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

PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:21 am
by Aotearoa
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

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

PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:00 am
by AlexNortonesq
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.

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

PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:53 pm
by Pondskater

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

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

PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:32 am
by Aotearoa
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

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

PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2017 8:13 am
by seawings
Hi Aotearoa,

I'm picking up on your last comment re: 'timing out'.....

I'm not sure what you mean; can you explain and if there is a problem, I'll fix it.

Never heard of that issue before.....


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

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:26 am
by Aotearoa
Hi Bryan
Allan King replied to my post of 7 August and I set about responding to it. I started to reply to him and had typed in about a dozen lines, when all of a sudden, the page just disappeared altogether and I could not retrieve it.
So I started again and the same thing happen a second time. After the third attempt I gave up! Hope you might have an answer to the issue.
Thanks and regards
Paul Sheehan
Melbourne, Australia

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

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:03 am
by seawings
Morning Paul,

Thanks for the info. I must admit I've never heard of that before; I spoke with the hosters last night and they confirm there is no set limit to the time a posting can be made behind the scenes, so it's all rather puzzling.

I made a posting myself last night, started it, left the pc while I had evening dinner, came back to it and carried on, then left it again to watch a tv program, went back and finished it. No problem was encountered.

Wierd; I suppose you could always put another $Aus in the slot and buy some more lecky.....! (or, type faster..... :D )

Let me know if it happens again, email me direct off-board as I will see it quicker.

It's got 'glitch' written all over it but so far it's the only one I've heard of in months/years......


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

PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 12:57 am
by longshot
I've not had the disappearing problem on here but it often happens on Yahoo forums...possible solution, write the message in Word or as an email draft then cut and paste it into the Seawings post? Wasn't the name switch made on the NZ Empires so that the first one to actually reach NZ carried the name Aotearoa? The nice photo 2545-350 on the site of the Empire with a large Union Jack and 3 dark camouflaged Sunderlands behind it is later than 1941, I think..perhaps 1944?

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

PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 8:11 pm
by longshot
A while back I had access to another researchers movement chart copies ex Southampton for the Empire boats in 1939 and they noted following deliveries from Shorts factory at the chart tops

'FCW departed ex Rochester to Southampton 25 Mar (1200hrs)
'FCX departed ex Rochester to Southampton 30 Mar (0920hrs)

AOTEAROA (CY)* dep. ex Rochester to Southampton 24Apr (1505hrs) (name shown unhyphenated)
AUSTRALIA (CZ)* dep. ex Rochester to Southampton 24Apr (1520hrs)
*bracketed reg suffix in pencil

a later chart shows FCY AWARUA (aircraft code 35 on the charts) making its first of several service flight ex Southampton 13 Jul, suggesting FCY (S.884) was renamed as Awarua after delivery to Imperial

an August chart shows ZKAMA delivery flight dep. Southampton 0343hrs 16 Aug, arr Sydney 28 Aug, Auckland 29 August (ZKAMA shown unhyphenated, no name quoted), this is S.886 arriving at Auckland as Aotearoa

There is no mention of G-AFDA on the movement charts.

Image 2545-281 of ZK-AMC Awarua should be filed as S.886 should it not? And no photos of S.886 marked as G-AFDA have ever shown up