ZK-AWO / NZ3548  Part Two - The Recovery

Following its life with Fieldair, ZK-AWO was reduced to spares outside Fieldair's hangar at Milson aerodrome, Palmerston North.  Stripped of outer wings and tail surfaces, the fuselage sat on its undercarriage next to another derelict DC3 (ZK-CQA, which in 1987 was also just a fuselage).  One story I've heard (a bit of a tall one) is that the two fuselages caused a few eyebrows to be raised by those checking satellite photographs of New Zealand as they looked for all the part like inter-continental ballistic missiles! 

  This photo was probably taken in the late 1980s.  In the 1987 edition of the Whites New Zealand Air Directory, the aircraft was listed as being owned by the Awapuni Motor Lodge in Palmerston North but whether it was ever transported to the hotel is not known.  Can anyone else out there fill in the details?

Eventually the fuselage was bought by a man in Apiti, north-east of Feilding, and taken to his property.  Due to financial difficulties, as well as pressure from the local council to remove an "eyesore", the fuselage was broken up for scrap. At this point, Paul Svendsen, from Feilding, on hearing of the aircraft's final plight, managed to obtain the fuselage section forward of the wings.  This was placed on a tandem trailer and towed to a farm property near Feilding where it remained under a macrocarpa tree from about 1993.   This photograph shows the fuselage section after recovery from Apiti.

This photo, taken during the Apiti recovery, shows the aircraft stripped of also useful fittings.  Gone are overhead panels, windows, instrument panel, throttle quadrant knobs, some floor panels and seats (the seat shown here was out of an old car).  Even so, at this point the nose section was in a relatively clean condition.

Just like a VW - open up the bonnet and there ain't no engine!  This is the view looking aft with the nose bonnet lifted up.  This would give access to the back of the instrument panel and hydraulic lines.  The two control wheels and throttle quadrant can be seen further back.

What remains of ZK-AWO heads off to a farm near Feilding.  For the next seven years it sat outside in the weather and became home to sheep and birds which left their usual calling cards in the bottom of the fuselage.  The only "restoration" done during this period was the riveting of a panel into the escape hatch hole to keep some of the rain out.

On 11 May 2000 I bought what remained - sight unseen. Paul had done a good job to have rescued it from the scrapman but realised that it needed someone to preserve it before its condition got worse.  This photograph shows the nose section as found on the farm west of the Pohangina Valley, near Feilding, on Saturday 10 June 2000.  By this stage, it looked as though it had been pulled out of a swamp!  There were numerous dents and holes in the underside skin due to it resting on logs, the rear fuselage skin had rotted through, there was corrosion around the windows and it had a good growth of flora.   Helping with the recovery were my nephew, Tom Rudge, and good friend Duncan Woolley (pictured).

With the help of Paul's brother-in-law, we load the nose section onto a boat trailer and tow it out of the saturated paddock with a tractor.  Do I detect a slight smile from the "face" of AWO?

Before recovering the nose section, I had a tough decision to make.  Due to the width of the fuselage, it posed a number of problems. For a start, it would be wider than the trailer, which was a road safety and legal issue.  Also, the large size created a greater surface area for the wind to catch - it may tip over in a gale.  I also needed to enclose the back end to make it weather tight.  The logical solution was to cut off a portion of the nose section.  On viewing the rotting lower fuselage skin that had been in contact with the ground, the decision was a bit easier to make and, after visiting the scrapman (not a pleasant experience!), the trimmed down nose section was ready to be towed to the South Island.

Back in the South Island again but without its wings!  The sight of a DC3 heading down State Highway One certainly turned a few heads.  Here, the nose section is towed off the inter-island ferry Arahura in Picton.

The cockpit before restoration began.  A variety of interior paint schemes were evident, with paint applied by brush.  The throttle quadrant was painted in a green rust primer, the walls were brushed on yelllow, the forward section was white over original primer and the area behind the cockpit was a combination of white, various greens and matt black!

Click here to go to Part Three - The Exterior Restoration

Return to Part One