Celebrating 40 years of Air Rarotonga

Air Rarotonga
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Air Rarotonga

Founded in 1978, 2018 serves as the 40th anniversary for the airline of the Cook Islands, Air Rarotonga. Take a trip down memory lane with us, as we reflect on some of the facts and highlights spanning across Air Rarotonga's remarkable 40 years in operation.

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Q: Who were the founding members and/or partners of Air Rarotonga?   

A: Ewan Smith, Ian Rhodes, Ross Hunter

Q: What were the reason for establishing the airline?

We thought there was an opportunity to start a small air carrier offering charter, air taxi and tours. 

Q: When did Air Rarotonga operate their first flight? Who were the pilots? What was the name of aircraft, and to which island did they fly?

The first aircraft was a Cessna 337. The first inter-island commercial flight was to Atiu on 14th July, 1978 with Ewan Smith as the pilot.

Q: How many planes did Air Rarotonga operate with initially; how many pilots, engineers and number of staff in that first year? 

Initially there was only one aircraft, with one pilot and one engineer (Ewan Smith is an engineer as well as pilot)

Q: Who are the longest serving employees of Air Rarotonga?

  • Ewan Smith (40 years)
  • Munro Hockin (39 years)
  • Alistair Macquarie (33 years)
  • Sean Willis (32 years)
  • Teariki Numanga (31 years)
  • Tutai Taripo (31 years). 

All of the above names mentioned are still employed with Air Rarotonga. 

Q: How many aircrafts do Air Rarotonga operate with to date? How many pilots and staff in total?

We have 14 pilots, with 140 staff (including the outer islands as well as Jetstar/Virgin ground staff) and 5 aircrafts in total. 

  • One Saab 340B
  • Two Embraer Bandeirantes
  • One Cessna Citation II
  • One Cessna 172.

Q: What islands do Air Rarotonga fly to today? 

  • Aitutaki
  • Mangaia
  • Mauke
  • Mitiaro
  • Atiu
  • Penrhyn
  • Manihiki
  • Pukapuka
  • Papeete

Q: What are some of the highlights for Air Rarotonga throughout the years?

  • 1978 commenced operations with a 5 passenger Cessna 337
  • 1982 added a 10 passenger Beechcraft Queenair
  • 1986 started operations to Auckland with chartered DC8
  • 1989 Added our first Embraer Bandeirante - first jet-prop aircraft to enter inter-island service
  • 1991 Bought out Cook Islands Airways
  • 1992 Moved to the main hangar at the airport from our old one (Now Raro Tours opposite Parliament)
  • 1990s added second and third Embraer Bandeirantes
  • 2000 added our first Saab 340 with 34 passenger seats
  • 2007 Entered codeshare agreements with Air New Zealand and Air Tahiti
  • 2016 Added a Cessna Citation business jet to the fleet to operate inter-island and regional jet charter 
  • 2018 Replaced the Saab 340A with a late model Saab 340B+
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