Dannevirke: Tiger Moth Club swoops on airfield

By Christine McKay

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A Tiger Moth comes into land at Dannevirke last Saturday afternoon.
A Tiger Moth comes into land at Dannevirke last Saturday afternoon.

There were Tigers, Chipmunks and Beavers flying over Dannevirke last weekend, but animals hadn't taken wing, these were just some of the 36 aircraft here for the annual meeting of the New Zealand Tiger Moth Club.

The 12 Tiger Moths, three Chipmunks, one Harvard and one Beaver de Havilland, along with a couple of Piper Cubs and Cessna 180s and a Nanchang, were some of the aircraft to make the journey from Wanaka to Kaikohe to the Dannevirke Aerodrome.

Vintage plane enthusiast Ken Jones was relishing the three-day event. A former topdresser loader driver, he has flown in Tiger Moths all his life. But, at the weekend, he was in his mobile home, parked up alongside the airstrip.

Vintage enthusiast: Ken Jones, a former topdressing loader driver who has flown in Tiger Moths all his life, was parking the planes at the Dannevirke Aerodrome last weekend.
Vintage enthusiast: Ken Jones, a former topdressing loader driver who has flown in Tiger Moths all his life, was parking the planes at the Dannevirke Aerodrome last weekend.

"I always give a hand to park these planes and I really like the Tiger Moths, they take their time in the sky and are really just two wings, bits of wire and some fabric.

There's something about them, but these days there aren't many of them in the country and they can cost between $100,000 and $200,000, so they're shared between pilots."

Dannevirke Flying Club member Gary Mitchelmore said the club had laid out the red carpet for the aviators, with the weather playing its part.

Local historian Nick Hill was thrilled to get up close with the vintage aircraft too. "What a fantastic airfield we've got. It was all turfed by hand during the Depression and it's good to see so many planes here, he said. "We've got a real asset in this aerodrome today, especially when you consider, some 20 years, ago it was almost closed down because of new regulations."

Jim Lawson, the president of the Tiger Moth Club of New Zealand, has been flying Chipmunks for 50 years. "There is the challenging aspect of flying, but also the beauty as you come back home late at night and the wind has dropped and you see a beautiful sunset ..."

Mr Lawson's biggest regret was selling his Chipmunk.

"I owned it for 40 years and selling it was the worst thing I did. Now I fly other people's planes," he said.

However, he admitted the Tiger Moth was quite challenging to fly.

"That's one reason they were used as training aircraft. If you can't fly a Tiger Moth, you can't fly anything."

The national Tiger Moth Club searches out an airfield which is ideal for their three-day event, looking for the right topography.

"The airfield needs to meet the height restrictions we require for our acrobatics, because we go to 3000 feet. We love coming to places like Dannevirke."

With the age span of club members ranging from a 15-year-old who flies his Dad's plane to the oldest at 85, the club has a good membership, but they're always looking for young people to join.

"In the earlier years, young ones would see the topdressing pilots in the sky and they'd aspire to join them," Mr Lawson said. "We don't have those role models now."

In conjunction with the Tiger Moth Club's annual meeting, Dannevirke artist Mike Harold held his Topdressing Daze exhibition in the flying club's hangar.

A vintage plane swoops low over the Dannevirke Flying School hangar, where artist Mike Harold had his Topdressing Daze exhibition last Saturday. Left, is the plane HRH Prince Phillip learnt to fly in.
A vintage plane swoops low over the Dannevirke Flying School hangar, where artist Mike Harold had his Topdressing Daze exhibition last Saturday. Left, is the plane HRH Prince Phillip learnt to fly in.

"These stories belong to the community and it's something special for Dannevirke," he said.

"I'm loving the sounds of these old planes and meeting six old ag pilots and learning their combined flying hours - 150,000 - just amazing. Imagine the number of take-offs and landings."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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