Sunderland Flying Boat

A surprising encounter on the Chatham Islands is the relatively intact fuselage of the 1945 Sunderland “Short” flying boat, on the very remote farm of Jim and Sally Muirson at Kaiwhata, east of Kiangaroa.

A flying boat base was established at Waikato Bay on Te Whanga Lagoon in 1941 with a jetty, moorings and marker buoys for the channel. the lake bottom having been swept of rocks. The catalyst was for defence purposes following the sinking of the Chatham Islands trader, Holmwood, by German Raiders in November 1940. 

The RNZAF set up a scheduled service in 1946 that was taken over later by NAC and TEAL and continued until late 1966.

Sunderland NZ4111 was built in 1945 and had served in Hong Kong and Fiji prior to purchase by the Royal New Zealand Airforce in 1953. It had previously been holed and repaired twice when having hit underwater objects during routine work elsewhere

A flying boat base was established at Waikato Bay on Te Whanga Lagoon in 1941 with a jetty, moorings and marker buoys for the channel. the lake bottom having been swept of rocks. The catalyst was for defence purposes following the sinking of the Chatham Islands trader, Holmwood, by German Raiders in November 1940.

The RNZAF set up a scheduled service in 1946 that was taken over later by NAC and TEAL and continued until late 1966.

Sunderland NZ4111 was built in 1945 and had served in Hong Kong and Fiji prior to purchase by the Royal New Zealand Airforce in 1953. It had previously been holed and repaired twice when having hit underwater objects during routine work elsewhere.

On 4th November 1959 the plane’s flying days ended when it struck a hidden rock when taking off. The pilot managed to bring the plane into shallow water and passengers were safely evacuated. Following inspection, the RNZAF decided salvage was uneconomic so stripped off all that was worthy, including the engine, and offered the remaining hull to anyone willing to remove it. Ray and Alf Wiesner, farmers at Kaiwhata, dragged the wreck clear of the water, cut it into three pieces and carted them to their farm to be used as hot-houses and storage sheds.

Over recent years the aircraft has been rebuilt and the current farm owner, Jim Muirson, has housed the shell in a shed together with interpretation information for visitors to view on appointment.

In 1967 a grass landing strip opened at Hapupu with a service provided by the RNZAF and later Safe Air using DC3s and Bristol Freighters. Conditions on the grass runway were hazardous in winter and heavy planes were at risk of being bogged. This, together with the lack of roads requiring passengers to be ferried across Te Whanga Lagoon, lead to the building of the current airport at Karewa in 1980-81. The land was donated by Inia William Tuuta, the airport carrying his name.

The Sunderland Flying Boat restoration project is on private land and access requires permission beforehand and payment of an entry fee. This is very important, especially on farms, for management and health and safety.

Contact

Jim and Sally Muirson

Ph: 03 3050 022

Email: muirsonfish@ruralinzone.net