Old bird restored to wartime glory

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2013
Kittyhawk, Air Force Museum
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

READY FOR INSPECTION: Jim Ritchie, left, and Merv Baker push the Kittyhawk into her new home at the Wigram Air Force Museum.

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A lovingly-restored Kittyhawk has been wheeled into its new home at the air force museum at Wigram, 16 years after work began on it.

The museum's latest addition is an ex-US Army air force plane that crashed in Vanuatu during World War II, and languished there until it was moved to Australia.

Museum collections manager David Watmuff said they "got wind of the aircraft" and exchanged it for another plane in their collection in 1996.

Since then, the museum's staff and volunteers have spent a combined 22,319 hours refurbishing the aircraft and readying it for public display - ensuring it was "as authentic as possible".

"If somebody from 1942-43 was to walk in, the idea was they'd think it is no different from any other aircraft they'd find anywhere else."

It was believed to be the first significant aircraft restored at the Wigram museum since the 1980s, and was its first Kittyhawk.

Watmuff hoped it would be moved into the display hall for public viewing next week.

"Just to get to the stage it's at has been a fantastic achievement," Watmuff said.

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- The Press

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