20 August 2015

Ohakea Hangars 2 and 3

  • Main hangar at Ohakea aerodrome, under construction [circa 18 January 1939]. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Large hangars take shape at Ohakea air base...12 July 1939. Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19390712-48-1

These hangars were constructed in 1939 as part of New Zealand’s defence strategy. Their design was also adopted for two hangars at Whenuapai Air force Base, and also at Karachi and Hyderabad.

Designed in 1937 and built during 1938 and 1939 these hangars have huge two-hinged arches which signified growing confidence in reinforced concrete design. The total arch span is 83 metres (m) – 67 m over the actual hangar with 8 m wide low-level service rooms on both sides. The 0.6 m deep ribs extend into the ground for anchorage outside the building. They support the 100 millimetre thick shell concrete roof. They were considered state of the art when designed in 1937.

Charles William Oakey Turner (1901–1994), Chief Designing Engineer in the Public Works Department is credited with the design. Harry Hume (1906–1981) is also known to have worked on the design of these structures. JT Gilkison managed the construction.

In 1990, when the hangars were recognised by IPENZ in their "Engineering to 1990" awards, it was noted that they had recently been strengthened and the roof clad in steel. It was also considered that there was still considerable life in them.

Heritage recognition

IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project

This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project, which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of these aircraft hangars as part of the development of the nation.

This place has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place (List no. 9009):

Hangar No.2 and Hangar No.3 RNZAF Base Ohakea: New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information.

More information


Ohakea Air Force Base, Manawatu.


The Air Force Base property is not open for public viewing.

Further reading

Geoffrey Thornton, Cast in Concrete: Concrete construction in New Zealand, 1850–1939, Auckland, 1996, pp.230-31

C. W. O. Turner; 'Reinforced concrete hangars for Air Force stations in New Zealand,' (PDF 1MB) New Zealand Institution of Engineers 1948 proceedings, volume XXIV, pp. 465–88.

Additional image gallery details

Main hangar at Ohakea aerodrome, under construction [circa 18 January 1939]. Ref: PAColl-5927-05. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

Large hangars take shape at Ohakea air base, Manawatu: progress at Royal New Zealand Air Force station, 12 July 1939. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19390712-48-1.