Jason Deer with previous owner Robin Langslow, and Ben Carmine, who taught Jason to fly, on the day he took ownership of CAK. Photo: Supplied.
The owner of a light aircraft was left utterly heartbroken last week (Tuesday the 18th) after his 60-year-old plane was completely destroyed by a fire at Malibu Park airfield in Teapot Valley, Wakefield.
Jason Deer, who had owned the Cessna 185 since 2015, says, “It’s devastating. I’ve had condolence messages from all over the country this week.”
The plane was in the hanger for routine maintenance when it caught fire and was quickly engulfed by flames. Jason was nearby and his first reaction was to push the plane outside to save the hanger and another plane. After calling 111, he joined others trying to put the inferno out, but by the time the fire brigade arrived, all that was left burning was the tyre.
“You can tell it was an airplane once, but it was destroyed beyond rebuilding,” says Jason.
Sixty years of aviation history was also lost in the fire as the Cessna, ZK-CAK, was the first of its kind brought into New Zealand back in 1961, and the 17th built worldwide.
“She just had her 60th birthday last week,” says Jason.
“She was my pride and joy. One brief moment in time and she’s all gone.”
Her initial use was carrying newspapers and passengers from Nelson to the West Coast. In the early 80s, CAK was registered as an air ambulance and later was used for parachute operations. After use for aerial spraying, she passed back into private ownership.
Jason has enjoyed many hours flying over mountains and into the back country. He says 185s are a handful, but very satisfying to fly.
“She was a grand ol’ lady, the other woman in my life,” he says. “At the beginning of the day last week, there was no way I could ever have imagined what has now happened to her.”
Over the years his plane has been the one constant thing in his life that he wouldn’t sell. Jason says he didn’t look at himself as the owner of CAK, more of a guardian of history.
Along the way, CAK has experienced other incidents where repair was needed, usually caused by a ‘ground loop’, where there is loss of directional control and the plane spins around. Damage to the undercarriage or wing tips can result, but CAK was always rebuildable after these.
“I always thought if I were to write the plane off, it would be at the end of a back country airstrip,” says Jason.
He knows he wants another plane, but there aren’t many for sale that are suited to land on the remote airstrips he enjoys.
Jason says that although no-one was hurt in the fire, they did follow advice from fire crew to go to the Emergency Department to be checked for smoke inhalation.