Millenium Vintage Aero Rally 2000:

February 11th, 2000 - Matamata

The rally was organised by the Tiger Moth Club, in conjunction with the Cub & Auster Club to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000. A five day rally had been organised as part of the sesquicentenary celebrations in 1990. The success of that event encouraged a repeat, albeit with an extended itinarary. Participating aircraft travelled the length of New Zealand's two main islands. The large flock departed from Keri Keri in the north on February 9 and going as far south as the Bluff before arriving in Mandeville on February 19. This was in time for the Tiger Moth Club's annual 'Weekend Eight' get together. Stops along the way included Kaitaia, Pauanui, Matamata, Gisborne, Bridge Pa, Pine Park, Ashburton, and Omarama. Time round the course was estimated to be in the order of 40 hours flying for a Tiger Moth.

The fleet was dominated by de Havilland aircraft. Nearly two dozen DH82a Tiger Moths were accompanied by an example of the rarer DH60 Gypsy Moth, DH83 Fox Moth, DH84 Dragon, and DH89b Dominie. The Gypsy Moth unfortunately suffered minor damage on landing at Dargaville and was withdrawn. De Havilland Canada participants included three Chipmunks and a Beaver. Two Auster's included the oldest pilot/aircraft pair (Martin Meehan in ZK-APO - which was originally imported by Popeye Lucas). Rarest in the fleet was Jim Schmidt's Avro 631, although this flew only a few legs before he moved to a more comfortable tourer, the Proctor V. From amongst the American manufacturers were several short winged examples from the Piper stable, some Cessna taildraggers, a Citabria, a Stinson, a heavyweight in the form of a Harvard, plus a Stearman, a Staggerwing and a Ryan PT-22 . Flown by owner Les Marshall the latter suffered an excessive oil consumption problem and withdrew at Thames. The problem turned out to be an unfortunate alignment of all the rings on one cylinder. Sundry other participants included a Bolkow Junior, a Minicab, and a Jodel D11. All up, more than forty aircraft at various times, and fifty-five overall.

Personnel involved were also somewhat varied. As well as a number of attendees from amongst the New Zealand vintage aviation fraternity, crews also came from as far afield as Australia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. While most hired aircraft locally, three DH82a Tiger Moths were shipped out from England for the event. Reassembled at Smith's Tech Air at North Shore, the aircraft returned to the crates and were shipped back after the event. One of the pilots was a low hour PPL looking to gain some experience - and what an experience.

Support was provided by a fuel truck which clocked up nearly 5000km itself. Over 10,000 litres of MoGas were dispensed. Sponsorship came from Air BP, and the Airways Corporation who waived charges for participants.

I was fortunate to catch up with some of the participants when the made a lunch stop at Matamata. This coincided with the first day of the SAANZ Sportavex 2000 . The Rally had overnighted in Pauanui, and were making for the next night's stop in Gisborne. Unfortunately bad weather in between the two points meant participants chose a variety of routes. A number chose to follow the seaward side of the Kaimai ranges, but some did make it through the murk to Matamata. The majority of the arrivals were Tiger Moths. Shown below are most of those that made it through - including the three English machines (G-AJVE flown by Ron and Valeries Gammons, G-BEWN flown by Henry Labouchere and Roger Boyland, and G-BPAJ flown by Peter Jackson and Sam Raby). G-BEWN is a former Australian machine, having once been VH-WAL:

Very much of interest to me was the arrival of ZK-ADI, the most historic aircraft still flying in New Zealand. Bert Mercer started the first commercial services in New Zealand with this aircraft in 1934. I've wanted to see it for a long time - and here I was able to get really close. Looking up front, I must admit to feeling a little sorry for the passengers. However, I was pleased to finally see this aircraft.

Another aircraft I've wanted top see for some time is Dominie ZK-AKY. One of two flying in New Zealand, this one is normally based at Mandeville in the South Island. That's quiet a way from where I live, so this was an excellent opportunity for some photographs.

Below are a selection of the other aircraft which made it to Matamata, including the Chipmunk ZK-UAS flown by Jim Lawson, Harvard '98' (ZK-ENJ) flown by Ace Edwards, and the Staggerwing flown by Robin Campbell. Robin had to take time off from the rally to go back to his day job - flying a 747 to Japan. I was also taken by my first look at a Citabria (ZK-CRT from New Plymouth) and a Pacer which was once a Tripacer (ZK-PAT.

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