Those of you who know me well know that I am an “aeronut”.
Not an aeronaut, you understand, but a nut who is obsessed with aviation. This condition escalates to extreme proportions when my eldest and similarly afflicted son, David, is in town. With him and his son, Isaac, I drove to Masterton yesterday, to one of the periodic flying days put on by The Vintage Aviator Limited. If aviation bores you, please excuse me, avert your eyes now and come back tomorrow. We arrived quite early, and were astonished that the car park was all but deserted. Despite being there before opening time, we were made welcome by the gentleman at the door to the hangar. To our unbounded joy, their were a few aircraft displayed free and clear in the hangar, and the remainder of the current fleet were basking in the glorious Wairarapa sunshine outside under a nearly flawless blue sky. With such open access and hardly any other members of the public, I used the tripod and went for the highest quality I could achieve. I wish I could give you the full-sized image here. It is a composite of seventeen high-resolution shots and is a huge 36,000 pixels by 6,600 pixels. Click on it to get the best I can manage through WordPress.
Looking a little closer with a single high-resolution image, here are the aircraft to the left of the hangar door. In the distance an Airco D.H.5 and an SE 5A. Out to the right is an Avro 504K and next to it, a Sopwith Triplane, and nearest the camera, a Fokker DVIII. These are the real thing, restored from original aircraft though sometimes it has been necessary to manufacture replacement parts from the drawings, including complete engines.
To the right of the hangar door, we have in the far distance a Nieuport, a Hanriot HD1 which, three BE 2 aircraft, and an Albatros DVa. All are real aircraft with real service histories.
Remembering the basic rule of looking behind, I next set up a panorama inside the hangar and was again grateful for the absence of the usual crowds. The hangar was almost empty with so many aircraft out on the grass. From left to right we have a Curtis P40, an Albatros DVa, an FE 2b, another FE2b, and obscured in the rear corner a replica of the Curtiss F8C built for Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. Also obscured is the Sopwith Snipe. The Sopwith Camel is wearing stripes and then there is another Albatros DIII. In the right hand corner is the Goodyear built Chance Vought FG-1D Corsair. They do have more in their collection but they were elsewhere yesterday.
It was a delight to me to see Isaac putting his new digital camera to work to capture all the activity. Like his father he likes making models so I suspect the aviation/photography gene continues.
But this was a flying display. Truth to tell, this was not a formal scripted air show. Rather, it was an opportunity for the various pilots to get stick time on the different aircraft in the collection, so there were usually no more than two aircraft in the air at one time. Few of these aircraft have starter motors, and most of them have rotary engines (not to be confused with radial engines), such that the whole engine rotates with the propeller while the crankshaft remains affixed to the airframe at the firewall. Swinging the propeller to start a rotary engine requires a lot of effort and often many attempts before it coughs into life and settles down to a noisy rumble.
They look cute on the ground, even with the replica machine guns, but make no mistake these were fighting machines designed to kill, and this becomes obvious in the air as they climb and dive, bank and turn. Despite their serious history, I loved seeing them, especially in the company of my son and grandson. The crowd did grow a little, but during our time there, never exceeded about thirty.
It’s been a long day so goodnight.