Old technology wins new interest

22:30, Mar 21 2013
Tony Wytenburg
Classic Aero Machining Service - Tony Wytenburg with a beautifly machined rotary engine to be showcased at the Classic Fighters Omaka Airshow.

A Blenheim aviation engineer is timing the unveiling of his latest "ground-breaking" project to coincide with the Omaka Classic Fighters Airshow 2013 next weekend.

Classic Aero Machinery Service owner Tony Wytenburg has spent the past four months working full-time on building the shell of his first Gnome 100 horsepower Monosoupape rotary engine.

There may not be a lot of interest in the aircraft engine that powered the British and French fighter planes in World War I, almost 100 years ago.

But Mr Wytenburg's work has piqued the curiosity of a small group of people around the world, and three have already ordered engines, worth about $65,000 each.

The show, held every second year at the Omaka Aerodrome over Easter weekend, was the ideal time to unveil his ground-breaking work, he said.

"We don't know who will be walking in the door on the day - it's just the exposure really.


"There will be hundreds of interested people there from all over the world."

Mr Wytenburg, who started building parts for old warplanes in Blenheim in 2004, has built an international reputation for reverse engineering and remanufacturing aircraft parts, frames and engines.

Building the Gnomes has "been a dream come true" for the aviation engineer, who had been trying to find one of the original engines to use as a template for almost five years.

Once he had an engine to copy, he wanted to have five buyers lined up, to ensure it was a viable enterprise, he said.

It cost about $200,000 to make one engine but the cost reduced considerably when manufacturing to scale.

At the end of last year, he had three buyers on board and decided to get started early, to have something to showcase at the event next weekend.

Organising committee chairman Graham Orphan, who also publishes Classic Wings magazine, said Mr Wytenburg's work was "world-breaking news".

"It's a significant thing for New Zealand's aviation industry, and could become a significant export earner," he said.

"It's the only business in the world I can think of that is manufacturing and globally marketing the rotary engine."

With 30,000 aviation enthusiasts from around the world, including private collectors and editors and publishers of aviation magazines, the show was an excellent forum for the Marlborough aviation industry, he said.

Marlborough businesses Safe Air, Classic Aircraft Sales, JEM Aviation and Antique Aeroworks will also have a presence at the show.

The Marlborough Express