Bevan backs grassroots flying

'It's back to grassroots flying ... what I enjoy'

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2013
John Bisset

Bevan Dewes and his 1952 Chipmunk

Bevan Dewes
YOUNG PILOT: Bevan Dewes, with his 1952 De Havilland Chipmunk.

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Bevan Dewes has been fascinated by aviation since he was a toddler and refused to eat breakfast unless he could see the planes overhead.

Now the 19-year-old not only has his private and commercial pilots' licences but also owns a 1952 De Havilland Chipmunk - making him possibly the youngest vintage aircraft owner in the country.

He is living on Rangitata Island and instructing for East Canterbury Aviation for the next few months.

"It's back to grassroots flying, which is what I enjoy," he said.

All his money is sunk into his passion, which saw him attend airshows from the age of 10 and volunteer at the Masterton Aviation Museum from the age of 13.

Five days after turning 16 he was flying solo and gained his private pilot's licence after four-and-a-half hours of flying, instead of the usual 10 hours.

The young aviator does not believe pilots have to be "super bright" but they do need to be able to think quickly.

Doing aerobatics at his first airshow in Blenheim earlier this year, Mr Dewes said it was about concentrating and looking out the window. "You don't really feel the G-forces as a pilot."

Landing was the hardest part of flying, especially in older planes with a wheel, or tail-dragger, on the back. The plane is steered using the brakes on the under-carriage. A slight miscalculation and the plane could spin sideways.

Investing in old New Zealand bank notes from a young age and working on a dairy farm during the school holidays paid off. He bought half the Chipmunk last year and purchased the rest two months ago. It is valued at $125,000.

Maintenance is costly, including $520 for sparkplugs, $5000 to fix an oil leak and $600 for a battery. The average hourly running cost of the plane is around $300.

His Chipmunk's history is also notable. It was used by Prince Phillip to learn to fly in 1952 and then sold to the University of London Air Squadron. In 1976 it was rebuilt by a new owner in the USA and ended up in Masterton in 2003.

"It has light controls, it is very harmonised and nicely balanced," he said. It is nicknamed the Poor Man's Spitfire, because it is light and nimble like the famous fighter aircraft, but costs far less to fly.

Mr Dewes hopes to fly more vintage and veteran planes at air shows, particularly World War I and World War II aircraft.

"[Flying] gives you a sense of freedom."

Though always broke, the young pilot said it was a lifestyle he chose and one he was unlikely to ever change.

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- The Timaru Herald

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