John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Tauranga jet aircraft hits right note

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IGNITION POINT: Classic Flyers' Aermacchi jet roars to life for the first time in 15 years PHOTO/BENT JANSEN
IGNITION POINT: Classic Flyers' Aermacchi jet roars to life for the first time in 15 years PHOTO/BENT JANSEN

Another milestone has been notched up by Tauranga's Classic Flyers Museum when its Aermacchi jet roared back into life.

It was the culmination of many months work by volunteers on the body of the aircraft and the Rolls Royce Viper engine that provided the thrust for the ex-RNZAF jet trainer

The moment represented ignition but not take-off for the smart little 25-year-old aircraft which Classic Flyers obtained nearly four years ago after it sat in a crate since 2001.

The Aermacchi was fired up on Monday in front of a small but expectant crowd of volunteers and museum friends.

"We are proud to say that we have brought back to life another endangered beast," Classic Flyers chief executive Andrew Gormlie said.

The Aermacchi had been fuelled and thoroughly checked over during the previous two days by licensed aircraft engineer Tim Wilson of SafeAir.

Mr Gormlie said that once the signal was given to go, the turbine started to whine, the fuel igniters clicked and then, with a roar and lick of flame from the tailpipe, the engine caught and began spinning up to speed.

The engine was twice cycled up to near full power over the next 10 minutes. "This made for a toasty warm experience downwind of the tailpipe and a noisy one to the side of the aircraft."

Mr Wilson then shut down the engine, leaving spectators with "the smell of burnt fuel and a very satisfying ringing in our ears."

Mr Gormlie said that with expert assistance and financial support from friends and sponsors, only the sky was the limit. "Our intention is to work quietly towards flying the thing."

However there were a few bases to cross and he likened the firing up the engine to reaching base camp of Mount Everest.

"We are very pleased with what we have seen so far, it's a good aircraft."

Classic Flyers volunteers assembled the Aermacchi from the crate into a static exhibit for two years before the long job began of pulling it to bits and putting it together again to make it serviceable for ground running.

Mr Gormlie said it was in great condition and fairly new with only 1700 flying hours.

"Macchi 69" was the pilot trainer for the RNZAF's Skyhawks. Classic Flyers museum also features one of the Skyhawks although, unlike the Aermacchi, it was unlikely to ever be brought back to flying condition.

Classic Flyer's Aermacchi MB339
- Entered service with RNZAF 1991.
- Operated for 10 years until strike force disbanded.
- In storage for 11 years waiting for a buyer.
- Donated to Classic Flyers and arrived August 2012.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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