The airport, developed initially in the 1930’s, has a significant pilot training history having been home to the Whanganui Commercial Pilot School (based at the Wanganui Aero Club from 1953 through until the 1980’s) and also the home of New Zealand’s first commercial topdressing pilot training school operated by Dalcom Aviation Training. These were New Zealand's first full time ground/air training courses for professional civil pilot licences and it was no accident that Wanganui was chosen as the base. The flying days available, abundance of available training areas, relatively low levels of turbulence and a large runway system provide a perfect flying training base.
The airport is a Joint Venture (JV) Airport, owned in equal partnership by the Whanganui District Council (WDC) and the NZ Government (the Crown) through the Ministry of Transport, and is managed by the Whanganui Airport Authority (WAA), a business unit of the WDC. The Authority is a full member of the NZ Airports Association with its manager an executive member of the association.
Capacity exists to immediately establish parking, hangerage, hard standing and taxiways for a greater capacity, together with offices, lecture facilities and maintenance buildings if and as required. Indeed, the land immediately available and not requiring any preparation totals over 24,000 square metres while a further 20,000 square metres requiring some earth works can be also made available.
Resealing of the main runway and apron was completed in March 2007 and the refurbishment of the Passenger Terminal was completed in October 2007.
Maintaining a Civil Aviation Part 139 approval, the airport is well located, well maintained and well set out. It consists of one sealed runway and four grass runways, a sealed apron, a large grassed apron/aircraft park, fuel services, a passenger terminal and private maintenance facilities and hangers.
Favourable local weather and the airport’s proximity to a wide range of aviation services and facilities makes Whanganui well suited to the training of pilots.
While being uncontrolled since January 1989, an operational cost advantage in comparison to controlled airports, the airport has a perfect record in respect of safety within the local airspace, however should control services be required in the future, the airport has the facilities necessary to enable such services to be established.
Within 90 nautical miles of Whanganui there are over 15 airports ranging from international to private, certificated and non-certificated, providing pilots with a wide range of airspace transition and aircraft control challenges.
The local flying training area offers low flying areas and terrain ranging from flat coastal plains and ocean through to rugged and steep back country, providing a wide range of opportunities for trainee pilots to experience high country flying and remote country navigation.
Operations from the airport include scheduled airlines, airline charter and air ambulance, fixed and rotary wing agricultural flying, military flying training and operations, and both fixed wing and rotary wing training.