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Rebirth of historic plane

Dr John G Hill in his shed with the plane’s fuselage [main body] holding one of the turnbuckles. He needs another 65 of them. PHOTO/ELI HILL

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The first aircraft to be fully designed and built in New Zealand by a New Zealander is being faithfully recreated in a shed on the back of a Masterton couple’s property.

Dr John G Hill, a retired engineer, has spent the past 18 months recreating Percy Fisher’s monoplane, which took – or bounced – into the skies above a paddock near Carterton in June 1913.

Hill, who has been building aeroplanes all his life said he’d taken up the challenge after reading up on New Zealand’s aviation history.

“Mainly because it was the first aircraft to be fully, totally designed and built in New Zealand by a New Zealander and no one had bothered to build a replica of this historic aircraft, I decided to do it myself,” he said.

The original monoplane built by Percy Fisher. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“There was only one diagram of it, and it was done later. When Percy built this thing, he didn’t make any drawings. He just built it from the ground up.”

However, there were plenty of photographs of the plane and the process over the 18 months it took Fisher to build the original plane.

“As much as I can, I’m trying to use the same materials that Percy would’ve had access to,” Hill said.

While Hill has created the frames for the plane’s tail and fuselage, he has hit a stumbling block in the form of turnbuckles.

“The most important part of the plane is the ability to adjust the rigging inside the fuselage and that’s done with turnbuckles. They keep the structure of the plane rigid.

“You can buy them for $38 brand new. That’s my stumbling block at the moment. I can just about afford to build it without too much outlay. But I do need the turnbuckles.”

Around 85 airplane turnbuckles are needed, and Hill only has 20.

All up, 65 turnbuckles at $38 each is $2470, and Hill is hoping that someone in the community might be able to help him out with sourcing the parts.

“In my experience you go to old farms and garages near airstrips there’s nearly always an old wreck at the back of the shed that still has some of its control gears,” he said.

“If anybody has any turnbuckles, they would be much appreciated. I don’t really want money because I want to do it independently, but turnbuckles are a necessity.”

When finished, Hill intends to donate the aircraft to the Hood Aerodrome museum.

If Hill gets all the materials, he needs he estimates the aircraft can be finished in six months.

Hill can be contacted on 0291 287 385 or at: [email protected].

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