WONZ 235 – John Kelly, Peter Layne and Gavin Trethewey

Guests: John ‘JK’ Kelly, Peter Layne and Gavin Trethewey

Host: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 25th of April 2021

Released: 2nd of May 2021

Duration:  55 minutes 49 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 three of the talks from the event. The first is given by NZ Warbirds Association Vice President “JK” Kelly. He flies as Number 4 in the Roaring Forties Harvard aerobatic display team, and he talks about his experience as a civilian-trained pilot getting into the Harvard. JK also talks about the Part 115 rides that people can purchase in the Warbirds fighters and trainers such as the Curtiss P-40N Kittyhawk, Supermarine Spitfire Tr.9, North American P-51D Mustang and the Harvard. JK is one of the rides pilots. lastly he talks about the excellent NZ Warbirds museum displays, which he has been very instrumental in creating, and leading the team that come up with the exhibits.

Next we hear briefly from Peter Layne who reads an extract from his co-authored book about the rescue of a pilot whose Harvard ditched in the sea.

And finally we hear from Gavin Trethewey, who have been flying Harvards for 62 years and is still the NZ Warbirds solo Harvard display pilot. Gavin flew as an instructor on Harvards in the RNZAF and he flew for many years in the NZ Warbirds Roaring Forties display team. He has some great memories of the type. He also talks about the current project he is very involved with as team leader, the static restoration of an English Electric Canberra bomber. Gavin famously flew Canberras during his RNZAF career, and was the RNZAF’s Canberra display pilot, among other roles with the type. Warbirds has acquired the Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s spare Canberra, and they are now in the process of restoring it to former glory, for eventual public display at Ardmore.

Quick Links:

 New Zealand Warbirds Association Website

 New Zealand Warbirds Association Facebook page

 The Canberra Support Group Facebook page

John Kelly
Peter Layne
Gavin Trethewey

The main 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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