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On The Wings Of History : Volume 01

REVIEW BY Tony Haycock [April 2010]

CoverYou may not have heard of The Vintage Aviator Ltd, but I am sure you have at least heard of the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre near Blenheim, and the name Peter Jackson must mean something to all New Zealanders.

Peter Jackson has made no secret of the fact that the 1966 movie "The Blue Max" fired his passion for flying in general, and the aircraft of World War One in particular. We are particularly fortunate that his sucess has allowed him to indulge in his passion for these pioneering machines from the dawn of aeronautical warfare, and even more fortunate that rather than hide them away, we have in Omaka an outstanding museum to showcase the beginning of the collection, with dioramas by Weta Workshops of movie fame.

Since the museum opened, the collection of flying aircraft has grown, as the Vintage Aviator Ltd,based at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton has reproduced new and correct engines and airframes. This has resulted in many extinct aircrft, or types which have until now have only been seen on static display in museums are now able to be seen, and heard, accompained by that wonderful aroma of burnt Castor Oil during regular flying days at Hood.

As a boy I remember the BBC series "Wings", and those of you who also recall the exploits of Capt. Triggers, Charles Gaylion and Alan Farmer may also remember the aircraft they flew - the B.E.2. Imagine my delight on reading in this book that not only does The Vintage Aviator have the B.E2. f I saw making it's maiden flight at the Classic Fighters show at Omaka in 2009, but they also have completed a B.E.2.c. Not only that , but the f variant is a genuine restored WW1 veteran, fitted with a new TVAL reproduction of the correct R.A.F 1a (that would be Royal Aircraft Factory - not the RAF as we know it today) 90hp engine. The c version is a new airframe, built with the exact techniques and materials as the original, and fitted with a genuine 80hp Renault engine.

Throughout the book, little gems appear on every page. Who for example, knew that the worlds oldest airworthy Rolls Royce aero engine, a 275hp V12 Falcon is in New Zeland, fitted to a 1917 Bristol Fighter F2b - another original airframe, found forming the structure of the mezzanine floor of a barn in Oxfordshire (UK)? Or that three of the aircraft from "The Blue Max" are now resident here?

Do not judge this book by it's diminutive size or soft cover. Crammed within it's 116 pages is the complete record to date of this ever-increasing collection. The superb ground and air-to air photography of Alex Mitchell is well matched by the informative yet never dry or dull words of Allan Udy as each aircraft gets two pages of images and it's history.You will get more from this book than from many other full-sized coffee table publications, and if I can make a suggestion to the authors, a version of this book in a larger, hardbacked format may be expensive, but I would be at the front of the queue to buy it.

For anyone with even a passing interest in aviation, military history, "On The Wings of History" is a compulsory purchase. It won't take up much space on your bookshelf, but it will take a much bigger space in your head. Having read it, I am now going to Hood Aerodrome this weekend on the strenth of what I have just read, in order to experience these machines in action.

I can only hope that as the book is subtitled "1. The Beginning of the Vintage Aviator Collection" that there are further publications to come.


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