Bristol 170 Freighter Mk31M NZ5911 arrived at the old Filton airport in Bristol on a lorry during the afternoon of 4 January, following an 11,000-mile journey from Ardmore airfield in Auckland, New Zealand. The former Royal New Zealand Air Force transport is now safely under cover in the Brabazon hangar on the south side of the runway, its future home at the new Aerospace Bristol attraction being on the north side.
The day after its arrival a team of eight volunteers swabbed out the fuselage, which had been transported from Singapore on the second leg of its sea journey on board a Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics roll-on roll-off ferry. The boat had arrived at Bristol’s Royal Portbury Docks on 28 December, but the Freighter will not be available for viewing for a while yet. Adam Jones from Aerospace Bristol says, “She’s not museum-ready, and there’s quite a lot of work to do. For now she’ll be safely stored and assessed.”
The Freighter — one of 214 examples to be built — is the only example of the type in Europe. David Ashworth, who initiated the recovery effort after first seeing the forlorn machine at Ardmore in May 2014, says, “The Bristol Freighter is highly significant for two main reasons. It symbolises the whole period of British aircraft manufacture in the late 1940s and 1950s, when British aircraft were a common sight throughout the world. Secondly, we are becoming used to technology providing us with ways of doing things that we could never have thought possible previously, but the Bristol Freighter made possible things that we can’t achieve today. A family car could be driven through the nose doors of the aeroplane, the family would take their seats on board, and subsequently alight overseas in their own personal space — a common occurrence in the 1950s and 1960s but not an option today.”
To move such an outsize aircraft by surface from just about as far away from Bristol as it is possible to be is the aviation heritage equivalent of the recovery of the city’s most emblematic engineering achievement, Brunel’s SS Great Britain. The highly innovative steamship was the largest vessel in the world when launched in Bristol during 1843, and was towed some 8,000 miles from the Falkland Islands during 1970 for restoration in Bristol Harbour, where it is now on display, attracting between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors annually.
‘HURRIBOMBER’ BACK TO HAWKER RESTORATIONS
Hawker Hurricane XIIa ‘BE505’/G-HHII has been acquired from Peter Teichman’s Hangar 11 Collection by Hawker Restorations and was moved from North Weald, Essex to Elmsett, Suffolk in early January, securing the future of this Canadian-built machine in the UK.
The aircraft was previously owned by Hawker Restorations and restored by the company at its former base at Milden, Suffolk, between 2005 and 2008. It made its first flight at North Weald, wearing the markings of a Manston-based No 174 Squadron Hurricane IIb ‘Hurribomber’, on 27 January 2009.