RE NZ 4113,My Thanks to Robin for the story of the events at the opening of Wellington Airport, I have often recounted the story as I recalled it, and it was a thrill to see the film footage and read his account after 53 years, I was an 18 year old apprentice serving my time as a Diesel Mechanic with International Harvester Co (IHC) in Wellington, so had worked on the airport while being built.
The week prior we had delivered the new International fire/crash tenders to the airport and Con Barber and myself had been out their doing pre delivery checks on the tenders, as such we had seen most of the aircraft involved doing famil flights in the days prior to the opening, on the day of the opening I was able to get a grandstand position at the Fire station as a result of the friendship built up over the previous week, so I was there to see some never to be forgotten events.
We watched NZ4113 come in over the end of the runway with good clearance, I believe that the crew did not know that the runway slopes up from both ends to the center, hence from our position we watched the clearance diminish to the point that it touched.
We watched as the water drained out of he bilge as she staggered back into the air, they then did several runs over the control tower to allow them to do a visual and give a report , it was then announced they were heading direct back to Hobsonville, at this time we thought we had seen the major event of the day, awhile after we had the RAF Vulcan Bomber do a couple of touch and goes, I might add it had done several in the days preceding the opening so the captain had made several T and Gs on the new runway, then it was announced that the Captain had said he was going to attempt a landing, WoW.
The end of the runway has a sloping embankment each end, as he came in very low over the Moa point end the port side main U/C struck the slope of the embankment, and the port wing went down to what looked like contact with he ground, this though was as it turned out to be incorrect, the damage was sustained to the port leg as Robin says, it was smashed back into the underside of the wing, at this time I could only see a major disaster happening and for what good it would have done I took of running towards the northern end of the runway. I looked back over my shoulder as I ran to see the Vulcan climbing out under absolute full power with fuel and hydraulic fuel flowing from the rupture, the leg was hanging back behind the vertical by about 45 degrees,it was a magnificent bit of flying to recover the aircraft.
What people do not know now, but on the left hand side of the runway on the approach the Vulcan made were large temporary grandstands packed with spectators, had the worst happened we can not imagine how many may have been killed, anyhow they flew back to RNZAF base Ohakea and did a 2 point landing until as Robin says they lost momentum and it slewed onto the grass.
The sad ending to this saga is that they got the plane airworthy and flew it back to the UK and it crashed on landing with the loss of all crew, for myself I ended up again working on Wellington Airport, Engineering for NAC in the late 60s, we could still see the impact point of the Vulcan U/C in the embankment at that time, this has now gone with the extension of the runway at Moa point end, from a history point of view I flew out of the old Rongatai airport as a kid in 1945 with my mother , we flew in a DH Dominie operated by Cook Straight airways to Blenheim.
I have lived in Fiji for the past 43 years and have enjoyed the info about Laucala Bay, I ran the Sea scouts from the slipway for 20 years, using one of the old Air force huts on site as our hall. Michael Thoms