Friday 19 January 2018

Unregistered Homegrown Homebuilt Single Seat Aircraft of New Zealand (4) - The Williams Mark 4

Maybe because of the lack of success with his Mark 3 model Geoff Williams still wasn’t finished with building aircraft, and in May 1988 materials arrived from the USA for the start of the Williams Mark 4. The house where he was living at the time had the luxury of a basement so the project didn’t have to occupy his bedroom, although the wings were covered in the kitchen.

This aircraft was more like a conventional high-wing pusher microlight and turned out to be his most successful effort. Another single-seater, it was powered by a Rotax 447 and, like all of his designs, had a fabric-covered all-wood structure. The wing aerofoil, dimensions and construction techniques were copied from a Sisler Cygnet that was being built in Dunedin at the time.

The first engine start up was on the back lawn in December 1990.  That is Geoff tending to the throttle while running the motor in.

The wing assembly is a tight fit!

The Williams Mark 4 was assembled at the Hooper’s Inlet strip in January 1991. It first flew from there on 24 January 1991, and Geoff flew it cross-country around the outskirts of Dunedin on 27 January and on to Lee Stream in Central Otago, a distance of around 40 km.

During the 1990s the aircraft was kept at an airstrip on Monterey Station at Lee Stream, inland from Outram, under the shelter of macrocarpa trees and covered from the elements and birds. Geoff and some friends would go up there in the weekends and fly it,.  The photos above and below were taken at the Monterey Station airstrip.

In flight at Monterey.

Over the 1990s the Williams Mark 4 was flown extensively around the lower South Island for a total of around 250 hours, and Geoff took some nice shots of his travels.  The photo above is returning from a flight to Five Forks which is about 20 km North of Moeraki, on 31 March 1991, and shows some of the detail from the instrument panel.  All the instruments you would expect are there - RPM, ASI, Turn and Slip indicator, Altimeter and CHT and EGT.

At Five Forks on 31 March 1991.

Another flight over the snow covered St Bathans area on 4 July 1991, with the St Bathans Range in the distance.

Flying over the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter on 17 December 1991.  On this trip Geoff ventured across to Stewart Island and flew up Paterson Inlet.

On the beach at Toetoes Bay, East of Invercargill on 17  December 1991, with the aluminium smelter chimney in the background.

Then back home along the Catlins coast.  That is quite a trip in an aeroplane that you designed and built yourself!

There are undoubtably many untold stories about Geoff Williams and his Mark 4 - it is rumoured at some stage to have been fitted with a machine gun and was used for shooting geese! 

Various people have described Geoff Williams’ last flight in his Mark 4. Suffering from cancer, he was very ill in the hospice when he asked a friend to fly the aircraft back to Taieri and for someone to refurbish it. Despite Geoff’s condition, his friend said to him, “Why don’t you fly it back to Taieri yourself?” And that is what they did. They drove to the airstrip at Monterey and his friend strapped Geoff in and started the engine, and Geoff flew it back to Taieri with all his remaining energy. People at Taieri recall that when the strange aircraft landed and nobody emerged, they went out to investigate and had to carry Geoff from his cockpit. He died in May 2002 and his ashes are buried at the airstrip at Monterey Station, under the trees where he used to keep his aircraft. 

I have already posted about how the Williams Mark 4 came to be registered, and the link is HERE

Since my post in July 2012, its owner Mike Nicholson has gifted the Williams Mark 4 to the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre at Mandeville.  The link to this post is HERE

There is a lot of Southern aviation folklore in the Williams Mark 4 and given its builder Geoff Williams' history with "the authorities" in much the same way as some residents of the nearby Hokonui Hills had problems with earlier "authorities", I think that displaying the aircraft at Mandeville is very fitting.

Finally I must thank Geoff's brother Richard Williams and the Williams family for sharing Geoff's amazing aviation journey with us.


  1. Great story, another great New Zealander doing what we do best

  2. Happy ending too....
    Well, at least didn't end in a crash.
    Must have been quite a guy.

  3. Love a good outlaw vs the sheriff story! Well done Geoff.