Restored bomber returns to the skies

Lift off for 10-year labour of love

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 08:02 19/07/2012
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MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

ONWARD AND UPWARDS: The only flying Mark I Avro Anson bomber lifts off from Nelson Airport for the second of two test flights.

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Ten years of painstaking work finally got off the ground in Nelson yesterday when a pre-World War II aircraft took off at Nelson Airport.

Aviation enthusiasts and historians gathered at various vantage points to witness history in the remaking when Bill and Robyn Reid's 1936 Avro Anson bomber took to the air again.

The 10-year renovation finished in May this year, and the moment of lift-off yesterday had been eagerly anticipated.

"This is the only one of its kind in world to be flying so the occasion was pretty exciting to watch," said Nelson Airport chief executive and chairperson of the top of the south aviation cluster, Kaye McNabb.

She said watching the bomber flying was an "amazing tribute" to the Reids and their team, and to the skills, expertise and ability of the aviation industry in the region.

The Reids have been involved in aviation in Nelson for many years. They said recently the restoration had been an "amazing team effort".

"To have an event such as this, which attracts worldwide interest and showcases the New Zealand aviation industry is a fine achievement," Mrs McNabb said.

The Avro Anson Mark 1 went into production in 1935 and more than 11,000 were produced. Production ceased in 1952.

They were widely used in World War II by British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand air forces, mainly as trainers.

Mr Reid, who bought the plane and another as a spare from Australia's Airworld Museum in northern Victoria, originally thought the project would take three years.

The engines were recently 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, were lined up for the first flights.

Mrs Reid said Mr Phillips piloted the plane on its first flight yesterday, with her husband as co-pilot. The second flight had Mr Perrett in command and Mr Phillips as co-pilot.

"It was really, really awesome, seeing this after all these years . To see it was just amazing. Everything went really well and the pilots were pleased with the way it flew," Mrs Reid said.

She said she was very proud and excited for her husband that it went so well.

"It was textbook stuff," she said.

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 recently he wanted to keep the bomber "at least for a couple of years".

"I want to have some fun with it."

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