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Avro 626 NZ203: fast facts on a unique aircraft

The Avro 626 on display at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand is a very unique aircraft with an interesting story. Here are some facts you may not have known:

Air to air view of three Avro 626s in formation over the Port Hills, near Christchurch. Near aircraft; NZ203. Far aircraft NZ204. Original negative number WgF184.

Three RNZAF Avro 626s in formation over the Port Hills, near Christchurch, 1936.
Image: MUS0701316. From the collection of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand. 

  • This is the only fully-intact, surviving aircraft operated by the RNZAF before World War Two. 
  • It entered service with the New Zealand Permanent Air Force (NZPAF: precursor to the RNZAF) in 1935 and was used for pilot training at Wigram for most of its service life. 
  • This British-made type was also known as the ‘Prefect’although this name was not commonly used in the RNZAF.  
Side view of Avro 626 NZ203 at RNZAF Station Ohakea.

Avro 626 NZ203 at RNZAF Station Ohakea, 1941. Image: OhG98-41 ©RNZAF Official. 

  • Only four of these aircraft were operated by the NZPAF/RNZAF. One was written off in an accident in 1937, one was broken up for spare parts in 1942 and two were retired from active service in 1943. 
  • This Avro 626 has had several identities over the years. Its manufacturer’s serial number is 811 and RNZAF serial number is NZ203. When first retired from service it was used as an instructional airframe by the Hastings Air Training Corps squadron and given the number INST90. Later, it was on the civil aircraft register as ZK-APC, before returning to the Air Force, and its military serial number. 
Recovery of Avro 626 NZ203 from Mr Jim Frogley's farm at Havelock North.

Recovery of Avro 626 NZ203 from Mr Jim Frogley's farm at Havelock North, 1980. Image: OhG3851-80 ©RNZAF Official

  • After World War Two this aircraft was sold by the government and purchased by Mr Frogley, a farmer in Havelock North, who intended converting it to an aerial topdressing aircrafthowever this never happened. Before the RNZAF purchased the aircraft back again in 1980, it was stored in a farm shed with chickens living in it. 
  • NZ203 was restored to flying condition and performed at several air shows in the late 1980s, including the RNZAF’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 1987. 
Air to air view of Avro 626 NZ203 in flight over hills after being fully restored.

Avro 626 NZ203 in flight after being fully restored, 1985. Image: OhC394-85 ©RNZAF Official

  • After suffering an engine malfunction, NZ203 was grounded as a static display aircraft to ensure its long-term preservation. This aircraft is painted in the colour scheme it wore just before World War Two.
Avro 626 NZ203 under restoration at RNZAF Base Ohakea.

Avro 626 NZ203 under restoration at RNZAF Base Ohakea. Image: OhG158-85 ©RNZAF Official. 

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