Former Royal New Zealand Air Force North American Harvard IIa NZ1044/ZK-OTU made its first flight for nearly 65 years at Wanaka on 10 March. Now back looking exactly as it did while operating as a trainer with No 2 Operational Training Unit at Ohakea during 1944-45 — complete with gunsight and bomb racks — the restoration has been undertaken by Twenty24 at Wanaka, which did the majority of the airframe restoration, Bevan Dewes, the aircraft’s owner, and Heli Support, who looked after the highly authentic paint job. Bevan — a Masterton-based beekeeper, flying instructor and air display pilot — was due to give the machine its display debut at the Yealands Classic Fighter Omaka Airshow over the Easter weekend.
Bevan says, “NZ1044 rolled off the production line in April 1943 and was taken on charge by the RNZAF in June 1943. After its wartime use at Ohakea, post-war it spent a period in storage before becoming the first Harvard to go through the RNZAF ‘star’ upgrade programme, taking it from a 12-volt system to 24 and various other upgrades, after which it flew again in 1954 with the Central Flying School at Wigram. It made its last flight in May 1958 before being placed into long-term storage. In 1971 NZ1044 was sold to National Airways Corporation — which later became Air New Zealand — as an instructional airframe for the apprentice engineers. Thankfully it was only used for control rigging and systems installation, as far as we can tell.
“It was sold in 2004 and went through the hands of a few private owners before I bought the aircraft in March 2020. It’s a huge privilege to be able to restore and operate aircraft like this and I’m looking forward to being able to share it with people in the future through airshows, and ultimately warbird experience rides alongside our Chipmunk and Tiger Moth.”