Replica control tower opened

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There was a Tiger Moth, a Spitifre, a Mustang and, to oversee it all, a new control tower.

But this tower, unlike the original, was not operational.

It is a replica, opened on Sunday by Caroline McIntosh and children Riley and Fen, daughter and grandchildren of the late Eric Drewitt, whose vision it was to recreate history at Ashburton airfield, an important WW2 training base.

He approached the Ashburton Aviation Museum with his idea – and it took flight. Mr Drewitt also gave money to the project.

On Sunday, surrounded by a Tiger Moth, other bi-planes, replica Spitfires and Mustangs, a mighty DC3, the museum’s Harrier jump jet and dozens of other planes, Mrs McIntosh and the children cut a red ribbon to declare the tower open.

Minutes later, hundreds of people were clambering up its steps to see the displays set up in the second storey, to see the memorabilia in the first floor, and to marvel at the view of the airfield, the array of planes and classic vehicles, and alps from the third-storey viewing area.

The museum president, Owen Moore, said Mr Drewitt approached the museum with the idea of it taking over his extensive collection of books, maps, photos and memorabilia, all relating to bomber command.

The museum agreed, and from that grew the idea to build a replica control tower.

Mr Moore said the project was helped by many generous supporters from Ashburton and Christchurch.

He said one of the founding members, Jim Chivers, had always had an idea that the airfield should try to show what it was like when it was an operational field.

The plans were drawn by Kelvin Lysaght of Lysaght and Associates, and it was built by Jim Reed Builders. Ashburton Engineering did the steelwork.

Museum members led by Brian Mitchell painted the exterior, John Hill provided the instruments and he and Alistair Perkins did a lot of the internal displays.

Ashburton mayor Donna Favel spoke at the opening, as did Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon – a confessed aviation geek – and Graeme Church spoke of his time as an Air Training Corp cadet – on spud duty – at the airport when he was a teenager.

Mrs McIntosh said her father, Mr Drewitt, wrote aviation articles and loved making a connection between people, planes and places, and was keen a replica tower be created, and would have been thrilled with what had been achieved.