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Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 7:29 am
by flyernzl
Short S.25 Sunderland Mk.5 NZ4111 was one of 16 Mk.5s bought by the New Zealand Government in 1953.
This aircraft was built by Blackburn at Dumbarton as Mk.V (rather than being converted from a Mk.III as some RNZAF Sunderlands were) and arrived at Lauthala Bay, Fiji from the UK 6Sep53,

NZ4111 served with 6Sdn RNZAF as KN-D


Its first recorded incident took place when NZ4111 ran aground on coral reef Nukunono Lagoon, Tokelau Islands, 24Aug55. Salvaged, it was flown back to Fiji 12Sep and repaired.

A more serious incident took place in November 1959. NZ4111 had flown to the Chatham Islands on one of the regular servicing flights that took place around that time, landing on the Te Whanga Lagoon.
After offloading passengers and cargo, the aircraft was taxiing to the start of the take-off run when the fuselage hit an uncharted rock. Although the aircraft was able to be beached under its own power, damage was so severe that the Sunderland never flew again.

The RNZAF removed valuable equipment at that time, and the aircraft was left to the islanders. Sections were dismantled and moved inland. some further parts recovered by were RNZAF Museum early-1994, remainder still onsite.

Very recently, efforts are being made to reassemble what remains in the area, as this news report indicates:

"Chatham Islands' historic lifeline comes together
By KIRAN CHUG - The Dominion Post

More than 50 years after the Chatham Islands' lifeline to New Zealand crashed, an ambitious restoration project to preserve history has begun.

A Short Sunderland – one of only five remaining flying boats of its kind left in the world – is being pieced back together after the dramatic crash that ended its flying years in 1959.

Air Chathams pilot Gary Downs, who lives on Chatham Island with his wife and four children, embarked on the project six months ago, enlisting the help of friends and spending every spare moment on what has become a labour of love.

At first he knew little about the plane and its crash, until learning of the wreckage, which was on farmland on the island's northeastern tip.

The more he learnt about the plane, the NZ4111, the more he realised it was an important part of the islands' history. "It was a big deal for people living here when it was used."

Operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the plane was used to carry supplies to the islands about three times a year after World War II.

On November 4, 1959, it was carrying three passengers when it crashed on takeoff in Te Whanga Lagoon, which makes up about a third of Chatham Island.

CRASH LANDING: The Sunderland after hitting a rock in Te Whanga Lagoon in 1959. Behind is the plane sent to rescue passengers and crew.

The passengers and crew were rescued, and the air force immediately salvaged the removable parts and returned them to New Zealand. The following year the rest of the wreckage, which was 70cm deep in mud, was removed from the water and a farming family moved it on to their land.

When Mr Downs found the wreckage, "strewn all over the farm", including the cockpit being used as a greenhouse, he enlisted the help of friends with cranes and the farm machinery to shift the pieces to a central field.

"All of the parts were numbered, so I've been putting the jigsaw puzzle back together," he said.

Once the plane is reassembled, people will be able to walk through its fuselage and into the two-storey cockpit.

He plans to line the walls with reports and anecdotes from those who remembered the flying boat when it was in use – or when it crashed.

The attraction is being rebuilt at the farm of Jim and Sally Muirson, who, along with neighbour Colin Barr, also have plans to restore a historic church and a whaling station on the land.

ROSS GIBLIN/The Dominion Post
JIGSAW PUZZLE: Gary Downs is recovering parts of the flying boat and reassembling them to put on display. The task is helped by each piece being individually numbered.

Mr Downs said the projects would help preserve the islands' history and he was undeterred by those who believed reassembling the plane's remaining parts would be impossible: "The more people say it can't be done, there is more motivation to do it." ... s-together

There has also been interest in the project from other media.
This link will take you to a radio interview with Gary Downs: ... ne_rebuild

(Would someone from outside New Zealand please confirm that this link works for non-NZ listeners, I am aware that some media links are geographically limited).

Re: Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 11:04 am
by flyernzl
Thanks for the feedback Tony.
I have saved the audio file to my computer just in case.

Re: Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 11:10 am
by antipodeanandy
Been reading about this aircraft for years. Great to see someone getting on with it.

Re: Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 7:58 pm
by Pondskater
Thanks for the update - really interesting. I had heard that the islanders had an affection for their wreck, good to see that this is happening. Somehow it seems better than having it taken away for some distant museum.


Re: Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 11:22 am
by flyernzl
I have been given a link to a photobucket file that contains several photos relating to NZ4111's mishap on the coral reef Nukunono Lagoon, Tokelau Islands, 24Aug55.


I don't know who posted the photos, but they are well worth a look ... /Nukunono/?

Re: Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 12:27 pm
Picking up the link in Ireland O.K.

Thanks TASSE.

Re: Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 11:21 am
by flyernzl
Our morning daily newspaper has published a sequence of articles about the Chatham Islands.
Todays issue was about the RNZAF Sunderland wrecked there, and the plans to resurrect it as a display item.
No link to the article on-line yet, but some interesting photographs of the wreck and the restoration are at their website ... 12#7217443

Re: Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:20 am
by flyernzl

Re: Chatham Island Sunderland news

PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2011 8:34 am
by fredgell
Just came across this link with some pictures I've not seen before... ... ying-boats