Yorkshire aviation historian Ken Cothliff visits an Anson plane in New Zealand

PUBLISHED: 18:52 03 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:49 20 February 2013

The restored Anson, originally built at Avro’s Yeadon plant in West Yorkshire

The restored Anson, originally built at Avro’s Yeadon plant in West Yorkshire

Yorkshire aviation historian Ken Cothliff calls in on a special expat on a trip to New Zealand

It was an opportunity too good to miss. While on a recent trip to New Zealand, I couldnt resist a flying visit to Bill and Robyn Reids farmstrip and workshop in Wakefield (no, not that one) a few miles south of Nelson on South Island.

The reason? They have almost completed their wonderful Anson 1 project, with the aim of putting this special aircraft back into the air.

It has already had taxiing trials and, by the time you read this, the aircraft will have been trucked to Nelson Airport to be re-assembled for flight testing.

Bill told me one of the main problems they have is to find a sufficiently experienced inspector to sign off the aircraft. But thats perhaps understandable when you consider the weight of history attached to this project.

The aircraft, originally MH120 built at Avros Yeadon plant in West Yorkshire, was shipped to Australia in March 1944, where it was used as an observer trainer and at several air refresher schools before being withdrawn from service at Parafield and placed in storage in October 1945.

It was sold off in February 1953, becoming VH-BAF, and eventually ended up at Brain and Browns Airworld at Wangaratta. For a while the aircraft masqueraded as a member of Colonel Roscoe Turners flying circus of the 1930s, still wearing these distinct markings when Bill acquired the airframe in 2002.

The fabric decorates his hangar now while the Anson itself is painted in the markings of K6183 of 206 (B) Squadron, operating from RAF Bircham Newton, which was lost off the Dutch coast on September 5th 1939 with a New Zealand crew on board, the first of the countrys fatalities in the conflict.

In addition to his Anson project, Bill has another aircraft under restoration, another Yeadon built airframe in storage (NZ413, originally DG702) and an as yet unidentified Anson nose section.

In temporary storage in the field at the back of the hangar, he also has a really interesting future project for restoration Lockheed Hudson NZ2049. This airframe was the first RNZAF Hudson to see action when, during its operations from Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, it fought off an attack by three Japanese Zeros on November 23rd 1942.

This is a truly historic airframe in New Zealand terms and should make an interesting display item when it gets back in the air.

Ken Cothliff is the former owner of Air Supply in Yeadon and organiser of Elvington Airshow in York. He recently published Yeadon Above The Rest, charting the 80-year history of Leeds-Bradford Airport.

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