Progress in bid to repatriate planes

New Zealand's first commercial jet, a Boeing 737 that belonged to the New Zealand National...
New Zealand's first commercial jet, a Boeing 737 that belonged to the New Zealand National Airways Corporation, is parked up in North Carolina in the United States. The Bring Our Birds Home campaign hopes to buy it. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
The effort to repatriate long-lost New Zealand airliners and display them in Wanaka is continuing to make progress, according to campaign head Paul Brennan.

A year after the Bring Our Birds Home campaign began, Mr Brennan said his group was not far away from securing ``real metal'' and hoped to have two airframes in New Zealand by the end of the year.

One of those was a Boeing 737 that had the distinction of operating on New Zealand's first domestic commercial jet service on October 7, 1968, as part of the National Airways Corporation fleet.

These days it lies derelict in an airfield near Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mr Brennan said he thought it had been crushed in May last year. However, a photo of the plane, sent to him in January, revived hopes of saving the historic aircraft.

The owners were happy to sell to the group.

``It's a very special item to us,'' he said.

Transportation of the 737 to New Zealand would be easier than for the Douglas DC-8 in Manaus, Brazil, the recovery of which Mr Brennan said had had a minor setback.

``We're just having to deal with the speed of bureaucracy in that part of the world.''

How the NAC Boeing 737 could look like once refurbished.
How the NAC Boeing 737 could look like once refurbished.
He said he expected to have the 737 back in New Zealand before the DC-8.

Mr Brennan said he would soon be having a face-to-face meeting with Cuban ambassador Mario Alzugaray, who would update him on the state of the DC-10 lying derelict in Havana.

The social media campaign had been gathering global attention, Mr Brennan said.

He had been contacted by the Central Air Force Museum in Monino, Russia, and SOAR in California, both of which offered their services to dismantle the aircraft.

``Bring Our Birds Home is bigger than New Zealand now. I'm constantly getting contacted from people overseas who are really enthusiastic about what we're doing and offering help. It's starting to become a bit of a United Nations of support,'' Mr Brennan said.

Gaining charitable trust status would help it secure larger donations.

Mr Brennan said the group could not get into negotiation with the owners of the 737 until the charitable trust process was completed.

He confirmed it was ``more certain than ever that it [the display] will be in Wanaka''.

``It will be a huge benefit for that area. People will be really surprised at how popular it will be.''

The group will make an appearance at Warbirds Over Wanaka this Easter, where Mr Brennan said people would get the opportunity to learn more about the campaign.


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