Imperial Airways/Tasman Empire Airways Short S.30 G-AFDA

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Imperial Airways/Tasman Empire Airways Short S.30 G-AFDA

Postby Aotearoa » Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:21 am

Greetings to everyone from Melbourne Australia.
I'm looking for a photograph of Imperial's S.30 G-AFDA (if such a photo exists!). If anybody has this would you please get in touch with me by email at:

There are some who say the aircraft never carried this registration, and others who say it could not be used by Imperial without being painted with this registration.

I'm an avid aviation historian (2 books under my belt now) and this request forms a very important part in solving the mystery of whether or not "G-AFDA" really existed

Many thanks

Paul Sheehan
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Re: Imperial Airways/Tasman Empire Airways Short S.30 G-AFD

Postby AlexNortonesq » Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:00 am

From this forum, a few years ago I took the following:

The Flying Boat Forum from SEAWINGS Forum Index -> Between the Wars - The 'Golden' Era - 1918 to 1939

Joined: 30 Oct 2007
Posts: 2Location: New Zealand
PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2007 7:23 am Post subject: Short S.30 Empire ZK-AMA Reply with quote
Hopefully I'll kickstart a discussion about this Empire boat.
ZK-AMA was the first aircraft for Tasman Empire Airways of New Zealand (TEAL) which eventually became Air New Zealand.
Built by Shorts at Rochester as G-AFDA, c/n S.886 was registered to Imperial Airways Ltd., London in May 1939. She was launched as ZK-AMC 'Awarua', del to Imps in those marks 12May39. Changed to ZK-AMA 'Aotearoa' from 15Aug39. AMA's first scheduled airline flight was 30Apr40 Auckland-Sydney.....

It seems as if flyernl concluded that it was not delivered with the registration numbers G-AFDA.

You may, therefore, have a hard time finding a picture of it.
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Location: Toronto ON Canada

Re: Imperial Airways/Tasman Empire Airways Short S.30 G-AFD

Postby Pondskater » Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:53 pm


I don't have any photos for G-AFDA with those markings - sorry, but I wonder if I might be able to help get closer to an answer.

As Alex and Flyernzl say above, there seems to have been an identity swap on the aircraft which doesn’t help but the tale is intriguing and caught my interest. It also doesn’t help that records at the time often just use the aircraft name - and changing names makes following it difficult.

You may well know much of the story but if you’ll excuse me, my school teacher always insisted that I show my working.

One thing which doesn’t change is the constructors number. The Short C Class boat c/n S886 was originally painted as Awarua and ZK-AMC for her launch in May 1939. Her sister ship, c.n S884, ZK-AMA named Aotearoa (originally incorrectly as Ao-tea-roa) was launched about a month earlier with the third boat Australia. Photos of the launches of ZK-AMA and ZK-AMC can be seen here: ... zkamc.html

Interestingly, there is also a photo of G-AFCY on that page carrying the name Ao-tea-roa.

Now - there is also an in service photo of G-AFCY at Southampton but carrying the name Awarua which seems to confirm the name change and that it happened after the aircraft (c/n 884) was transferred to Imperial Airways.

A photo of Awarua carrying G-AFCY registration in service at Berth 50 Southampton is here:

For primary sources of service use, Peter Wingent has helpfully compiled all the Southampton press cuttings in his book of Empire Flying Boat services. It records Awarua making her first in-service flight on 13 July 1939 to Calcutta.

Sister ship, Australia, arrived back at Southampton the same day. It also notes that Aotearoa was reported as due to enter services four days later - but seems not to have done so.

These were the three boats originally commissioned for the Australia-New Zealand route. But, Imperial Airways, being short of aircraft due to losses, pressed two of them into it's service before delivery.

Australia was damaged in 9 August 39 in the Persian Gulf. Her temporary loss until repaired, together with the loss of ten boats by then, forced Imperial to stop taking passenger bookings because of the shortage of aircraft. The article on Australia's accident records four 'modified' C class boats (S30) in service and names Champion, Clyde, Awarua and Australia. Note there is no mention of Aotearoa.

Aotearoa isn't mentioned as in service in any article that I can see until she departs on her delivery flight on 16 August 1939.

I think we can show that, after the name change c/n S886 became Aotearoa. She was registered with G-AFDA - see here: ... G-AFDA.pdf

There is no record of her being used in service - indeed, despite the shortage of aircraft, it was Awarua and Australia which were pressed into Imperial Airways service.

Also note, G-AFDA’s registration document shows transfer of ownership in April 39 - before her delivery from Short Brothers - and no subsequent registration to Imperial which would have put her registration back into use for the Southampton service.

I’m content to say that G-AFDA did not enter service with Imperial. She was launched initially as ZK-AMC ‘Awarua’ and changed to ZK-AMA Aotearoa. But then departed for New Zealand on 16 August 1939 under her New Zealand registration. Her delivery flight is well recorded.

I would be surprised if a photo of her as G-AFDA turned up. You may well find one of ZK-AMA at Imperial Airways Hythe base being prepared for the delivery flight. An accurate date on a photograph would be hugely helpful in confirming that she never wore her UK registration.

One question remains - why the name swap? Why, when the original Ao-tea-roa was registered as G-AFCY did she change her name?

Does the significance of Aotearoa as the Maori name for New Zealand have a bearing? Was she TEAL’s first flagship and they didn’t want her risked in Imperial Service? I’d love to see if memos from that period showed anything about the name change.

I hope that helps.

If you’d like to see the press cuttings, let me know - I can scan the pages and e-mail them over to you.

All the best

Allan King
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Re: Imperial Airways/Tasman Empire Airways Short S.30 G-AFD

Postby Aotearoa » Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:32 am

Hi Allan
Thanks so much for your comprehensive reply. I've tried a couple of times to reply but this website seems to time out quite quickly, then drops out and I lose everything I've written.
Could you please email me at: and I'll reply by email.
Paul Sheehan
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Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:00 am

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