Friday 19 December 2014

2014 - A Sad Year - Vale NZ Aerial Mapping Ltd

2014 was a sad year for New Zealand aviation when our oldest aerial work company, New Zealand Aerial Mapping Ltd was placed into receivership and then into liquidation. In September the company's assets including five aircraft were offered for sale on an individual basis, and I am not sure what has happened since.

New Zealand Aerial Mapping was formed at Hastings on 8 May 1936 by Piet van Asch so by the time of its demise in 2014 the company was nearly 80 years old.

NZAM's first aircraft was a General Aircraft Company Monospar ST-25 with two 90 HP Pobjoy engines, that was purchased in England as G-AEJW in mid 1936,  To cover some of the purchase cost Piet van Asch flew the aircraft in England carrying out aerial surveying work in the Midlands for the British Government in 1936, and following this the aircraft was shipped back to New Zealand in late 1936 aboard the MV Empire Star.  It was registered ZK-AFF in early 1937 and was named Manu Rere (Flying Bird), and it carried out its first major survey in the Richardson Mountains near Queenstown in May 1937, for the DSIR.  It flew on doing aerial survey work during WW 2 including surveying all aerodromes and it also carried out major surveys of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Waiouru for the NZ Army.  ZK-AFF was not impressed into the Air Force as the then Minister of Works, Robert Semple, instructed "Leave van Asch alone.  He's doing a good job".

ZK-AFF was retired in 1946 and it sat in the back of a hangar at Hastings until 1968 when NZAM comissioned Temple Martin to restore the aircraft to flying condition.  During the 1970's and 1980's the Monospar was displayed at many air pageants across New Zealand.  The above photo was taken at Bridge Pa aerodrome at Hastings in 1981.  However it met a very sad end when it was destroyed in a hangar fire at Hastings on 26 June 1986.

NZAM's second aircraft was Beech AT-11 Kansan ZK-AHO which was purchased for NZAM in 1943, and which required Government to Government assistance to allow the purchase of a civilian aircraft during the war.  It was shipped to New Zealand and assembled at Hobsonville Air Force base in August 1943, then flown to the Union Airways maintenance depot at Palmerston North for fitting out, including the installation of cameras.  ZK-AHO was named Manu Ruuri (Survey Bird) and commenced aerial mapping in February 1944.  Over the next 35 years or so the aircraft photographed much of New Zealand and also much of the Pacific Islands.  ZK-AHO was retired in the late 1970's and its final flight was from Hastings to Auckland on 19 January 1982 on delivery to MOTAT, where it is currently on display as in the above photo.

NZAM's third aircraft was Aero Commander 680F ZK-CDK which was named Matariki (the Maori name for the Pleiades group of stars that early Maori sailors used to navigate their way across the Pacific).  It was registered in October 1963 and was also modified for aerial photography work including an oxygen system that allowed flights up to 25,000 feet.  The Aero Commander worked in tandem with the Beech for 15 years, and was still owned by the company in early 2014 when the above photo was taken at Bridge Pa aerodrome on 7 March.  It did a local flight earlier in the day and the sound of the twin Lycoming IO 540 motors bought back stirring memories.

NZAM moved into the turboprop age with several Rockwell Commander 690s, the first being ZK-PVA in 1978.  This aircraft was pressurised to allow aerial photography to be comfortably carried out at altitudes up to 27,000 feet.  ZK-PVA was cancelled in October 1998 and a new Rockwell Commander 690A ZK-PVB was purchased in March 2000.  This is also photographed outside the company's base at Bridge Pa on 7 March 2014.

NZAM also operated several other aircraft over the years including this Cessna 402B ZK-PVC which was purchased in May 2000.  It was photographed in one of the company's hangars at Bridge Pa, also on 7 March 2014.

In later years NZAM underwent several changes of management but had recently returned to its original base in Hastings.  It also undertook several large aerial mapping jobs overseas including work in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Sudan, Benin and Sierra Leone,  In 2010 NZAM won a job to map the border between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait but when one of the parties to the contract defaulted on a payment of 1.5 million pounds, New Zealand Aerial Mapping Ltd was forced into liquidation.  It was a sad end to a proud 78 year old aerial mapping company.

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