Labours of love finally finished

Plane's maiden flight after 17-year restoration

CHLOE WINTER
Last updated 09:05 19/06/2014
Grant ‘‘Muddy’’ Murdoch
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

TAKING OFF: Former Blenheim man Grant ‘‘Muddy’’ Murdoch, left, JEM Aviation owner Jay McIntyre and Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre trustee Graham Orphan with the fully restored Nanchang CJ-6a and Fokker Dr.1 Triplane at Omaka airfield yesterday.

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Blenheim man Grant "Muddy" Murdoch has juggled family and work life with the restoration process of a Nanchang CJ-6a aeroplane for the past 17 years.

Murdoch, a pilot for Virgin Australia based in Christchurch, flew his Nanchang to its new home in Rangiora yesterday. The last time it flew was in 1986.

It took 17 years to restore because life took over, Murdoch said.

"When I first got this plane my oldest [child] was just born so it's juggling a young family, finance and time.

"You could spend every living hour, if you wanted to, working on the plane but then you would miss on your family growing up."

Murdoch had the aeroplane shipped to Marlborough from Perth, Australia in 1997.

"It probably wasn't in the condition we thought it was going to be in when she arrived."

It had puncture holes in the wings, perhaps from shipping damage, and creases in the wings, he said.

Murdoch worked on it before he moved to Christchurch in 2006. JEM Aviation owner Jay McIntyre took over from then on.

While the restoration process had been long, working with like-minded people made it easier, Murdoch said. "Being around these guys and building something is half of the pleasure of doing a project anyway. The flying machine, at the end of the day, is the icing on the cake.

"We are all aeroplane geeks at heart."

McIntrye said this Nanchang was the first one he had fully restored.

"I've been involved with it since day one in varying degrees - helped him strip things out of the back in the late 90s when he first got it, not knowing that we would end up finishing it. I did it to help him and it's been fun."

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre trustee Graham Orphan's Fokker Dr.1 Triplane also had its maiden flight this month after two years of restoration work. His first flight in the triplane was "unexpected", Orphan said.

"I was expecting it to be more challenging because taxiing it on the ground was really difficult . . . I thought, ‘All right, I can't steer, I can't stop and I can't see' - the middle wing just blankets the horizon," he said. "But once I got off the ground it was just lovely - more fresh air than you could ever dream of."

The completion of both restored aeroplanes meant it was possible there would be eight triplanes and eight Nanchangs at the Omaka Classic Fighters Airshow 2015, Orphan said.

MAIDEN FLIGHTS

Maiden flights at Omaka airfield this year

1. Fokker Dr.1 Triplane Restored by John Evans and Dave Simms over two years. First flight June

2. 2.Nanchang CJ-6a Restored by JEM Aviation owner Jay McIntyre and owner Grant ‘Muddy' Murdoch over 17 years. First flight April 16.

3. DR109 ‘One Design' Built from scratch by Simon Paul and Roger Harris over two to three years. First flight April 16.

4. De Havilland Devon Restored by owner Mit Brereton in conjunction with the team from JEM Aviation over two to three years. First flight March 18.

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- Marlborough

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