John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for APNZ.

Trouble? Phone the wife

Richmond Harding's experience came in handy when he had to crash-land his Spitfire last night. Photo / Thinkstock
Richmond Harding's experience came in handy when he had to crash-land his Spitfire last night. Photo / Thinkstock

Spitfire pilot runs into problems with landing gear

When pilot Richmond Harding got in trouble last night in his replica Spitfire, the first thing he did was call his wife Heather on the radio.

And what did Heather do? "What do you think I did? I panicked. I'm too old for all this jazz," she said.

When Harding's landing gear failed, Richmond knew he'd have a bumpy landing. But Heather notified emergency services by radio and kept talking to her husband.

Richmond said the landing gear failed to retract properly after he took off from Wanganui on his way home after catching another flight to Ardmore for the day.

"It's something that you prefer doesn't happen."

He circled the airfield while emergency services prepared "in case things turned to custard" then retracted the wheels and bellied the plane on to grass.

"I busted the prop but kept the revs down to reduce the stress on the engine so she's still pretty clean really."

The veteran topdressing pilot, said he'll keep the plane and continue flying. "She's a lovely wee thing really."

Asked if he was in trouble at home, Richmond just chuckled.

Heather said Richmond first flew 59 years ago. He's a veteran top-dressing planes and helicopter pilot, so Heather wasn't surprised he climbed out in one piece.

"He's a very good pilot so he should know how to land safely."

Heather had no desire to fly.

"I love him. We'll be married 52 years on October 10. So we're old buggers."

Her own favourite plane was the turbo-prop top-dressing plane, the SuperAir Cresco.

She wasn't such a fan of the Spitfire.

"I don't know much about it, but I know it's a little bitch of a thing," Heather said.

- Herald on Sunday

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