WONZ 234 – Nick Sheehan and Keith Skilling

Guests: Nick Sheehan and Keith Skilling

Host: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 25th of April 2021

Released: 26th of April 2021

Duration:  47 minutes 28 seconds

On the 25th of April 1941, the very first North American Harvard to fly in New Zealand, NZ901, took off on its initial test flight following assembly at RNZAF Station Hobsonville. The Harvard would become the main advanced trainer for the Royal New Zealand Air Force from then on, until retirement in 1977. And following retirement several Harvards became warbirds in private hands from 1978, and this continues till the present day.

On Sunday the 25th of April 2021 the momentous first flight in New Zealand of a type that has become a firm favourite on the airshow circuit and holds many memories for generations of Kiwis in both RNZAF and NZ Warbirds service was marked by a special event at Ardmore.

The Wings Over New Zealand Forum and NZ Warbirds Association hosted an event at Ardmore to celebrate the Harvard. This included guest speakers who talked about Harvards, and also about other specialist topics.

In this episode we hear two of the talks from the event. The first is from Nick Sheehan, who is currently in the early stages of a massive restoration project to return the Harvard NZ1068 to flying condition. This aeroplane is one of the WWII aircraft that had been rescued and stored by the late John Smith of Mapua, and following John’s death Nick was able to purchase the Harvard in 2020.

The second speaker is the well known and much admired display pilot Keith Skilling. Having served in the RNZAF and trained on Harvards in his early days, Keith has some great stories about them. He also became involved in the Roaring Forties Harvard Display Team, and went on to lead the team for several seasons. He talks about the Harvard with some wonderful memories, before moving onto the topic of flying with the Breitling Fighters warbird display team, with Ray Hanna and other elite warbird pilots.

Keith Skilling talks about flying Harvards, and flying with the Breitling Fighters team
Nick Sheehan talks about Harvard NZ1068

These talks were also videoed by Stu Russell, so you can also watch them here.

NB: The music at the end of this episode is Wild Flower by Joakim Karud

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