Plane on display after epic flight
After his old plane saw him safely around the world on an epic, if unrecognised flight, Matamata’s Cliff Tait has returned the kindness it showed him by restoring it and putting it on public display.
The first pilot to circumnavigate the world in a single- engine plane, Mr Tait is displaying his Hamiltonbuilt aircraft at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology.
Mr Tait, 82, bought the Airtourer 115, built at Aero Engine Services Ltd at Rukuhia, new before his 1969 flight which took 79 days.
‘‘ The Airtourer 115 was the smallest aeroplane to achieve that,’’ Mr Tait said.
But Mr Tait never registered his flight with the Guinness Book of Records because he got so much ribbing from his peers who thought he’d never make it. ‘‘There’s never been any recognition of it from aviationists. They said I was an idiot to even try and it upset them when I came back. I’m extremely grateful to MOTAT for the first, and only, public recognition.’’
He added extra fuel tanks to extend its range to 1200 miles, and could go for about 13 hours at 85 knots without refuelling.
When he got to the Russian border, Mr Tait said, he was forced to dismantle the aircraft and ship it for that leg of the journey because he could not get permission to enter Soviet airspace.
The plane, named Miss Jacy, amalgamating the initials of Mr Tait’s wife Joyce’s first name and his own, was sold to a flying academy and has changed hands several times since then but Mr Tait bought it back earlier this decade and spend years restoring it.
Miss Jacy, whose flight is detailed in Mr Tait’s book Flight of the Kiwi, is taking pride of place at MOTAT’S new $ 18.5 million 3000 square metre Aviation Display Hall.
The hall is more than double the size of MOTAT’S original hangar and houses a New Zealand Air Force Skyhawk, a Lancaster bomber, Cessna and Tiger Moth. Sunderland and Solent Flying boats are due to be moved in, too.
‘‘ It’s the only aeroplane that’s airworthy,’’ Mr Tait said. ‘‘I spent about three years going to MOTAT restoring it. It has the same colour scheme and logos as when I first bought it.’’ Mr Tait said Aero Engine Services built 87 Airtourer 115s. ‘‘New Zealand did not support it.’’
Mr Tait, who with Joyce celebrates his 60th wedding anniversary next year, said he would keep visiting and looking after Miss Jacy who he described as the ‘‘ol’ girl’’.
‘‘Together we forged an unbreakable alliance and promised to look after each other through all adversity.’’
Proud feat: Cliff Tait, the first Kiwi to fly around the world in 1969.