Together again

Fly boys: Geoff Trow and George Giles with a Chipmunk in Dhekelia, Cyprus, in February 1961.
Fly boys: Geoff Trow and George Giles with a Chipmunk in Dhekelia, Cyprus, in February 1961.

A former British Army Air Corps mechanic is set to be reunited with a plane he serviced in Tripoli more than 50 years ago.

Nelson man Geoff Trow joined the British Army in 1955 when he was 15 years old.

Born in Wiltshire in southwest England, he spent three years training in Wales and England.

Val and Geoff Trow
Val and Geoff Trow

His first assignment was to Cyprus during the conflict in 1958.

Originally trained as a motor mechanic, he became an aircraft mechanic when the army took over light aircraft from the Royal Air Force in the late 1950s.

In 1960 he was tasked with keeping Chipmunk WB693 flying in Tripoli, Libya, where he was based for eight months, with further service in Kenya, Cyprus, Aden and Germany.

The tandem, two-seat, single-engined aircraft was used primarily as an observation and training aircraft by the army after they became surplus to RAF requirements, Mr Trow said.

After almost nine years in the army, he finished in 1963 and moved to New Zealand the following year.

His long-standing interest in aircraft took him to the last Omaka Airshow where he saw a Chipmunk aircraft with "army" printed on the side.

"I recognised the registration number on the side of it," Mr Trow said.

"I thought, ‘I'm damn sure I know that plane'."

He got out his mechanic's flying logbook when he returned home and discovered it was the same plane he had worked on in 1960 in Tripoli.

"It was just a fluke really," he said.

"It's just another plane but it did bring back memories."

His wife, Val Trow, checked the registration through New Zealand Warbirds and eventually tracked down the owner of the aircraft as a New Zealand pilot.

The new owner had bought the aircraft through a broker in London a few years earlier and was absolutely thrilled to know the history of his plane, Mr Trow said.

"I told him in Tripoli, when the ‘V' bombers were flying, I used to put the Chipmunk under the wings to keep it cool," he said.

"The ‘V' bomber crews used to love it, they used to thrash it around the sky."

The pair plan to meet up again at the Omaka Classic Fighters Airshow held in Blenheim this weekend.

Mr Trow is looking forward to meeting the new owner of the Chipmunk and seeing the aircraft again.

"These are aircraft I particularly know, because that's all they had in those days," he said.

"He said he'd take me for a flight, and I'm looking forward to that."

The Marlborough Express