Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Return flight: One of the last Bristol Freighters to leave for the UK

Dwens have had these aircraft (part of the 12 of the former RNZAF fleet) and parts on their books for a very long time. Several of them were operated as Hercules Airlines for a year or two in the mid 1980s just about the same time as Safe Air's operations were drawing to a close. New Zealand was one of the last countries where Bristol Freighters were operated, but just when we thought that they were completely finishing up in our little corner of the world, Trans Provincial Airways and Hawkair took a few over to British Columbia to service goldmining operations in the backblocks of northern Canada.

The Poms had a go at preserving one as an operational exhibit a few years ago but it crashed and was written off beyond repair in 1996. The last Bristol flying anywhere was one of the Canadian ones (ex NZ) which Hawkair mothballed in 2000 after one of their mining contracts finished. It was donated to a museum and flown there in 2004, the last flight of a Bristol Freighter in the world. Hawkair went into receivership soon after and the BF was seized by the receivers and auctioned to an American who was persuaded to donate it back to the museum.

The taxiable BF at Omaka is probably the only semi-operational example anywhere in the world but operations have been paused after one of the engines was found to have serious issues. A spare Hercules engine from Omaka has been refurbished for operational display using ex-Hawkair parts from Canada and there are a number of groups around the world running Bristol Hercules engines for display at shows as can be seen from the clips available on Youtube.

So for one to be going back to the UK for a museum will be an interesting completion of the circle.