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On The Wings of History

On The Wings of History
1 - The Beginning of the Vintage Aviator Collection
by Allan Udy and Alex Mitchell
116pp, 147×210mm, illus, softback.

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We've always enjoyed watching historic aircraft doing their thing, and in the final decade of the 20th Century we attended several Warbirds Over Wanaka shows in Wanaka, New Zealand, The range of aircraft at these shows was huge, and for guys who grew up with a staple diet of WW2 movies, comics and books, the heavy metal of the fighter aircraft on display was simply awesome. We saw Spitfires, ME109s, Corsairs, P40 Kittyhawks, P51 Mustangs, Polikapovs, Yaks, a Grumman Avenger and even a restored Battle of Britain veteran Hawker Hurricane.

What we rarely saw was aircraft from the pioneering days of flight and the First World War - primarily because there were virtually no such aircraft in New Zealand at the time. Stuart Tantrum had built a full size replica Fokker Dr.1 Triplane in 1985 (ZK-FOK), and this was seen on the local airshow circuit periodically. Stuart also built a Replica Plans 7/10 version of the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5A (subsequently destroyed in an accident ion Auckland) while a second Replica Plans SE5A belonging to Tom Grant from Dunedin was periodically seen at the Wanaka shows. The only other pre-1920 aircraft that were seen in New Zealand were the visiting 1911 Bleriot XI and 1919 Thumilisa at the 1998 Warbirds over Wanaka show.

In the 21st Century things were destined to change. By January 2001 plans were were well in hand for the Classic Fighters air show to be held at Omaka Aerodrome in Blenheim. In addition to the WW2 era aircraft to be displayed at the show it was rumoured that we'd also see a new WW1 type - a recently imported full size Sopwith Camel with an authentic rotary engine. The organisers subsequently went one better by convincing American owner / builder Ed Storo to bring his Bristol F2B Fighter replica to the show as well. These two imports, along with Stuart;s Fokker Dr.1 meant that the first Classic Fighters show boasted an incredible three full size WW1 aircraft - something not seen here since the late 1930.

After the 2002 show the F2B stayed in New Zealand and along with the Camel and Triplane formed the nucleus of what was eventually to become a major collection of aircraft operated and (in some cases) built by the The Vintage Aviator Ltd, on behalf of the 1914-1918 Heritage Trust. From that small beginning the Collection has grown at a rate which was not even imagined at the dawn of the century.

Over the years some aircraft have come and gone, while others have had their appearance altered at some point. This book is a record of all the Collection's aircraft and their colour schemes seen in the first decade of the 21st Century - we hope this inspires an interest in and appreciation for these WW1 era aircraft, as they've done for us.

Allan Udy and Alexz Mitchell

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