Work has begun in Wanaka on restoration of an ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force Harvard aircraft which hasn’t flown in more than 60 years.
Harvard 1044 is now in the ownership of Masterton-based Warbirds pilot Bevan Dewes and he’s brought the aircraft to Wanaka for restoration by Callum Smith at Twenty24 Ltd, based at Wanaka Airport.
The aircraft has ended up in Wanaka some 77 years after its maiden test flight in Texas in 1943, before entering service with the RNZAF during the Second World War.
The aircraft remained in service until it went into storage at Wigram in 1958, where it stayed until it was sold to the National Airways Corporation (NAC) in 1971.
NAC used the aircraft as an ‘instructional airframe’. Bevan says basically it was used for trainee engineers to practice “pulling it apart and putting it back together again”. NAC finally sold it off in 2004. It has passed through a couple of hands since, with Bevan buying it from its last owner in Ashburton, earlier this year.
Engineer Callum Smith says it’s one of the most original Harvards he’s ever worked on. “Because of the low hours on the airframe, and the fact it’s been kept out of the elements for all these years, it really is in mint condition. We have started pulling it all apart to assess exactly what work is required to get it flying again but so far there are no major surprises,” says Callum.
Bevan says having the original logbook from that very first test flight in 1943 is an added bonus. Another “find” was on the inside of the rear section of the fuselage where numerous trainee NAC engineers have inscribed their names along with some rather ribald comments.
“It’s all part of the history of the aircraft so I’ve decided to keep that all in there rather than paint over it,” says Bevan.
When restored, the aircraft will once again sport its original RNZAF camouflage colour scheme.
Bevan Dewes has strong links to Wanaka and the world-famous Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow. Bevan has been a regular attendee at the Airshow and in more recent years has displayed his Chipmunk aircraft, an ex-RAF trainer used for the training of HRH Prince Philip in 1952-3.
Bevan has also been a recipient of a Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust Flying Scholarship. He used the funding to fulfil a childhood dream and get a rating in a Spitfire. Bevan had been lined up to fly the Auckland-based Spitfire to Wanaka for the 2020 Airshow before the event was cancelled because of COVID-19.