Episode 99 – Mac Bettjeman: Sunderland Pilot

Guest: Mac Bettjeman

Host: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 30th of October 2015

Duration: 1 hour 39 minutes 26 seconds (136 MB)

In this episode Dave Homewood talks with Mac Bettjeman, who lives in a retirement home in Tauranga. Mac talks about his childhood in the fascinating wilderness settlement in the Maungapurua Valley, near the Whanganui River and how the community failed to thrive and was pushed out by the government during the Great Depression era, resulting in what is now known as the famous Bridge To Nowhere.

He also talks about his struggle to achieve the academic levels to become a pilot in the RNZAF when WWII begins, and his eventual acceptance into the Air Force. He trained in New Zealand and in Canada as a pilot before heading to Britain and joining a Flying Boat Operational Training Unit on Short Sunderland flying boats.

Mac was then posted to Lagos in Nigeria where he and his crew joined No. 270 Squadron RAF, a Royal Air Force Coastal Command squadron that was patrolling deep into the Atlantic Ocean with Short Sunderland Mk. III flying boats to hunt for German U-boats. Mac discusses the roles of the crew onboard and aspects of the aeroplane itself, plus he imparts memories of the work they were doing.

And another topic discussed is the work that Mac did over many years on the Short Sunderland MR.5 at the Museum of Transport and Technology, leading the restoration of the interior of the old patrol bomber back to pristine service condition. And Mac also talks about his own personal flying boat, an Anderson Kingfisher ZK-DJH, which he built himself and flew for many years.

800px-Short_Sunderland_Mk_V_ExCCA Short Sunderland Flying Boat

P1150408Mac Bettjemen inside the Sunderland at MOTAT, taken by Dave Homewood on the 11th of January 2012 when Mac gave him a tour of the aircraft

P1150398MOTAT’s Sunderland’s cockpit taken by Dave Homewood on the 11th of January 2012

JKightly_5958swMac stooping over in the aft end of the Sunderland fuselage with the rear turret behind him, in a photo taken by James Kightly on the 11th of January 2012


Mac in the Sunderland’s fuselage in a photo taken by James Kightly on the 11th of January 2012


Mac and the WONZ Show’s Dave Homewood beside MOTAT’s Sunderland (right), with the Short Solent in the background, in a photo taken by James Kightly on the 11th of January 2012

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