Fighter finds new home in aviation museum

By Sam Boyer

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? In a way it's both, and it's now taken centre stage at the Classic Flyers aviation museum.

The Skyhawk, the fighter jet named after the iconic bird of prey, was unveiled at the museum yesterday in front of more than 200 aviation fans.

Classic Flyers chief executive Andrew Gormlie said the turnout was impressive, but fitting for the jet.

"We probably had about 250 people [here]. We're very pleased with that.

"It'll be one of our best [planes]. It's non-operational but it's a very important piece of our collection and, certainly, it's very impressive," he said.

"It's a very important part of New Zealand's aviation history."

The Skyhawks, one of the country's last fighter jets, were decommissioned in the mid-1990s.

Dave Brown, a former flight lieutenant with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, who logged more than 700 hours in Skyhawks including 60 hours in the one now at Classic Flyers, agreed the museum's procurement of the plane was important.

"The Skyhawk is such a big part of [our] history. It was one of the last aircraft that served in New Zealand. It's great that we have been able to get them into museums," he said.

The Classic Flyers' addition joins several other Skyhawks on display around the country, in Wigram and Ashburton, and at Motat and New Zealand Warbirds in Auckland.

Classic Flyers volunteer Norm Empson said it was a pleasure to have "the Ferrari of the air" join the ranks of planes at the museum.

"It's a marvellous aircraft. This is a great asset to us. We're very pleased to have it and very proud. It's a beautiful display," he said.

It cost Classic Flyers $34,000 to have the plane transported to Tauranga from Woodbourne, much of which was raised through donations.

"The community have supported us hugely and got behind us," Mr Gormlie said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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