Maike van der Heide continues the series looking back over stories of interest from the Marlborough Express files. This instalment is from October 28, 1977 .
The caption reads: Two of the men who worked on the aircraft - Corporal Harry Gallagher tries a padded seat, but LAC Peter Weatherill's pressing of the steward button was in vain. There was none on board.
Air conditioning, a cocktail cabinet, piped music, thick brown carpet and even a telephone - it may sound like a very mid-rate hotel room, but this was in fact the Royal New Zealand Air Force's answer to luxury travel in 1977.
Described in the article as the "most comfortable VIP aircraft in the world", the Andover was refurbished at Woodbourne before being handed over to No 42 Squadron at Ohakea, near Palmerston North. Only four important people at a time could enjoy the luxurious cabin in the Andover, with the less important passengers on board having to slum it in another section fitted with 12 seats.
The light fawn and white vinyl-lined cabin with dark brown carpet and ochre and white seats had buttons for summoning a steward, tinted sliding covers for the windows and a galley complete with fridge and microwave and hot and cold running water.
It was one of 10 Andovers bought by the Government from the Royal Air Force to replace the RNZAF's fleet of Bristol Freighters and Dakotas.
Tradesmen spent 25,000 hours transforming the 10-year-old aircraft, including removing its original desert camouflage for World War II.
"The repair depot at Woodbourne has revolved around this aircraft for the last nine months," Air Force public relations officer Flight Lieutenant Jon Francis was quoted as saying.
A large crowd watched as the plane took test flights over Woodbourne. No 42 Squadron was in charge of carrying important visitors and dignitaries around the country but as no suitable aircraft had been available until the Andover was finished, the task had fallen on the Friendships of the calibration flight of the Civil Aviation Division.
THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED FROM THE ORIGINAL
- The Marlborough Express