 27
Elevation: 1380 ft
Lat / Long: S44°29.20′ / E169°59.17′
Magnetic Variation: 24° East
Fuel (Shell – Av. Gas)
Hangarage for 80 gliders
Secure tie downs: 40 Aircraft
4 resident tow planes
On airfield cafe
On airfield campground
On airfield hotel
25 Private chalets
Daily weather briefings (10am)