When our Grumman Avenger was acquired in late 2011, it presented a challenge to get to New Zealand because of its size.When it left New Zealand in 1998, it was delivered to Toowoomba in Queensland by pilot Rex Dovey and engineer Matt Bailey. We decided to reverse the process and fly the aircraft back to New Zealand. Preparations for the ferry flight began in earnest early in 2012 with the aircraft being relocated to the facilities of AEROTEC at Toowoomba. After careful preparation by engineer Wayne Milburn, the final proving flight was made westwards to St George to confirm oil and fuel consumption figures.
At first light on Thursday 23rd February ferry pilot Guy Stevenson lined up on the Toowoomba runway and we departed for our first stop at Lord Howe Island a sector of around 2hrs40min at a planned cruise of 180 knots at 10,000ft. Passing south of Coolangatta we headed out into the Tasman sea in a single engined, 70 year old aircraft. Lord Howe came into sight on schedule and we lined up for the approach to the southern most landmass of the Great Barrier Reef. Lord Howe was out exit point from Australia and with the necessary customs and immigration paperwork done, fuel tanks filled up again and some mingling with the locals, it was time to get airborne and head for Norfolk Island, nearly three hours away.
Norfolk Island is an Australian administered territory so our arrival there meant another round of immigration and agriculture processing and an overnight stop to refuel the Avenger, grab a meal at the local RSL and refresh before the next leg to Kerikeri in New Zealand. Another early start saw us heading south to New Zealand with a three hour leg ahead of us before we caught sight of the Three Kings Islands and New Zealand. Tracking down past Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile beach, we descended for Kerikeri and home ground. Kerikeri was our official point of entry into New Zealand so after the obligatory aircraft spray with insecticide, we were able to emerge to face the officials and the next round of paperwork. After that was all completed, the aircraft refuelled again and we departed on our final leg to RNZAF Ohakea, less than two hours away.
The RNZAF Historic Flight Harvard met us at Taihape and we tracked the final few miles to Ohakea and the completion of our journey to bring Avenger 18 to its new home at the Biggin Hill hangar. The flying time across the Tasman was just over 10 hours.