Friday 23 July 2010

The Merchant Islander at Hapupu

1969 was a good year to visit the Chatham Islands. The old Hapupu airstrip was still in use and the Bristol Freighter still did the freight/passenger run.
Above is the shed used as the meteorological office/control tower on the day of the flights with Neville Brown on duty.
Bristol Freighter ZK-CRK , c/n 13159 , seemed to be the preferred aircraft for this service. I know that at some stage SAFE Air built a special container like structure with passenger seating etc which was slid into the Freighter fuselage. and I think only two Bristols were equipped to take it. Anyway CRK came from the Pakistan Air Force with whom it had been a VIP aircraft and carried the PAF serial S4406 and individual letter "L". It flew into Whenuapai on 06-07-1966 for registration to S.A.F.E. Ltd the same day and it was named "Merchant Wayfarer". 
S.A.F.E (Straits Air Freight Express) was rebranded to SAFE Air Ltd on 31-10-1967 and CRK was renamed "Merchant Islander" at about this time.
Transport to and from the main township of Waitangi was provided by the "Yellow Submarine" (as seen above) which took the short cut across the lagoon to the airstrip.
In the trees behind the aircraft are the moriori rahau momori/dendroglyphs (tree carvings to you and me).
ZK-CRK was withdrawn from use and stored from 06-02-1984 until being placed back in service a year later on 13-02-1985. It was finally withdrawn on 03-01-1986 with about 18,400 airframe hours. It was dismantled with the nose section going to John Fell of Blenheim. If my memory is correct; this was the nose section that protruded from John's shed. In about 1995 this was moved to the Ferrymead Museum in Christchurch where it is set up as per the pic below.
[Blue comment added 23rd @1530 following an off blog contact].
The second of the Bristol Freighters used on the Chatham Island run was ZK-CLT , c/n 13157 , ex Pakistan Air Force S4404. It was named "Merchant Hauler". This one was withrawn in 1986, going to the RNZAF Museum and was marked up as "NZ5913". It rejoined our register as ZK-CLT on 25-07-1988 for Trans Provincial Airlines out of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. It departed Auckland on 07-10-1989 and became C-FPTA on the Canadian register. An ownership change in August 1994 saw it join Hawker Aviation Services with whon it had an undercarriage collapse at Bronson Creek, BC on 24-04-97.
These two Bristols retained their fuselage windows whilst the others used by SAFE had most of them blanked over.
Photo below shows ZK-CLT at Woodbourne on 27-12-1979.
The photo below is a belated addition showing ZK-CLT as "NZ5913" at Wigram on 04-06-1987.

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