Plans to base a 78-year-old DC3 aircraft in Napier as part of a Hawke's Bay tourism venture are in limbo as parties grapple over its sale price.
The McDonnell Douglas classic, built in California in 1942 and flown to New Zealand from the UK eight years ago, is owned by Te Anau Lodge proprietor Mark Oremland. Oremland is hoping to sell it to aviation enthusiast Rodger McCutcheon, who had the aircraft flown to Napier in June with plans emerging to run Hawke's Bay-based charters and tourist flights, with a hangar possibly to be built at Hawke's Bay Airport.
Operating promotional flights over Napier and surrounds in September, including mayors as passengers, McCutcheon planned to establish a trust to operate the aircraft and keep it in Hawke's Bay.
But there was no contract, no money's changed hands, the trust is yet to be legally formed, owner Oremland says he's out of pocket for some of the aircraft's expenses of the last few months, and McCutcheon is not happy with the asking price, now advertised at $599,500.
Saying he was unable to get any resolution and wanting to "sort it out", Oremland flew home from France, where he says most of his business is now based.
After 14 days in quarantine, he travelled to Napier last week and flew two pilots to Napier, intending to fly the DC3 back to the South Island if the issues could not be resolved, telling Hawke's Bay Today at the time he hoped the aircraft would stay in Hawke's Bay.
But he believed that after the DC3's arrival in Hawke's Bay and publicity around McCutcheon's plans, the public would deserve an explanation as to why the aircraft was no longer in the area if it was flown back to the South Island.
Oremland and McCutcheon have said this week they hope an arrangement can still be made to keep the DC3 in Hawke's Bay, but McCutcheon says he has an offer for an Air Chathams DC3 to be available to accommodate about 20 flights he says are already planned for clients, and there is a possibility of another DC3 being brought to Hawke's Bay.
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In a DC3 Napier Facebook post on November 12, supporters were told: "The trustees and the owner of the DC3 are in discussions to purchase the DC3, but the price asked, they feel is too high, when the cost of refurbishment is considered."
Oremland says he's out of pocket for as much as $7000 in fuel that had been in the aircraft tanks, and other costs including a five-yearly propeller servicing for which he had paid as the owner – "all signed-off last Friday".
He said, however, that he'd had the benefit of the aircraft being brought north for the winter.
While he was still hopeful the DC3 would remain in Napier "because it's a good fit", he said on Tuesday he's ready to "take it back" and try to find another owner, possibly put it into temporary use as accommodation, or put it into storage amid what he believes is a growing market for such aircraft.
McCutcheon said that if the DC3 was to leave Napier he wanted to ensure everything was "tidied –up", but he said his "gut feeling" was that "we will probably get a deal".