Million dollar baby lands at air museum

By James Fuller

A $1 million jet has been gifted to a Tauranga aviation museum to help safeguard New Zealand's flying history.

The Macchi 339, a Royal New Zealand Air Force training jet which was removed from active service three years ago, was given to Classic Flyers New Zealand.

"They're a training jet which were mothballed by the RNZAF in the same way that the Skyhawks were," said Classic Flyers chief executive Andrew Gormlie. "There were 14 of them and we pretty much put our hands up and said we would love to take one if possible, to help conserve our aviation history. There aren't that many aviation museums like ours in the country."

The aircraft, which would have cost $1 million new, was collected by Classic Flyers members on Friday.

"Ten of us went down to Ohakea Air Base, near Palmerston North, on Friday morning with two trucks and trailers and brought it back up.

"It's in bits at the moment, it was pulled apart so it could be transported," Mr Gormlie said.

Classic Flyers, which is in Jean Batten Drive, Mount Maunganui, near Tauranga Airport, was excited to have the jet as part of its collection.

"It's in exemplary condition and really is a beautiful aircraft.

"It hasn't had a lot of flying hours, about 1700, so is fairly new.

"Our aim is to have it assembled into taxi-able condition in about three months, so by Christmas. Then hopefully within a year it should be back in flying condition," he said.

He described that prospect as a boy's dream.

"There are some large parts of the plane, such as the fuselage which is already on display, but a lot of the rest is still boxed up in crates," added Mr Gormlie.

The Classic Flyers chief executive said the museum was looking for people to help create the aircraft display. He said this was a costly exercise and people could help by becoming a Friend of the Trust.

The Classic Flyers museum is open seven days a week from 9.30am-4pm.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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