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A VERY INTERESTING MUSEUM

BY ALISTAIR HEATHCOTE

 

Most of you are probably thinking – where the hell is Ashburton – well it is less that one hour drive south of Christchurch in New Zealand. During my visit to the Omaka (Blenheim) air show at Easter 2007 I had heard that the Ashburton Museum housed an aircraft unique to the southern hemisphere! As I was touring the south of the island I eventually found the Museum and my informant was correct – a Hawker Harrier vertical take-off fighter!!!.

This was complete with engine and weapons racks. I was the only customer and fortunate enough to be given a tour by the Curator. The UK were decommissioning the older Harriers and putting them up for auction - anyone could bid – the Museum did and got the aircraft for $15,000! – all they had to do was transport it to this new location. The transportation cost was higher than this but the Council made a public appeal and raised enough money to ship it and prepare it for display.

Also of interest in the museum was what was claimed to be the oldest radio controlled scale aircraft in NZ. It was being repaired ready for display and the owner was not there when I called in.

 

For anyone wanting to make something a bit different to a Piper Cub then maybe this Porterfield 35 W will appeal to you?

A bit of info: - The aircraft was designed by the pupils of Wyandotte High School of Kansas City, USA, as a class project in 1933. The Porterfield Aircraft Corporation acquired the rights to the design and had manufactured over 300 of various versions by 1938.This aircraft (NZ598) was imported to NZ in 1938 and operated by Hawke’s Bay and East Coast Aero Club until Sept 1939 when it was impressed into wartime service, based at Rongatai with No 42 squadron. In 1946 it was purchased by Mr. W.R. Willmott of Timaru as ZK-APJ and flown by him until Dec 1959. After a spell in store it went to the RNAZ Museum at Wigram where it was repainted in its original wartime colours. It was gifted to Ashburton in 1991. The original had a Warner Scarab radial engine but this had reached the end of its life by 1950 and it was replaced by Airwork NZ Ltd with the current Continental C85 flat four. Personally I think the radial engine is more attractive but the flat four is different!

 

 

I have some additional pictures if anyone is interested. They were not easy to take as the Museum is quite small and my camera at the time did not have a very wide angle lens.

Hope you like the story

Alistair Heathcote