Tuesday 29 March 2016

Great Story of ZK-BEM

Following my recent post on the history of Ryan ST-M ZK-BEM (see http://nzcivair.blogspot.co.nz/2016/03/ryan-stm-zk-bem-at-ardmore.html ), Andrew Philpotts has sent in this great story about the aircraft

Andrew writes: Notice the generous amount of oil all over the cowling.  

This reminds me a story I remember my father telling a couple of times. In the mid-fifties my father was a line boy at Mangere with the Auckland Aero Club.  That was how he paid for his flying - learning to fly in the Tiger Moths.  I remember him telling me how BEM lands and taxies up to the pumps.  Dad refuels it with the pilot looking on.  After fuelling was completed the pilot growls "Give that to me lad" and grabs the fuelling nozzle and proceeds to hose down the cowl and fuselage side with fuel to clean off all the oil! 

My father beat a hasty retreat but there wasn't any fire!  Looking at the history you have documented it is hard to say if it was James Whiteman or Alex Blechynden that was the pilot, but I have an impression that this was a visiting aircraft and not normally based at Mangere.  My father related this story of an individual who was a larger than life character and a bit rough around the edges.  Like hosing a plane down with petrol to clean it was fairly typical of the things he would do.

Thanks very much for the story Andrew.  I reckon more stories like this would be great to post on the NZ Civair blog, so send them in if you have any - we should be able to provide a photo of the aircraft concerned.


  1. Thank you for this story. It does sound like the kind of thing Alex Blechynden would do! Alex and his student both died when ZK-BVK crashed during training in 1958. The accident report gives an indication of Alex's habits re: aircraft maintenance and rule compliance. (My father TK Hooker flew with Alex in the 1950s)

  2. I have a couple of photos of the plane when Alex owned it. My father, Dave Roberts, was flying there at the time.

  3. Alexa Blechynden Rae25 December 2023 at 21:56

    It was Alex Blechynden and he was my Dad