Craig Emeny flew to the Chatham Islands in the early 1980s and has been based there since.

Raised in Stratford, Taranaki and trained as an RNZAF engineer, Emeny got his pilot's licence when in his late teens and was drawn to the Chathams by a job flying crayfish off Pitt Island.

With his wife Marion he went on to establish Air Chathams in 1984 and his services to aviation and the islands' community have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Emeny, 61, said his being named Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit was recognition for the entire team at the airline, many of whom have been with it since it was formed.

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"There's been a lot of people on the Chats who make things happen - I pick up the award but I think it's an honour for a lot of hard-working people."

Ferrying crayfish to Gisborne led to passenger services and the airlines' network grew. In the past 18 months it has picked up routes Air NZ dropped - Whakatane and Whanganui.

Over the past three decades Emeny's planes have also been involved in search and rescue operations.

He has invested in emergency aircraft and capability for life flight and serious injury transfers to service the island community.

The honours citation says the Emenys have supported community fundraisers, often providing free transport for people and freight, and sponsored and supported families.

The airline's charters have seen it regularly flying over in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific.

Providing social links for the Chathams' 600 residents is a source of pride for Emeny.

"I think we've provided a service out to the Chathams for quite a long time - it's been reliable and very community focused. We've developed that social and industry base."

The airline still flies about 350 tonnes of crayfish a year from the Chathams.

Emeny said the islands' fishing and farming economy was going strong and tourism, although limited by accommodation, was growing.

Emeny still flies his planes regularly, although he's taking this weekend off to be with his youngest daughter at her school ball.

He and Marion have two daughters and two sons. Both their sons are involved in the airline.