Aviation history drops in for cuppa

JOHN BISSET
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013

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Tom Grant literally dropped into Timaru for a coffee yesterday morning. He and friend Charlie Kenny were making their way to Ashburton, flying in Mr Grant's two homebuilt aircraft to a fly-in at the Ashburton Aviation Museum.

The 84-year-old Dunedin man is no stranger to aviation. He learnt to fly gliders in 1954 and has been flying and building his own aircraft since.

His most recent, a 1917 Albatros D5A had its longest flight yesterday as it was flown from Dunedin to Ashburton. It took Mr Grant 14 years to build the German single-seater plane and another 18 months to repair it, after "a minor mishap" on its maiden flight.

The propeller stopped turning after taking off; he was only at 500ft above ground, the only paddock available was rough and overgrown. He managed to land safely but the aircraft nosedived after touchdown, destroying the engine bay compartment.

Mr Grant's wife and support crew Jeanette joked that he didn't have time to chase wild women for nearly two years while he rebuilt the plane.

The now fully repaired aircraft is equipped with a modern Toyota 1800cc car engine and cruises at 60 knots. It will be on display alongside his other aircraft, a SE5 Scout experimental that he built in 1970.

Fellow pilot Charlie Kenny flew Mr Grant's Scout in formation, landing at Timaru Airport for morning tea with friends Jack and Audrey Mehlhopt.

They continued their flight to Ashburton where over 100 aircraft are expected at the fly-in organised by the aviation museum.

The weekend will draw homebuilt aircraft from all over New Zealand which will include flying competitions and seminars.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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