A love affair involving 100 people is soon to reach new heights when Bill and Robyn Reid's Avro Anson bomber takes off from Nelson Airport after a 10-year restoration.
The Reids have been helped by a wide variety of people experienced in all disciplines related to aircraft restoration as the 1936 aircraft has been meticulously prepared for a return to the skies.
"It's been an amazing team effort," Mr Reid said. "We had a party on Sunday. Fifty turned up, and I could add another 50."
Now the plane is almost ready to be trucked from the Reids' Teapot Valley property to the airport. It got its Certificate of Airworthiness last week, the wings have been taken off for the move, the identification numbers have been painted on.
Mr Reid, who bought this plane and another as a spare from Australia's Airworld Museum in northern Victoria, originally thought the project would take three years.
Now that it's on the brink of completion it feels "pretty good".
"I haven't regretted it at all. I still enjoy working on it, it's not as if it's become a drag."
The engines have been tested and two top aerobatic pilots, Cathay Pacific captain Dave Phillips and former Royal Air Force Red Arrows team member Sean Perrett, now with the New Zealand Air Force, are lined up for the first flights, with Mr Reid going along as co-pilot.
After the wings are put on again and final ground testing completed come the first few flights. They won't be announced in advance – the couple have learned that there is such interest in the aircraft that even an engine run attracted a big crowd once word got out.
"It puts a lot of extra pressure on," Mr Reid said. "Once we've done those first couple of flights, sweet."
There's also international interest in the plane – it's the only airworthy-certified Avro Anson Mark 1 in the world, and is destined for appearances at Warbirds Over Wanaka and other airshows as they come around, including at Omaka in Marlborough.
Mr Reid said he wanted to keep the bomber "at least for a couple of years".
"I want to have some fun with it."
The Avro Anson was the first RAF monoplane with a retractable undercarriage. It went into production in 1935 and more than 11,000 were built before production ceased in 1952, including 6688 Mark 1s. They were widely used in World War II by the British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian air forces, most prominently as trainers.
See www.nelsonmail.co.nz for a video clip of the engine test run.
- The Nelson Mail