[Early pilot training ; 1915].

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An unidentified man interviews three men about their early pilot training at the Walsh brothers' New Zealand Flying School in Auckland in 1915.

George Bolt: They originally, of course, built the earlier plane in 1911 out at Manurewa. Then they gave that up and built a flying boat at Orakei. Now that was the beginning of 1915. Well, they had that machine going and, uh, then decided to shift round to Mission Bay where the school was actually started. It will be appreciated that the war was on at this time and there seemed to be an opening for providing pilots for overseas. And, uh, Leo Walsh approached the government regarding that. The government were interested; the home government I think offered to take as many as we could provide. So, the school got started. Yes, the government, I think they gave them a hundred pounds for each one trained.

Interviewer: And what led you into it, what was your background?

Bolt: I was interested in aviation from quite early days with models and full-sized ladas [?] and, uh, the fact that I had built those got me the job at the Walsh school.

Interviewer: And what did you start doing there?

Bolt: Oh, engineering and, uh, flying. After a short period there, I started to fly and then I went on as an instructor.

Interviewer: Now, did the Walshes teach you to fly then?

Bolt: Uh, V. [Vivian] Walsh gave me fifty minutes. The rest I had to get myself.

Interviewer: By the way, I'm just wondering why they went to sea-planes, having started off with the land-planes.

Bolt: I think the main reason was that they had a considerable amount of wreckage when they tried the land machine. Uh, there were no aerodromes, they only used ordinary paddocks and, uh, the surface of the harbour seemed to be unlimited space, which would lead them that way.

Interviewer: Now, Mr Coverdale, you came in as a pupil pilot, was that, uh, in order to, uh, pilot, um, war aircraft?

Howard Coverdale: Uh, yes, that was the war effort and also in behind it probably a certain amount of glamour. The idea of, uh, a commission and, oh, wanting to be different to somebody else.

Interviewer: And you found just what you wanted in it, did you?

Coverdale: I did.

Interviewer: Can you remember? It must have been very exciting.

Coverdale: Yes.

Interviewer: What was it like instructing these men, Mr Bolt?

Bolt: Oh, it was quite interesting. I always did take a, an interest in teaching people anything to do with flying. I think that's the most interesting side of flying really. You've got, uh, your pupils are all different, you've got to take each one separately and try and work in a way that he understands. And I found it very interesting.

Interviewer: What kind of engines were they, Mr Ross?

Ross: In those days they were Curtis V8s, 90 horsepower.

Interviewer: Good engines?

Ross: Well, yes, now and then we'd have a crack up and put a boat out of commission for a while, but to get that boat back, engine back into commission, time was nothing. We might start at 6 o'clock in the morning and work through 10 o'clock at night. Time was nothing to us. We were all in camp down at the school, and, uh, we just put out.

Interviewer: That is the flying pupils as well as the ground staff were camped at the school, for most of the training time?

Ross: Mmm-hmm.

Interviewer: So, you had plenty of confidence in, uh, your aircraft, Mr Coverdale?

Coverdale: Oh yes. I don't think that thought ever came in. No confidence in the machine or anything like that, I mean that, well, you were young and it was an adventure, you never thought of that sort of thing.

Interviewer: And what would a typical flight be like?

Coverdale: Well, that consisted of, uh, the first thing going out and getting the machine off the water to start with and flying it, it just flew. And, uh, you controlled it the best you could and if you made a mistake, well then you knew pretty well that you were up for it.

Interviewer: But this airplane would be moored, would she, out in the bay?

Coverdale: Er, sometime moored, sometime pushed out, I mean we, we never flew unless it was, uh, well absolutely clear. I mean, uh, well you take my thing I had 22 hours of flying and I was there for three months to do it.

Interviewer: That would be very short flights.

Coverdale: Well you see you didn't go up, only what, about half an hour I think in a flight. And you don't, you might get two flights in a week if you were lucky. I don't think anybody ever went above a thousand feet, I don't think they could get that far.

Interviewer: Was that the ceiling of the aircraft, Mr Bolt?

Bolt: Oh, it might have been in some cases, uh, the main thing was to save time. The thing that, the training that took most was landing, you see, and take-off. And there was no need to go high to do that.

Interviewer: So the circuits and bumps was the general rule, was it?

Bolt: Yes, 'til they were thoroughly conversant in it, and then would go for their ticket.

Interviewer: How long would it take the aircraft to get off the water? I mean, how far would it have to go to, to become airborne?

Bolt: Three or four hundred yards.

Interviewer: And how many, uh, pupils were put through in the time of the school, do you know?

Bolt: A hundred and ten went away.

Interviewer: And, um, did you ever have any, um, serious troubles at the school? In the way of accidents?

Bolt: Ummm, no, not really serious, we broke some of the machines occasionally. [chuckles] But they were all rebuilt again.

Interviewer: Um, now, uh, several of the machines were built at the school, how many were imported and how many built?

Bolt: They imported initially a Curtis, American Curtis Flying Boat, and we made it the basis of building another one the same, and then we rebuilt the two entirely different in design with new type wings and controls. Then we built a single-seater one, so some of us could play with that while the others were used for dual. And then we built a very fine boat, later than that again, and she was a two-seater. She wasn't used a lot because it turned out very unstable. That was entirely the design of the school.

Interviewer: Have you got anything that you would like to add, have you got an anecdote, Mr Coverdale?

Coverdale: Well, all I can say is we, uh, in comparison, or comparing what machine in those days we had easy flying, there was no instruments to look at, we didn't have any. We used a barometer for an altimeter, on special occasions, and a piece of string as a boost-needle. I mean, those were all you had to look at. It was simple.

Interviewer: And you could never get very far away from the school anyway.

Coverdale: You'd never get far away from home, I mean, it was very easy-going. But you'd take a lot of care, I mean you don't take any risks or any like that sort of thing because it would have meant the end of it.

Interviewer: And, um, did it leave you onto further flying, have you done flying since?

Coverdale: I have never been in a plane since.

Transcription by Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero

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Reference number 254437

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Genre Interviews (Sound recordings)
Sound recordings

Credits RNZ Collection
New Zealand Broadcasting Service (estab. 1946, closed 1962)
Bolt, George Bruce, 1893-1963, Interviewee
Coverdale, Howard Vincent, -1971 (d.1971), Interviewee

Duration 00:07:33

Date Unknown

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