Pilot looks forward to 'Wooden Wonder' reunion

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2013
Former World War II pilot Jim Hansen
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
BLAST FROM THE PAST: Former World War II pilot Jim Hansen is excited to see a Mosquito again for the first time since 1945.

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It's been almost 70 years since former Mosquito pilot Jim Hansen was able to get up close with one of the aircraft he loves.

The 91-year-old Wellingtonian clocked up 62 hours at the controls of "The Wooden Wonder", and was just weeks away from flying his first mission when World War II ended.

Today, Mr Hansen will attend Wings Over Wairarapa with his son, and will see a Mosquito for the first time since returning from England in 1945.

"They were such a beautiful aircraft," he said. "They had a hard time to start with, being made of wood. There was nothing extra in the way of armament and so on because they were to rely on speed to get out of trouble.

"They were so powerful and so good to handle, fast and at low level. It's going to be great seeing one again. It will be emotional because it takes me back about 70 years."

Mr Hansen went to Canada for training in late 1943 as a 22-year-old, and returned to fiancee Dorothy two years later.

He got his "wings" in April 1944 and did hundreds of hours training on various aircraft around Britain, before being lined up for a Mosquito on Coastal Command.

"If the war had lasted another week or so I'd have finished [training] and been ready to go to a squadron.

"I had a couple of friends who did a couple of quick 'ops' before it finished. It was done in alphabetical order, you see. I was that close to getting there."

Once back in New Zealand he concentrated on "getting married, studying, getting a job and getting cracking".

He has not flown since the war ended, apart from five minutes in a Cessna above the Kapiti Coast.

Mrs Hansen died last year after 64 years of marriage. Mr Hansen has two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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- The Dominion Post

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