Plane on dis­play af­ter epic flight

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

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.

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