Thursday, 11 August 2022

Grumman Ag Cat ZK-MEX and ZK-RTA.

Back in late 1987 four Grumman G164 Ag Cats in various conditions were imported from Australia.
To the best of my knowledge these were VH-JBB c/n 738, VH-PUV2 c/n 441, VH-CCO c/n 432 and VH-CCS c/n 530.  

This post covers the Grumman G-164A Ag Cat c/n 441.

Built in 1967 by Schweizer Aircraft Corporation at Elmira in New York State and registered as N929X.
It was shipped to Australia and became VH-PUV2 in May of 1967 for Aerial Enterprises of Brisbane and from 24-05-1967 with Western Aerial Services of Cunderdin, Western Australia.
It remained with them until withdrawn from use from 23-05-1970.
Photo above is said to be at Mackay in August 1974 ??  I suspect late 1960's.
It was restored on 09-02-1972 with Cropcair of Archerfield, Queensland.

Photo of Western Aerial Services VH-PUV at Archerfield 06-1972 just after its purchase by Cropcair
 from Ben Dannecker.

It was damaged some 37nm west of Mackay on 22-10-1974 - returning on line again from 11-09-1981 with Cropcair Aviation (Peter Smart) Pty Ltd of Archerfield, Queensland.
At Archerfield 06-1987

It crashed near Dunwich, Queensland on 27-08-1987.

I noted a good collection of Ag Cat parts in the Pioneer Adventures yard alongside runway 29 at Christchurch International in what is now the closed off part of Grays Road and Avonhead road - approximately where NZ Post now are.

From my notes I have VH-PUV2 c/n 441 being rebuilt at West Melton using significant parts from 
VH-CCS c/n 530.

A container was noted at West Melton on 13-08-1996.
This airframe was registered as ZK-MEX on 29-08-1996 to Pioneer Adventures Ltd of Christchurch.

Below is a selection of photos of the rebuild process.
Above and below two shots taken on 17-09-1996 with fuselage back on its undercarriage.

Below in October 1996  the passenger compartment was on site.
And below on 29-11-1996 the firewall forward and other fuselage internal bits are fitted.

By 17-12-1996 the upper and lower fuselage panels have been painted and fitted, the passenger pod is installed and the large passenger windscreen is going on, and the Pratt & Whitney R985 is in place.

Below by 15-01-1997 the exhaust is fitted and the upper-wing attachment and fuel tank are in place.

Above and below on 24-01-1997 wings, rudder and elevator are fitted.

Above and below. By 30-01-1997 all panels are fitted and weighing in progress.

Two shots of ZK-MEX West Melton 18-02-1997.

Above and below - unmasked "De Bretts Wonderflights" & " Relive the Adventure".
All done and raring to go 14-03-1997 at West Melton.
On this same date - 14-03-1997 - it was listed to Bruce McKenzie Holdings Ltd of Taupo and two days later tipped on its nose at Napier.
From 24-02-1999 it was with Leslie Aviation Ltd at Rotorua and then to Flight 2000 Ltd as "Cloud Rider" from 11-01-2000.
Above at Ardmore on 18-03-2000.

Late November 2001 Skytrek Aviation Ltd of Taupo feature until listing with Future Flight at Ardmore from 10-04-2002.
24-06-2002 saw it back listed with Future Flight 2000 Ltd and finally from 27-11-2004 with Challenge Aviation Ltd of Waitara.

This registration was cancelled on 18-01-2005 with it taking up the new registration of ZK-RTA2 on the same date and with the same operator Challenge Aviation Ltd made up of Phil Broadmore, Bryan Bedwell and Sheryn Pearson.

Next in line was Bay of Plenty Classic Aircraft Co Ltd of Mount Maunganui from 25-05-2007.

Goodwin Mckay Ltd also at Tauranga took it on from 01-05-2015 and it carried the name "Marea Jane".

Two photos from Peter Mole.

And noted at Pauanui on 31-12-2016 by Richard Currie

Acquired by Aviation Adventures Ltd of Twizel from 30-03-2022 it was ferried from Rotorua to Wanganui, Omaka, Rangiora to its new home on the Pukaki Airfield on 30-04-2022 where it will reside with the Ag Cat ZK-CAT2.

02-05-2022 Marty Muller.

With thanks to Chris Rudge of Red Cat Biplane Flights - Aviation Adventures Ltd.

1 comment:

  1. Great summary Dave. Love the photos of the rebuild at West Melton. I hope to have ZK-RTA on Air Transport Ops again soon at Pukaki.