Nelson Centenary of Aviation

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Oct 12, 2011
My home town of Nelson recently commemorated 100 years since the first aeroplane flights into the city and I have been involved in a support capacity in the organising of events and plaque unveilings that took place on the 11th, providing a photographic record of the various things that took place over a four day period.

The Story. On 11 November 1921, local businessman Thomas Newman was in Wellington in the North Island and wanted to get home to Spring Grove, to the south of Nelson in the South Island (we're in New Zealand, for those of you entirely unfamiliar with the names), so he chartered an Avro 504K biplane operated by New Zealand Aero Transport Company Ltd to fly him across Cook Strait (the body of water between the two islands) to his farm named Nau Mai, which means "Welcome" at Spring Grove. Piloted by P.K. "Shorty" Fowler and with mechanic Ted Ranish also aboard (the two-seat Avro was modified to carry three), after departing Rongotai, the future Wellington Airport, the Avro headed west toward Nelson and after overflying the city, the first aeroplane to do so, it ran low on fuel and Shorty opted to land on private property in what is now the suburb of Stoke to the south of the city centre, far from its destination. After refueling, the Avro, having just become the very first aeroplane to land in Nelson took off and headed for land to the south of Stoke named Saxton's Farm. There the passengers were sent as the Marsden's land was too small for a fully laden take-off, where they were loaded aboard the Avro for departure for Spring Grove. Because Nau Mai Farm was too small for the Avro to land, Shorty landed the aeroplane on the property of one of Newman's neighbours the Arnolds, thus concluding the very first aeroplane flight to the Nelson/Tasman region.

This is a photograph taken at Spring Grove of the Avro at the Arnold's farm. At centre, from left to right is Ted Ranish, 'Shorty' Fowler, Alexander Thomson (Mrs Newman's father), Christina Newman and Thomas Newman. The house in the background, Telenius House still survives and we'll see it later in the week. (Used with Permission)

Spring Grove Landing Site Small

100 years later and a group of enthusiasts, airline and airport personnel make preparations for official unveilings to take place at Nelson airport and the actual landing sites in Stoke and Spring Grove. A small collection of vintage aeroplanes arrived to re-enact the flights and fly in formation over the city and relevant sites, but for the terrible weather, which kept the aircraft grounded on the actual anniversary day. Nonetheless, the days around the 11th saw the vintage aeroplanes provide VIP flights for surviving family members of those involved and public joy rides. These began on Wednesday 10 November. The aeroplane acting as an Avro for the commemoration was to be de Havilland Fox Moth ZK-APT, seen here basking in the sun between VIP flights (note the Avro Anson in the background).


ZK-APT was built in Canada and operated with the Marlborough Aero Club in 1947, so is an historic New Zealand aeroplane. Its owner/operators call her Foxy, seen here with a Canadian sibling.


Nelson Airport (NSN), my workplace for the last 12 years from Foxy's tiny passenger cabin aft of its Gipsy engine.


The other aeroplane offering joy flights was de Havilland DH.89B Dominie ZK-AKY, which is also historic to the nation's aviation heritage, being one of the oldest aeroplanes on the New Zealand civil register still flying.


The centre of the City of Nelson from the Dominie.


This is the site of the first airport in Nelson, known as Stoke Airport, but is now a sports complex called Saxton Stadium, it was where the Avro departed from on the last leg of its journey to Spring Grove. Stoke Airport was the base of Cook Strait Airways DH.89s, so to be able to photograph the former site from a DH.89 was special.


The Dominie between flights. A bit of clarification. The DH.89 civil airliner was named the Dragon Rapide by de Havilland as a follow on from its DH.84 Dragon airliner, which we'll see later in the week, but in military service the DH.89 was named the Dominie. The New Zealand example seen here was built as a former military machine, despite its airline pedigree, so it is called a Dominie, as opposed to Dragon Rapide. Here in New Zealand the latter term is rarely used to describe the DH.89.


The third historic type that arrived on Wednesday was Bill Reid's immaculate Avro Anson Mk.I.


Although the aircraft is based in Blenheim, it was restored near Nelson at Bill's place and made its first post-restoration flight from NSN in 2012, so it is at home here. It sits in front of RNZAF Base Nelson's wartime Hangar Two.


The two period airliners photographed from the viewing area of the passenger terminal.


The Dominie beginning its last flight for the day.


Lastly, Foxy on another passenger flight.


More to come from Nelson, New Zealand.
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Oct 12, 2011
Thanks guys, in the process of writing articles and distributing photographs to various agencies involved at present.

So we continue on the 11th, which of course was only three years after the Armistice, so on Armistice Day 1921, Fowler and his passenger and one crewmember set off from Rongotai and flew across Cook Strait and got low on fuel before reaching its destination, prompting its landing in Nelson. A colleague of mine calculated that with maximum fuel, three POB, spare castor oil (it was powered by a rotary radial) and a load of newspapers, the Avro exceeded its maximum weight and since it was flying into the prevailing winds, its ground speed was between 30 and 60 mph, which isn't very sprightly, so it's no wonder they needed to land in Nelson for fuel.

Fast forward 100 years and the weather was grey and murky and threatened rain; this was the day of plaque unveilings and dignitaries travelling to various sites, and because of the weather, the reenactment flight by the Fox Moth and fly-pasts over Nelson and Spring Grove did not happen. Nevertheless, the day began at Nelson airport terminal for a presentation and unveiling. Here is the plaque - it's a heavy thing and will be mounted on the airport terminal wall indoors.


Following the unveiling, the guests were invited to view the vintage aircraft from the upstairs viewing area. From L to R: Fox Moth ZK-APT, Dominie ZK-AKY, Dragon ZK-AXI, Anson ZK-RRA.

There was a strong Commonwealth theme with these aircraft; the Anson was one of over 1,000 bought by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and saw service post war as a passenger transport in Australia before becoming a museum piece and eventual sale to Bill Reid, who restored it over a ten year period here in Nelson. The Dragon was built in Australia and served with the RAAF before coming to New Zealand as a passenger airliner, where it frequently flew to Nelson Airport. The Dominie of course was built by the parent company in England, but saw service with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (hence the name Dominie) before becoming a passenger aircraft with the National Airways Corporation (NAC) of New Zealand, the country's national domestic carrier until the 1970s. It is now privately owned. The Fox Moth was built in Canada and operated with the Marlborough Aero Club for years, coming into private ownership some years ago. It is now based in Marlborough, so it is finally back home.


The incumbent airline had a special display of vintage uniforms, photos of which I'm not permitted to post just yet as the airline wishes me not to (!) and the senior airport rep was keen to get them in front of the aircraft outside, which I encouraged (!), so we photographers got access to the tarmac for a special photoshoot.


Airport company publicity type shot...


The elegance of the Dominie contrasting with the Neo-classical tower.


The Dragon arrived early that morning as it suffered fuel tank issues before departure from Auckland, which is still in lockdown, so exemption was sought for her crew. The sole passenger on board was my guest for the duration, being the editor of the magazine I write for.


The Anson bringing up the rear.


From the airport we drive to the suburb of Stoke, where the Avro landed on the grounds of the Marsden family, and within the Green Meadows Centre on the exact site of its landing was the unveiling of a large image of the aircraft on site taken 100 years earlier. I took the following photos after the day as it was crowded on the 11th and the weather was terrible. It shows the Avro on the Marsden's land, with a chapel and hotel in the background. Placing the scene of the image on site is difficult owing to the fact that neither building are there anymore and there are tennis courts and other buildings on site now, therefore a meaningful comparison can't be made. The image is on an angle because its in front of a window and the glare obscures the image. The chapel still survives, but in a different location in use as a cafe.


This is where the Avro landed, a sports grounds now. The Green Meadows Centre where the picture is located is out of the image to the left.


This is the memorial plaque to the landing unveiled in November 1957, which the pilot, Shorty Fowler attended.


This is Isel House, the Marsden's mansion located a short distance from the field where the Avro landed, obscured by the trees bordering the field in the earlier image. Apparently the Marsdens were not impressed by the sudden arrival of the aeroplane, ordering their butler to inform the pilot to "get that thing of my land!"


Next, we head for Saxton's Farm, the site of the Avro's departure from Nelson...
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Oct 12, 2011
Thanks! So, 100 years ago, Shorty Fowler had refuelled the Avro on the Marsden's land, but realising the stretch of grass he landed on was too small for getting airborne with his two passengers, he requested they make their way to farm land a mile or so from the Marsden's, to where he would fly because the land chosen, Saxton's Farm was long enough for the overladen Avro to get airborne. Today, Saxton's Farm is known as Saxton Sports Complex and has a stadium and sports grounds for various disciplines. This is it from the air, taken from a de Havilland Dominie, which has special significance, as we shall see.


Looking at the aerial photograph above, within the tree border from the road to the right to the stadium to the left is the grounds of the former Stoke Airport, which, nearly a decade after Fowler departed in the Avro, became Nelson's first airport (well, not strictly the first, as both the race course in nearby Richmond, the built up area in the distance in the image above, and the beach front at Tahunanui, five minute's drive from Nelson city - yes, we have a beach five minutes from the city centre- were used to provide Nelson with its first flying services). This is a memorial to the first proper airport established in Nelson, dedicated by the same gentlemen who organised the plaques and ceremonies we are examining in this thread.


As per the plaque, the main grass runway ended just past the tree line directly ahead, where the dirt is exposed in the field. In this view, the tip of the monument is pointing toward where the hangars were located against the tree line in the distance.


This is an approximation of where the hangars sat; the local airline, which provided services from Nelson to Wellington was named Cook Strait Airways and had two domed roofed hangars built on this spot, with the Nelson Aero Club also inhabiting a building on site. The raised embankment I am standing on is a modern addition as to the right is the road seen in the aerial image running from bottom to top at the right, Main Road Stoke, and during heavy rain, water used to spill across the road from the field, so the embankment was built to prevent this. When the current airport was built at Quarantine Road, Tahunanui, the double domed Cook Strait Airways hangars were dismantled and reassembled on the new site.


Taken from the same place on top of the embankment, we are looking toward where the grass runways were, the main one stretching from beyond the club house to the right, in front of our position and crossing to the left out of view. Unfortunately I don't have a historic photograph of the old Stoke Airport, so you're just gonna have to use your imagination.


Cook Strait Airways (CSA) was one of New Zealand's pioneering airlines, commencing services in 1935 from Stoke Airport, acquiring five D.H.89 Dragon Rapides, of which only one survives today. This is ZK-AHS, formerly registered as ZK-AGT and named "Neptune" with CSA. During WW2 it was impressed into service with the RNZAF as a communications aircraft, after which it went back into airline service, with Air Transport New Zealand Ltd, then NAC, the nationalised domestic carrier, whose markings it wears today (in common with our photo ship above) on display at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. Note the Solent flying boat and the Lancaster in the background.


From Stoke, Fowler and his two passengers made their way in the Avro to Spring Grove, just outside of Brightwater, a small settlement several miles south of Richmond. The intent was to land at Thomas Newman's Nau Mai Farm, but it was deemed too small by Fowler and he landed the Avro on the Arnold's farm across the road adjacent to Telenius House, the property of a local business owner. This is the stretch of land where the Avro landed 100 years ago, now covered in crops.


This is a contemporary photograph of the Avro on the Arnold's farmland surrounded by curious locals, the image a bit blurry as it is a photo of a photo on the display board unveiled last Thursday.


This is the display board next to the foot bridge across the creek that runs between the field and Telenius House, and the plaque, both of which were unveiled on Thursday the 21st last week in terrible weather, so I went back to take these images in much more agreeable conditions.


This is the plaque, which is in the same fashion as the one unveiled at the airport.


From the plaque, we can see the field where the Avro landed.


And finally for today, this is Telenius House, which was built in 1884 by Carl Telenius, who made his fortune as a draper and it is currently for sale. It can be seen in the background of the historic photo I posted in the first post of this thread. To the left of the house can be seen the blue footbridge, on the far side of which is the location of the display board and plaque, with the field in which the Avro landed behind the house. Incidentally, further down the road to the left of Telenius House was the birthplace of physicist Ernest Rutherford. Ernest Rutherford | Accomplishments, Atomic Theory, & Facts


Next, relocation to another aerodrome and another centenary unveiling.
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Oct 12, 2011
Continuing on with the centenary commemorations in Nelson, we now head to the busy and slightly schizophrenic town of Motueka, which, was also commemorating 100 years of aviation in the area, with a plaque unveiling and gathering of aeroplanes at the local airport on the 12th November. Motueka is about a half hour's drive from Richmond to the south of Nelson, so not all that far away and on 21 November 1921, ten days after the first flights to the region, the same Avro flown by the same pilot, "Shorty" Fowler, chartered by the same guy, Thomas Newman, this time with his wife Christina, took off from Nelson and flew to Motueka to a farm near what is now Motueka High Street, thus completing the first flight of an aeroplane to the town.

On the morning of the 12th November 2021, the Dragon, Dominie, Fox Moth and Anson at Nelson departed early for Mot, but the Anson did a few fly bys then left, returning to Nelson. During the day, the Dominie and Fox Moth offered paid flights for the public and both were doing a roaring trade. Local school children came to the airport to get close to these vintage aircraft, for many of them, the first time they had seen aeroplanes of this type. Here is the Dominie pausing between passenger flights.


To commemorate the event, the Motueka Aero Club got some of its members to parade their aircraft for the public who turned up. Canadian built Chipmunk ZK-CVM.


Nanchang CJ-6A ZK-STP "China Doll".


PAC 750 XL ZK-DVE, this aircraft is shared between parachute clubs in New Zealand and makes a living hauling tourists into the sky, from where they exit the aircraft unceremoniously from extreme heights above the ground. Sounds like a silly idea...


The Dragon looking smart.


In case you're wondering what a "Taniwha" is, it is a native sea monster, so the name seemed appropriate for an aeroplane called a Dragon.


Inside the aero club hangar the ceremonial bit began with speeches by local dignitaries and the first flight was honoured, the backdrop being this rather nice Pietenpol.


The plaque was a little less ostentatious than the Nelson ones, but neatly done and effective nonetheless.


Inside the club house there is this nice model of an Airco DH.4.


by mid afternoon the weather began closing in and the wind picked to, pushing a stiff crosswind across the runway. This meant that flying for the vintage aircraft had to be curtailed. As a result of the wind not letting up, the aircraft had to overnight in Mot. The Dragon from the aero club balcony.


The next day was dark and overcast. This was the day of the public open day at Nelson Airport, where an area of hardstanding was opened to the public so they could get a good look at the aircraft, with the Dominie and Fox Moth providing flights throughout the day. Because of the weather, they were still stuck in Motueka, and were so until mid afternoon, although they did get airborne but the pea soup was too thick for them and they returned to Mot. The problem was the local car club was having a drag meet on the Mot Airport runway, which had to be cleared each time the aircraft attempted to depart, which the car club enthusiasts didn't react too kindly to.

By mid afternoon the weather had cleared and the vintage aircraft returned to nelson, but the public flights had been cancelled owing to the time of day, but those who stuck around got a close look at these gems. The aircraft lined up outside the hangar. Note that the weather had completely cleared.


I didn't get too many photographs on this day, preferring to have leisurely chats with individuals involved, but I got two of the Fox Moth with its wings folded before it was tucked into the hangar for the night.


The Dragon behind is having its wings folded.


So that's it from Nelson. That event concluded the 100 anniversary commemorations, but the crew of the Dragon, to whom I played host for the next week remained after the rest of the aircraft returned to their respective homes and was the following Thursday that we saw the aircraft departing Nelson, again owing to the weather up country. I'll post photos soon.

Ta taa for now.
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Oct 12, 2011
Very interesting topic ... And very great pictures and history narration.

May I ask if any YouTube Video would be uploaded about this event?

Thank you Artesh, I'm not sure whether or not there is. It's received local popular press coverage and I'm writing for a couple of aviation magazines, but unless someone who was present has put something up on youtube, I don't know of any press clips.


Chief Master Sergeant
Aug 27, 2017
Tehran, Iran
Thank you Artesh, I'm not sure whether or not there is. It's received local popular press coverage and I'm writing for a couple of aviation magazines, but unless someone who was present has put something up on youtube, I don't know of any press clips.
You're welcome. I love history, and I really enjoy when I see that most of other countries trying to preserve their history, in any format, anniversaries, books, movies, sharing what they know, etc. ...

But here ... The situation is completely different! Unfortunately.


Oct 12, 2011
You're welcome. I love history, and I really enjoy when I see that most of other countries trying to preserve their history, in any format, anniversaries, books, movies, sharing what they know, etc. ...

But here ... The situation is completely different! Unfortunately.

I agree, Artesh, given that we've been starved of aviation activities as a result of the pandemic, I launched into this with some relish, I think everyone involved did.

Iranian aviation is an unknown quantity in the West, shrouded in a lack of knowledge and propaganda. It would be interesting to read a factual account.


Chief Master Sergeant
Aug 27, 2017
Tehran, Iran
Iranian aviation is an unknown quantity in the West, shrouded in a lack of knowledge and propaganda. It would be interesting to read a factual account.
You're right. Not only in West, but even inside the Country. And not only aviation, but anything else ...

I was one of main people behind many Iranian "Military" related pages, most likely in Instagram and we have had so many (in fact, 7) forum related to Military science, Warfare and Wars history, etc. ... But all were countered by Regime, DDOS Attacks, Calling us Spies and Traditions, Supporters of fallen "Pahlavi" dynasty ... So on, so forth.

All forums were lost ... Majority of Instagram pages were hacked ...

This small conversation gave me several ideas for new threads ...

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