Vickers Type 277 Vildebeest MkIII
- 39 aircraft (NZ101-139), 1935-1944
Initially designed as a torpedo bomber, the Vildebeest was purchased by the RNZAF for use in coastal defence and reconnaissance. Despite this, no provision was ever made for RNZAF Vildebeest to carry torpedoes. The first 12 new aircraft arrived in mid 1935 followed by a further 27 ex-RAF aircraft in 1940-41. These Vildebeest served alongside 62 Vickers Vincents (a general purpose variant of the Vildebeest) and were used for reconnaissance, pilot, air gunner and observer training. Half the aircraft were written off in accidents, and by mid 1943 the remaining aircraft had begun to outlive their usefulness, and were gradually broken up for scrap.
History of Vildebeest NZ102
Manufactured at the Vickers factory in Weybridge, England, NZ102 was shipped to New Zealand in March 1935 on MV Rangitata, arriving in Auckland on 20 April and was barged to Hobsonville for assembly. It served with the Bomber Reconnaissance Flight from 1937 and later with No. 2 Flying Training School at RNZAF Woodbourne. In late 1940 it was transferred to No.1 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron at RNZAF Whenuapai. NZ102 was eventually broken up for scrap at RNZAF Ohakea on 14 June 1944. The remains ended up as scrap metal with ‘Production Engineering Ltd’ in Marton, not far from Ohakea.
Although the Museum’s example is being restored using parts from various wrecks, the majority are from NZ102, and as such the final product will carry this serial number. Parts from Vildebeest NZ124, NZ105 and Vincents NZ355 & NZ357 will help complete the project. The remains of NZ102 were recovered from the Marton dump in 1972, by volunteers from the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) and shipped to their Auckland facility. Over the following years, more parts were recovered from aircraft dumps in Kaitaia and Waipapakauri in Northland and various crash sites around New Zealand.
Some restoration work was carried out by MOTAT before the project was exchanged with the Air Force Museum in 1986, in return for the partial restoration of a De Havilland Mosquito wing. In 2002 the Air Force Museum’s restoration began in earnest to coincide with the restoration of a Vincent (NZ311) by the Subritzky family at Dairy Flat in Auckland. As the two aircraft are almost identical, various items can be restored or replicated to fit either project, thus saving on time and resources, for both restorations.
This is a ‘ground up’ restoration, with as many parts as possible being salvaged from the various wrecks, combined with newly built items using the severely damaged original parts as patterns. The biggest hurdle for the project is the absence of ‘blueprint’ plans. The original factory plans were destroyed when the aircraft became obsolete in the early 1940s. The restoration is reverse engineered from the original parts, period photographs, and pictures from ‘parts’ and ‘repair’ manuals. When complete, this Vildebeest will be the only one of its type anywhere in the world.
If you believe that you may have any parts or information that would be useful to the restoration of the NZ102, please contact the Museum.