Guest speaker Rodger McCutcheon gave an entertaining talk on both his personal journey as an aviator and the unique history of the 1942 DC3 now based at Napier Airport.
Rodger ‘rescued’ the DC3 from becoming a café when he observed it while flying to Queenstown. The owner had been struggling to get an airworthy certificate over a number of years and Rodger negotiated the purchase on the basis that he could get the certificate in a matter of days.
That’s how it turned out to be. ZK-JGB is named ‘The Jean Batten Clipper’ and began life during World War 2 (the signatures of the Californian ladies who riveted it together can still be seen inside the wing mounts). It began as a Skytrain C47 troop carrier before being converted to a Douglas DC3.
Under different owners, it has been based in Europe, the USA, Saudi Arabia and back to Europe. It starred in a James Bond movie and, about seven years ago, the then-owner flew it from England to Auckland on what is known as the Jean Batten Trail.
Flying an old aircraft is not without its dramas. The most recent being earlier in the day when an engine blew a cylinder just after takeoff. Fortunately, the DC3 can still operate on one engine and a safe landing resulted.
The Hawkes Bay DC3 Charitable Trust has been formed to ensure a long-term future for the aircraft. Its plans include a permanent hangar for the DC3 as part of an Aviation Heritage Centre with static displays of historic aircraft. ZK-JGB has already done a number of sight-seeing flights and the hope is that these become a regular activity (around $100 per person). The flight deck will be accessible for those interested to watch the pilots at work.
There are plans to be regularly involved in the Art Deco weekend. With regard to Rodger’s flying career, he first flew as a 16-year-old and began working as a pilot at age 17. He first flew DC3s with Fieldair (top dressing) but has ratings in a number of aircraft including helicopters.