The ZK-AAW was a Gypsy Moth which belonged to the Canterbury Aero Club and was used to train pilots. In 1933 it was used as a support plane for a parachute drop performed by “Scotty” Frazer. In 1935, while being flown by J.J. Busch on a return flight from Rangiora to the Wigram aerodrome, it was damaged when it crashed in Ohoka. While being repaired it was repainted with the colours of the aero club, red for the fuselage and black for the undercarriage and engine cowling. The ZK-AAW suffered further damage in 1936 when it crash landed in a paddock at Eveline and collided with a gorse hedge.
Do you have any photographs of the Canterbury Aero Club? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.
Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.
A crash at Wigram in 1953 remains the worst RNZAF crash in New Zealand history, killing seven men.
Two Royal New Zealand Air Force De Havilland Devons, the NZ1811 and NZ1810 from RNZAF Station Wigram, collided over Wigram Aerodrome. They had been part of the last section of a 27 aircraft flypast over Harewood International Airport (as Christchurch airport was then called) marking the 1953 London to Christchurch Air Race Prize Giving Ceremony.
When the formation broke up as the aircraft prepared to land back at Wigram, NZ1811 was struck on the wing by its “No. 2”, NZ1810. Both aircraft immediately lost control and plunged to the ground in a paddock at nearby Halswell, killing all aboard. This is still the highest loss of life incurred by the Royal New Zealand Air Force in a single New Zealand accident. They were:
Squadron Leader: Sholto R Duncan
Pilots: Flight Lieutenants Ebbett and Flight Lieutenant Ziesler.
Crewmen: Brian J Keogh, Eric Melrose, William Sharman, Russell Woodcock.
Now this terrible accident has been commemorated in Wigram by naming two of the new streets Edwin Ebbett Place and Erling Ziesler Lane
To read the original account in The Press of 16 October 1953 p. 10, you can visit the Central Library Manchester Street, and see the pages in microfilm – ask one of our lovely staff for assistance if you haven’t used microfilm before.
Following the 75th Anniversary of Wigram Air Base on 25 August 1992, it was closed on 14 September 1995.
It can be surprising what catches your eye looking through our weekly Just Ordered list (available as a RSS feed from our website). A couple of months ago I spotted the title Spitfire Women of World War II by Giles Whittell, the brief description told me that it was about the women who ferried military aircraft from the factories in Britain to the bases. Some time ago I had read about American women performing the same task on a website A People At War.
Spitfire Women tells the stories of the remarkable women who came from all over the world to fly a variety of aircraft, often with no more preparation than an hour with a handbook,in all kinds of weather and without any instrument training.They came from a variety of backgrounds, from aristocratic European families to South American farmers – some didn’t even speak English and only two (from Poland) were considered part of the military. While they all started out on the older and slower craft, it was the Spitfire that they all wanted to fly as they felt that its graceful lines and fine controls were designed just for them.
Shortly after returning this fascinating book I spotted another, similar looking book, Spitfire: portrait of a legend by Leo McKinstry. This one tells the story of how the Spitfire came to be the fighter plane that every pilot, male and female, wanted to fly. As in the Spitfire women book, the personalities loom large and in many cases seem to threaten the project, and Britain’s defence, from the start. It’s more history than biography, however, and sometimes gets a bit bogged down in the politics, but nevertheless its engaging reading.
Two things have come out of this reading for me – one is a renewed interest in the second world war – and there’s no limit to the reading and watching that the library has available on that topic. The second is a renewed interest in flying and I’ve been on my first training flight at the Christchurch Flying school. Its a great thing to have a go at, and a fabulous gift – if you want to give it a go there are a number of places that you can go to: see our listing of flight schools in CINCH.