de Havilland Vampire

In New Plymouth we are lucky because there are two of these jets in flying condition and often in fine weather only of course , they are to be seen swooping through the sky. I am doubly lucky because I know a pilot who flies them and he has introduced me to the man who owns both aircraft. The second one he recently picked up in Switzerland. It’s ex-Swiss Airforce.

These planes mean a great deal to me, not only because they were part of my boyhood when the RNZAF flew some, but because I always get a thrill out of seeing elegant engineering. When there is such a pure blend of form and function, of such clarity of design, I feel in the presence of sculpture.

So reliable were these planes, and so smooth to fly, that the RNZAF never lost a single one. There were about 4,400 built of which more than 80 are still flying. Anyone visiting the Ohakea Airforce Museum can see a slightly dissected one. Two things are surprising. How little they are, and how much of the body is made of laminated wood.