First Flight from Wellington to Nelson

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Philip Kenning "Shorty" Fowler is interviewed about making the first flight from Wellington to Nelson on November 11, 1921.

The flight was chartered by Tom Newman of Newman Brothers Motor Service, who wanted to be the first person to arrive in the Nelson District by air.

Mr Fowler was living in Lyall Bay, Wellington when he was asked to make the flight, taking off from Lyall Bay Football ground which was next to Rongotai College. [There was no aerodrome in Wellington at the time.]

He says this was the fourth time Cook Strait had been crossed by aeroplane, but the first landing at Nelson. He took 100 Dominion newspapers with him for delivery as well. He flew over the Strait at 2,000 feet in his plane, an Avro 504K which had been converted by the Mt. Cook Motor Company at Timaru to carry two passengers.

The engine ran on petrol and used pure castor oil as lubricant. Mtr fowler says he flew with very crude navigational aids and a school atlas a a map. After French Pass he wondered where they were and was getting anxious as fuel was running low. Nelson came into view and the motor ran out of petrol over the city, but he had a back up gravity-fed tank, and landed in front of the Stoke Hotel with about a gallon left. The flight took 2 hours 20 minutes.

There was a big crowd to welcome them as it was the first time most Nelson people had seen an aircraft and the first time they had been able to buy The Dominion newspaper on the day it was printed.

He stayed in Nelson for several weeks, taking passengers up for short flights at 1 pound for 10 minutes.

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Reference number 38208

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits Fowler, Philip Kenning, 1885-1970, Interviewee

Duration 00:07:53

Date [1959-1960]