Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

This is the place to discuss particular Shorts Flying Boat types and post documents, photographs and other relevant information appertaining to these craft.

Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby flyernzl » Fri Feb 04, 2011 10:32 am

There have been 31 Short flying Boats active in New Zealand.

Owned by Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), New Zealand National Airways Corporation (NZNAC) and/or the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), this activity spanned the years 1939 to 1967.

TEAL was formed in 1939 as a joint venture between Imperial Airways/BOAC, Qantas Empire Airways, Union Airways (who operated an internal New Zealand airline) and the New Zealand Government. The TEAL Sydney-Auckland service was intended to be the final link in the Empire route from England down through the Mediterranean, the Far East, Australia and finally through to New Zealand.

The initial flying equipment for the new airline was to be three Short S.30 Empire flying boats, and these aircraft formed part of a batch ordered by Imperial Airways from Shorts.

S.30 Empire c/n S.886 was registered as G-AFDA to Imperial Airways Ltd., London in May 1939, and carried out its first flight at Rochester on the 10th of that month. It entered line service with Imperial Airways as 'Cumberland' on the 13th July to cover for a shortage of other aircraft.
Returning to the Rochester works, it was initially repainted with the registration ZK-AMC, but this was corrected to ZK-AMA before departure for New Zealand on the 16th August carrying the name 'Aotearoa'. (The block of NZ civil registrations ZK-AMA to ZK-AMZ had been reserved for 'marine' aircraft use).

Arriving at Auckland on 28th August, ZK-AMA then spent several months on proving flights, not just to Australia but also to various Pacific Islands. At that time, the RNZAF had little in the way of maritime patrol aircraft. The 30 Vickers Wellingtons ordered in early 1939 had been gifted to the RAF prior to delivery, and all the RNZAF could then muster were a number of second-hand Vickers Vildebeest single-engined biplanes of doubtful reliability. The TEAL Empire boats were therefore tasked with carrying out a number of military patrol flights prior to the arrival of modern American aircraft in late 1941. ZK-AMA had a Union Jack and ID stripes painted on the aircraft from 19Mar40. Although the Union Jack appears to remained on the aircraft for the rest of its life, I have never seen a photo of ZK-AMA with the ID stripes.

TEAL commercial line operations started on 30th April 1940 when ZK-AMA flew 10 passengers from Auckland to Sydney. These flights continued throughout the war years, and this was the only non-military passenger service to and from New Zealand during those years.

ZK-AMA on take-off at Auckland in pre-war colours

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A low pass over the Waitemata harbour, Auckland

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Landing on the Waitemata, prewar

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On the water at Lauthala Bay, Fiji during a survey flight

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At the conclusion of WW2 in 1945, the service continued while plans were made for a fleet replacement and upgrade.

ZK-AMA on the taxii at Auckland in postwar colours

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And the take-off run

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Servicing was carried out at Hobsonville.

ZK-AMA moored at the Hobsonville buoy

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On the Hobsonville slipway

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Heading back to Mechanics Bay

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The Mechanics Bay terminal was fairly basic, just a braby and some movable barriers

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ZK-AMA carried out its 442nd and last trans-Tasman flight 0n 29Oct47, WFU Mechanics Bay 29Oct47 @ 8500hrs it was stored complete with engines and avionics at Hobsonville until sold by tender closing 21Jun48.

It was then transported down the harbour to Mission Bay beach and taken up onto the waterfront for display as a museum piece.

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The caption is slightly erroneous (the Walsh School was between the road and the sea) but the photo gives some idea of the fun they must have had getting the old girl into quite a tight site.

John Rankin, who lived in the area at that time writes:

“As a school boy it was great excitement when ZK-AMA arrived off the beach… when she first came into view she was still on the step and all four engines were running (it was rumoured that she did get airborne for a short distance in the vicinity of North Head) she then came off the step and taxied slowly towards the beach before dropping an anchor …….. The TEAL tender from Mechanics Bay then went out to her and a couple of engineers removed the batteries and brought them ashore. Everyone then waited around on the beach for the Beaching gear to arrive. This arrived later than expected by which time the tide had gone out quite a bit and it was decided that the beaching could not take place that day.
The TEAL tender then took Aotearoa in tow (no batteries) and towed her to her old base at Mechanics Bay for the night (she had been in storage at Hobsonville)
The next day I was down at the beach early to watch the beaching which all went well and AMA was pulled up on the grass between where the fountain now is and the changing shed she then spent that night on the grass.
The following day she was taken across the waterfront drive having been turned 180 degrees and settled in to her final resting place.
Subsequent to this various stone work was placed around the site and a sturdy set of wooden steps were put in place for boarding.
Mains electricity was connected to the aircraft by the tail on the starboard side so that navigation lights and other equipment could be run presumably with 230 volt bulbs having been fitted”

John also notes:

“To the VERY best of recollections she was NEVER used as Tea rooms that certainly was the original intention though………you had to pay something to have a guided tour around and the charts of her last Tasman crossing were on display etc . . . the only other thing on the site was the mini golf.”

The miniature golf area was alongside the Empire boat, as can be seen in these photos.
The sign reads:
"'A unique opportunity to inspect The Pioneer Flying Boat of the Tasman Service.
See the passenger accommodation.
Inspect the flight deck, the engineer's room, the observer's chart room with the chart still on the table after the last Tasman
crossing.
Sit in the pilot's cockpit and actually handle the controls of this GIANT AIRCRAFT!
You will enjoy inspecting the intricate machinery of this masterpiece of engineering. An experience you'll never forget! A chance you'll never have again!".
How right they were.

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However, this opportunity did not last long. A short while later the site was required for development and ZK-AMA was broken up for scrap. I believe this was in October 1950.

John also comments on the eventual scrapping of the aircraft:

“I sometime later went off to boarding school and on coming home for school holidays one time was saddened to find that ZK-AMA was no more (scrapped).
I still have a scrap book that I kept in those days and in that is a photo from the NZ Herald of the aircraft in its final resting place and a write up about it.”

Extract from the NZ Herald:
OLD FLYING BOAT’S END
Aotearoa To Be Scrapped

Mission Bay Feature

The Aotearoa veteran aircraft of the Tasman service will be scrapped next week. Breakers torches will end its career which began in August 1939 and included many miles of varied flying during the war before it became in 1948 an attraction for visitors to Mission Bay
Mr H.L.Carter one of the owners said yesterday that the aircraft would have to be broken up on the site as it would be too difficult to move it. All fittings would be sold and the hull and aluminium melted.
The Aotearoa was the original flagship of Tasman Empire Airways and pioneered the service on April 30th 1940. Before she made her last flight in November 1947 she crossed the Tasman 442 times and covered 1,230 000 air miles. In that time the plane carried nearly 7000 passengers.
During the war the Aotearoa and its sister aircraft Awarua travelled all over the Pacific and visited nearly every island in allied hands.
Both planes had a name for reliability. Although they were old they had their turn of speed. Assisted by a tail wind the Awarua made a record crossing of the Tasman in 5 hours 15 minutes in 1946 which set the standard for years.
The name of Aotearoa has not left the Tasman a new and faster plane Aotearoa II makes the crossing now. Sometime next week as it roars over Mission Bay gathering height for their long flight to Sydney Aotearoa II will farewell the original Aotearoa the aircraft which helped bring Australia and New Zealand closer together.”

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Today, nothing remains at that site to show that the last of the Empire boats once resided there. The site is now a hairdressers, a Starbucks coffee shop and a Thai restaurant. Only the bus stop remains in place.

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Next: ZK-AMC
Last edited by flyernzl on Fri Jul 01, 2011 9:45 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby sunderlandmr5 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 3:57 am

Hi Peter

Thanks for posting those, they are excellent!!!

I quite enjoyed the photo taken from the the top/near top
of one aircraft looking across the hard at Hobsonville at ZK-AMA.

The story of ZK-AMA is quite sad, I guess at that time MOTAT
was not even in existance (1948)? Truely sad fate for her.

Thanks for posting

Regards

Alan
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby flyernzl » Sat Feb 05, 2011 6:17 am

Thanks Alan. More good stuff to come.

Peter
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby MrWidgeon » Sat Feb 05, 2011 7:45 pm

Some great photos Peter.
Sad ending though.

Bill
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby achean » Sun Feb 06, 2011 8:40 pm

Great pictures, a real treat to see them. I'd long wondered exactly what had become of this 'boat. Chris Barnes is none too specific, but mentions it being broken up circa 1953.

I can't believe there's no one around Mission Bay who didn't help themselves to some 'relics' even if nothing substantial.

We live in hope.
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby flyernzl » Sun Feb 13, 2011 10:10 am

The second of the Empire flying boats for TEAL was launched as G-AFCZ c/n S.885 for Imperial Airways.
Intended to be named ‘Canterbury’ and registered ZK-AMB, it served Imperials as ‘Clare’ from April 1939.
By the time arrangements had been made for this aircraft to be delivered to New Zealand, war had broken out and aircraft were scarce. G-AFCZ was never delivered to TEAL, continued in service with Imperial Airways and later BOAC, and was finally destroyed by fire in September 1942.

The third S.30 Empire boat was c/n S.884 launched as G-AFCY ‘Captain Cook’ and first flown on 20th April 1939.
This aircraft also entered commercial service with Imperial Airways from July 1939, and there was a very real possibility that it would also never arrive in New Zealand. Given the impossibility of starting an airline that only had one aircraft, high level political pressure was brought to bear and this boat finally departed the UK for delivery to New Zealand on 15th March 1940 as ZK-AMC 'Awarua'.

Captain for the delivery flight was Oscar Garden, and Mary Garden, his daughter writes:
“He left Hythe with ZK-AMC on the March 15 1940 and as well as refuelling stops every 800-965km, there were 10 night stops at Marseilles, Brindisi, Haifa, Basra, Karachi, Calcutta, Singapore, Darwin, Brisbane arriving in Sydney on March 28.
Due to the funeral of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Savage the 1931km flight across the Tasman Sea was delayed a few days until April 3.
With Awarua’s arrival, TEAL could now be formally established. On 26 April 1940, it was registered in Wellington as a limited liability company jointly owned between the New Zealand Government (20%), Union Airways NZ (19%), BOAC (38%) and Qantas Empire Airways (23%). The deputy Chairman A.E. Rudder regarded a company run by three other airlines on behalf of three governments as an administrative nightmare.”

As with ZK-AMA, ZK-AMC was painted up with wartime ID markings, and flew maritime surveillance flights during the early war years.

ZK-AMC alighting in Auckland harbour early 1940s. The wartime ID stripes under the registration can clearly be seen, but no flag has been applied to the front fuselage at this time.

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At the the mooring

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ZK-AMC (nearest the camera) and ZK-AMA moored out at Mechanics Bay in wartime colours

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Moored at the Hobsonville buoy

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As the trans-Tasman service settled down, flights were scheduled three times a week.

More comment from Mary Garden about her father’s experiences with the Empire boats on the Tasman service:
“In the long run we had a lot of trouble with them—ignition trouble, oil cooler trouble – they couldn’t cope with some of the temperatures we struck there, especially at the Australian end in summer, and mostly ignition trouble, and in fact the first few years we had a lot of headaches and some pretty good frights when the engine slows down across the Tasman. This was a kind of guinea pig stuff. It took over three years to get the bugs out and the worst part of all, especially on this over-water job, for which this kind of boat was not really originally designed, was that we couldn’t turn off the propellers. So when we had to shut an engine down, halfway across the Tasman, it wasn’t a bit funny, you know, with the load we were carrying. We had very little margin. In fact, once or twice I gave up the ghost, but we were lucky enough, got out of it.

The average for both east and west crossings was 8 hours and 45 minutes. But the shortest flight was 5 hours 50. “We kept chipping it off, we got more used to conditions and perhaps striking westerly winds. I was a great one for getting above the weather if I could and catching all the tail winds. And I also had the longest flight – that was a real horror trip, 12 hours 8 minutes, because there wasn’t much petrol left.

When we started some of the conditions were a long way from what they are today. I remember there was no radio operating from Norfolk Island to get a cross radio check, and Lord Howe wasn’t up to scratch. In fact the radio operators were good, they were pin pointers, but if you were 400 miles south of Norfolk they couldn’t pinpoint you to within a hundred miles to be sure …the weather was a big factor, the worst part was these machines – you couldn’t get up above the weather if you were heading into a westerly wind. We didn’t have the range. Nine times out of ten we used to strike weather trouble about 300 miles from the Australian coast, sometimes it almost looked like line squall stuff. I’ve had the daylights frightened out of me. Get down below them and you’d find yourself in amongst some waterspouts, and all sorts of capers. And I remember one trip I was on, I told the steward to tell the passengers ‘Tell them to have a look down below at the white caps on the water and we were going like a bat out of hell, perhaps 200 miles an hour at 10,000 feet, and you’d look down, and there was a wind just about as strong going the other way on the surface. You just couldn’t believe it.

Another thing I remember the heating services were a long long way from being perfect, half the time, when you wanted them in winter the damned thing didn’t work. I know the crews didn’t get much, if there was any heat going the passenger compartments had first call on them, and, me, liking to get out of the weather, and give passengers a smooth trip if I could, maybe 10,000 feet or 12,000, but it used to get pretty damned cold, when you’d been up there a few hours. We used to leave early in the morning from Sydney, in the dark. I can remember lots of cases where I’ve said to the steward ‘Listen, you’d better go and do the usual with the passengers,’ and that was to go down and tell them that we’re flying in very comfortable conditions, you know, smooth air, at 10 or 12,000 feet or whatever it was, but it’s getting cold. ‘If we go down to get warm to 2 or 3 thousand feet you’re going to have a pretty rough trip. Which would you prefer?’ Will we stay where we are and be a bit cold or do you want to go down? Always, of course, they’d say ‘Stay up’, you see. They used to laugh at me but after about 1943 they got the heating problems straightened out, didn’t have to bother. Another thing I can remember, it used to be a real pain in the neck, every passenger in the early days of the Tasman, they had a signed certificate to say they’d flown the Tasman, and the poor old captain had to sign every one of these blessed tickets. I signed thousands of them. And there must be a lot of them around, you know, souvenirs.

I remember, one of my early trips in the first year – I was going to Sydney and had aboard three chiefs of Defence – the Navy, Army and Air Force – and we got near this awful frontal condition off Sydney and I thought ‘Oh, I’ll give these blokes a fright, I’ll see if I can carve my way through it at about 10,000 feet,’ and there were great huge cumulus clouds – they must have been up to about 40 by the look of them, and I got inside this – it was like going into a great big cabin, a cave. Ooh ...oh boy oh boy! Lightning started, sheet lightning, and then we struck hail and these blokes were up front, you see, I got them up to have a look and I think they were getting lighter by the minute. So, actually, I was getting lighter too, so I turned tail and went down, got right down near the water and we got just about as bad a fright then. That’s when we got real line squall effects stuff. And I thought afterwards, well how damn silly, the three chiefs of the defence forces, the whole lot could have been bumped off in one crack.”

Lightning strikes when the flying boats flew into thunderstorms were another spectacular accompaniment to some flights. The loud explosion and blinding flash of a strike were frightening but usually did no great harm. The metal hull enclosing the crew and passengers acted as a Faraday Cage, protecting them from any ill effects. But when lightning threatened it was essential to earth everything and wind in the 200-ft-long trailing aerial or the consequences could be unpleasant, as Oscar Garden remembers:

“We were about 400 miles from Sydney and struck one of those pretty frightening fronts they get there sometimes, with lightning flashes everywhere. So I said to the radio operator, Doug Reid, behind me, ‘You’d better earth everything, Doug.’ I automatically assumed he would wind in the aerial. The next thing, we got into this cloud mass, there was an almighty flash and we were struck by lightning all right. I said to Doug, ‘Did you earth the aerial?’ He said, ‘No, I didn’t wind the aerial in’. I said, ‘You do it automatically!’ He said, ‘I didn’t know’! It was a new one on him. The lightning went up the back of my seat and burnt all the hair off the back of my head. The first officer, Chris Griffiths doused ‘the boss’ with a fire extinguisher.) The back of the seat itself was scorched and, boy, Doug Reid made sure next time he was near lightning he had the aerial in. We got to Sydney all right, but it took a few weeks for my hair to grow …”

He grew to hate flying them over the Tasman Sea because they were never built for such crossings, and they had lots of hair-rising times he said. Also, long (up to 10 hours) and boring flights which he had to make sometimes two or three times a week. Ah, but they were allowed to smoke back then!”

ZK-AMC in postwar colours, mid-1940s

In the braby at TEALs Mechanics Bay terminal
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Moored at Mechanics Bay, with Sandringham ZK-AMB in the foreground

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The final flight for ZK-AMC was Sydney – Auckland 12th June 1947, after which she had competed 8740hrs. The aircraft was then taken to Hobsonville to be stored. Unlike ZK-AMA, all engines and other equipment were removed at that time.

In storage at Hobsonville, 1947

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What you might call "A Surfeit of Shorts" at Hobsonville at that time, ZK-AMC is on the left

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Sold by tender closing 21Jun48. Bought by the same entrepreneurs who later bought ZK-AMA, ZK-AMC was towed down the Auckland harbor to the mudflats at the industrial area of Panmure, beached there, and broken up for scrap by Dermott and Linn scrapmerchants of Onehunga later in 1948.

The scrapmen play

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Very close to the end, now

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next: ZK-AMB
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby MrWidgeon » Sun Feb 13, 2011 3:25 pm

Once again Peter, you've hit another one out of the park, Well Done.

Bill
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby sunderlandmr5 » Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:23 am

Hi Peter

Thanks again for posting some more awesome photos

That "Surfeit of Shorts" at Hobsonville" is a really cool
photo. Not only the Empire boats but at least one Mk III Sunderland
and a Catalina also. Boy that hard apron is really crowded!!!

Thanks for posting

Alan
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby flyernzl » Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:17 pm

At the conclusion of hostilities in 1945, TEAL was operating just the two pre-war Empire flying boats. Plans for expansion and re-equipment were formulated. The operations side of the airline favoured the DC-4, which was already in use for trans-Pacific flights by Pan American.

However, political pressure was brought to bear to buy British aircraft, and in particular, British flying boats. The Short Solent was then selected, but as this type was still some four years away from service the British Ministry of Supply arranged for TEAL to lease three (later increased to four) Short S.25 Sandringham of the 'Tasman' class as an interim aircraft type.

The Sandringham was a civil conversion of the military Short Sunderland Mk.III. The conversion included replacement of the Bristol Pegasus engines used in the Mk.III with P&W R1830 Twin Wasp engines as used in the Sunderland Mk.V, and the TEAL Sandringhams were fitted with seating for 30 passengers whereas the Empire boats had seated 19.
The first TEAL Sandringham had been built by Shorts at Rochester in 1944 and had served with the RAF as ML761 before being converted to civil status at Belfast in 1946. After some test flights with BOAC at Poole, it was registered as ZK-AMB on the 5th July 1947, named ‘Tasman’, and departed for New Zealand under the command of Captain Travers, a BOAC employee. Command changed to Captain Peter Jury at Sydney for the trans-Tasman leg to Auckland.

TEAL commenced commercial service with the Sandringhams in August 1947, and I think that the following photos were taken around that time.

ZK-AMB alighting on to the Waitemata Harbour

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Taxiing in to the Auckland passenger terminal

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On the Mechanics Bay braby

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Note the security - 1940s police constable. Empire ZK-AMA and possibly ZK-AMC moored out

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Departing Auckland

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As the Sandringham engine installation had been tested in the colder weathers of the Atlantic, it was soon found that the warmer climate of the South Pacific provided inadequate engine cooling during trans-Tasman operations. After a number of more minor engine failures, a near disaster with Sandringham ZK-AME on 3rd December 1947 forced withdrawal of the type from TEAL service in February 1948 until Chief Engineer George Bolt identified the problem and additional cooling baffles had been installed. DC-4 aircraft were hired from Australia to maintain services while the Sandringham problems were solved.

Re-entering operations in June that year, ZK-AMB continued in service until the long-awaited Solents appeared in late 1949.

Note that the New Zealand flag has now been added to the fin

ZK-AMC 'under escort'. The Devonport Royal New Zealand Navy base is in the background

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On the Hobsonville buoy

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Under maintenance at Hobsonville

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Resting at Mechanics Bay

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Finally withdrawn in December 1949, ZK-AMB was stored at Hobsonville until the MOS could arrange disposal.

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Qantas Empire Airway bought the aircraft on 18th July 1950, and ZK-AMB became VH-EBW on the 24th. The Sandringham appears to have been based at Rose Bay, Sydney, and used on Qantas’ Pacific Island services. Its end came when it struck a coral reef while taxiing in the harbour at Port Vila, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), 10Jun51. The hull was punctured in several places and the aircraft slowly submerged while the passengers and crew evacuated. SOC 19Jul51. Wreck later scuttled in the harbor, and is now a well-known diving attraction.

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See http://www.michaelmcfadyenscuba.info/vi ... page_id=47

next: ZK-AMD
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Re: Short Flying Boats in New Zealand

Postby flyernzl » Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:27 am

The second Short S.25 Sandringham 'Tasman' class Sunderland conversion for TEAL had been built by Shorts at Rochester as a Sunderland Mk.III c/n SH.1173 in 1944 and was taken on charge by the RAF as NJ255.
Apparently this Mk.III was converted to a Mk.V (P & W power) during its military service.

The aircraft was returned to Shorts in 1946 for conversion to civil status at Belfast, and emerged as a 30-passenger Sandringham with the new c/n SH.32C for the UK Ministry of Supply. Leased to TEAL, the aircraft was registered ZK-AMD on 5Jul1946, and bore the name 'Australia' . Arriving in New Zealand at the end of the delivery flight on 5Aug1946, it entered commercial service on the 26th.

The following photos appear to have been taken early in its operational life:

ZK-AMD moored out on the Hobsonville buoy

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At TEAL's Mechanics Bay terminal, the service launch bears the name 'Tasmanair'

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Taxiing to the takeoff point on the Waitemata Harbour

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On the run, Waitemata Harbour

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Moored on the Mechanics Bay buoy

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ZK-AMD appeared in Shorts advertising around that time

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ZK-AMD was also involved in the engine overheating rectification program that affected TEAL's Sandringham fleet, being taken out of service from late February to mid-Jane 1948. Re-entering service after modifications to the engine cooling system, ZK-AMD also carried the New Zealand flag on its fin during its later life.

Moored at Hobsonville during maintenance

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On the hard at Hobsonville

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At the Mechanics Bay passenger terminal

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A nice airborne shot, ZK-AMD over the Waitemata

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On the arrival of the Solent boats, ZK-AMD flew its final TEAL Service in December 1949, and was then stored at Hobsonville awaiting sale. At this time it had clocked up 4409hrs in civil and military service.

Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., Sydney, Australia were the buyers of this aircraft. They took possessiom in April 1950, and ZK-AMD became VH-EBX on the 24th. Apparently used mostly on the Lord Howe Island service, VH-EBX carried the name 'Pacific Chieftain' durinng its Australian life.
Ownership passed to Ansett Airways Pty. Ltd. (operating as Ansett Flying Boat Services) in December 1954, and the aircraft was re-registered as VH-BRE on the 22nd of that month.

VH-BRE in Ansett colours at Rose Bay

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As well as operating on the Ansett Norfolk Island run, VH-BRE carried out some charter work, including charter tourist flights to New Zealand in the mid-1950s, and a lease back to TEAL from 18Sep1958 to the 25Sep1958 to cover for maintenance on TEALs last Solent, ZK_AMO on the Coral Route over that period.

The end came for this old boat at Norfolk Island in 1963.
During an overnight storm on the 3rd July, VH-BRE broke its moorings and was washed ashore, damaging a wingtip float.
It was towed back out to the mooring the next day, and trimmed so the opposing float was in the water.
However, a further storm on the night of the 4th July destroyed that float also, and the aircraft was partially submerged.
The resultant damage was such that the aircraft was deemed unrepairable.
Despite attempts by the Islanders to retain the fuselage as a museum piece, the airframe was stripped of useful items, towed out to sea and sunk in December 1963.

I cannot resist linking to this aussieairliners photo of the end of this Sandringham, 4th July 1963

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Next: ZK-AME
Last edited by flyernzl on Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:16 am, edited 3 times in total.
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