First airmail flight 'far from smooth'

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014
ray bennett
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

THE STAMP OF HISTORY: Timaru Philatelic Society president Ray Bennett shows off some of the new stamps that will be issued as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of airmail in New Zealand.

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Celebrations of Timaru's role as the birthplace of airmail in New Zealand are taking off.

Timaru Philatelic Society president Ray Bennett said a commemorative stamp will be released on March 6 - the 100th anniversary of the first attempted airmail delivery in New Zealand.

The stamps will feature an illustration of Will Scotland's flight, as well as a picture of Temuka's Catholic Church, which acted as the drop-off point for the country's first air-delivered package.

Mr Bennett said Mr Scotland's original flight in a Caudron biplane was "somewhat inauspicious".

"His take-off point was at Fraser Park, but he ended up having to land in Quarry Rd before taking off again . . . before he finally landed in Orari, he dropped off a parcel from the plane by the Temuka Catholic church. The parcel included a note requesting someone post the carburettor book to Christchurch so he could pick it up the next day. So as you can see, it wasn't a smooth journey, but it was a historically significant one," he said.

Mr Bennett said little was known about why Mr Scotland decided to attempt the flight.

"Apparently a lot of people were worried about him. The plane was a pretty dinky-looking thing," he said.

"He had taken the plane from Gore to Timaru by train. Which sounds impressive until you see the size of the thing."

Mr Bennett said local man Jack Mehlhopt would stage a re-enactment of Mr Scotland's flight on March 6.

Mr Melhopt will set off from Ashbury Park and land in Temuka, where he will be met by a member of the South Canterbury Vintage Car Club, driving a 1914 vintage vehicle.

"We hope Jack's flight will be a bit smoother than the original trip," Mr Bennett said.

"It's all been very exciting. There have been a number of groups working on this celebration. It's come together very quickly."

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- The Timaru Herald

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