Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Auster J1B Aiglet skiplane.

On 07-10-08 I made my annual pilgrimage up to Mount Cook. The prevailing meteorological conditions were such that the only activity at the Mount Cook Skiplane base was the young Lady at the terminal building service desk. Even the hangars were closed.
I took the opportunity to visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at the Hermitage to track down the Auster ZK-BDX. The photo above shows it suspended in the foyer of the Alpine Centre. Pic taken through the glass doors. The round object is actually a large light suspended forward of and below the aircraft.
ZK-BDX is an Auster J1B Aiglet with the c/n 3122. Built as G-ANGV and exported through W S Shackleton in the UK to the NZ agents Bristol Aeroplane Co (NZ) Ltd. It became ZK-BDX on 18-03-1954 and received its C of A on 29-09-1954 with Mount Cook & Southern Lakes Tourist Co Ltd. It carried out its first landing on the Tasman Glacier on 22-09-1955. It, along with the Auster J1B ZK-BDL, were the Company ski plane trial aircraft. On 24-08-1959 ownership changed to the well known gliding man of the time, Bruce Gillies of Oamaru. It joined the North Otago Aero Club in april of 1961 followed by time with the North Otago Gliding Club, R B Johnson of Springfield and then back to Mount Cook Airlines abount 1974. it was withdrawn from use after its C of A expired and was displayed (suspended from the ceiling) in the Queenstown Motor Museum mid 1983. Its registration was cancelled on 21-06-1991. It then moved to the Queenstown Airport domestic terminal ceiling in 2001 and last year ended up at the hermitage.


  1. One of the more interesting things about this aircraft was that after Mount Cook bought it back, they re-enacted the first snow landing in the Southern Hemisphere (22 Sep 1955). The airline chairman, and the original pilot, Harry Wigley flew the re-enactment flight onto the Tasman Glacier on 11 Nov 1975. It was the same aircraft, and the same passenger as the original flight. And the champers was great!!!

  2. Lovely to see the old Auster BDX still intact, and now at the Hillary Alpine Centre, Hermitage, Mt Cook. My Father (Bruce Gillies) and former owner of this aircraft taught me to fly in in. He also towed many gliders with it at Omarama. I still have an original compass from it's cockpit, which later graced my 650 Norton SS motorcycle, and not my 405 Peugeot. A rugged aircraft with excellent 360 deg. flield of vision and a rocket-like rate of climb! Long may the old girl last!
    Cheers, Karl Gillies