Airline keepsakes wanted for exhibition

By Kiri Gillespie

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A new museum display will remember those on board the ill-fated flight that killed Bay of Plenty Airways founder Alf Bartlett after the plane he was flying crashed into Mount Ruapehu 50 years ago.

Those organising the exhibition are calling on anyone who might have memorabilia of the tragedy-stricken airline to offer.

A permanent display of the Bay of Plenty Airways will open at Classic Flyers museum on November 21 - the 50th anniversary of the airline's fatal crash at Mount Ruapehu.

Mr Bartlett and four other passengers on board the twin engined aero commander were killed when the ZK-BWA aircraft crashed into the snow-covered mountain on November 21, 1961.

Metal fatigue on the aircraft's wing was found to be the cause of the catastrophic crash. A young woman and two toddlers were among those killed.

Aviation historian and Chaplain Rev Dr Richard Waugh has helped bring together the display to commemorate the memories of the airline and the people on board.

"Bay of Plenty Airways was the first airline in Tauranga but unfortunately had this tragic accident," he said.

"We are very keen ... if there is any Bay of Plenty Airways memorabilia, particularly tickets or ticket stubs or anything people might have kept."

Dr Waugh said they already had several items ready but ideally wanted keepsakes like uniforms or pilot caps - even if it was just for the day.

Already more than 150 people have confirmed they will be attending the opening of the display, and the public unveiling of a plaque.

The names of those who lost their lives will be commemorated at the event - something Dr Waugh has been striving for.

"I have been determined to have a permanent record of the people killed because I think they were a tragic cost of the accident.

"They at least deserve to have their names on a plaque."

Classic Flyers' Diane Jeffery said Bay of Plenty Airways was the forerunner of commuter airlines and was also the pioneer of the direct Tauranga to Wellington route.

"Because it was such a small airline and only existed for a small amount of time, it's really difficult to get things like uniforms but we know the office staff wore them," she said.

"Part of the mission statement here at Classic Flyers is to preserve part of New Zealand's aviation heritage ... this is hugely important in the history of aviation." Jack Browne, secretary of the Tauranga branch of New Zealand Aviation History Society, said the 50th anniversary commemorations would be "very suitable" to be held at Classic Flyers.

Dr Waugh is a leading aviation historian in New Zealand and has written a book on the 1963 Kaimai air crash, which killed all 23 passengers and crew on board.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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