The latest aircraft to enter Ashburton Aviation Museum’s impressive fleet is a Chrislea Super Ace, the same plane that museum secretary Warren Janett went for a spin in 42 years ago.
The Super Ace Series 3 (ZK ASI) has been gifted to the museum by aviation enthusiast Reg Wellington and is the only one of its kind in New Zealand.
The high-wing four-seat cabin monoplane features a tricycle undercarriage and two fins.
Mr Janett said it was while working as a purser pilot at Mt Cook Airways in 1975 that he came across the new museum piece.
“I saw it on the airfield at Rotorua and thought it was a ‘weird’ looking aircraft.
“A local crop spraying pilot took me out for a circuit in it and it flew well.”
The steering wheel and door handles were similar to something typically found on a car of the 1940s era, rather than an aircraft, he said.
The Super Ace’s unusual steering control arrangement eliminated the conventional rudder bar.
“The steering wheel is mounted on a universal joint, which means you pull it up for lift and down to descend.
“The rudder pedals have leather straps across them, so it’s like wearing Roman sandals when you balance the left and right sides.”
The unorthodox flying controls were controversial and disliked by many pilots, Mr Janett said.
There were only two Chrislea Super Aces imported into New Zealand, both in late 1948, and the company making them was wound up in 1952.
The aircraft is 6.55m long and powered by a Gipsy Major 10 engine.
Featuring a fabric and plywood body, ZK ASI will be restored and used as a static display at the aviation museum.
“The engine has only done 600 hours, so it would be nice to be able to taxi it again, but we’ll take things one step at a time, and work in our own time to restore it first,” Mr Janett said.
He said the gifted aircraft was a great gesture by Mr Wellington, who had trained as a pilot in Ashburton during World War 2, and had later loaned the Super Ace to the NZ Sport & Aviation Society in Masterton.
“Reg’s son, who is a 777 pilot with Air New Zealand, visited the museum to see if it was a suitable resting place for the plane and later Reg himself, who is 93, came down and was immensely impressed with what he saw here.” The museum has around 25 aircraft and a growing reputation here and overseas.