Woodville’s even dozen
Athol and Betty Sowry have been holding their Wings Over Woodville 1 January fly-in at their Athbey farm, a few kilometres to the west of SH2 just north of Woodville, for the last 12 years. It is rather special as, being as close as it’s possible to get to the international date line (only Chatham Island can beat it), it is the first fly-in for the year anywhere in the world.
On leaving a rather wet Masterton I was concerned about it even happening, with heavy rain for most of the drive north, but the weather broke and it was dry at the farm. I don’t know how he managed it, but Athol had even arranged for the rather gusty wind to be blowing straight down the airstrip to assist with landings.
On my arrival only three aircraft were present—Athol’s own Ultravia Pelican Club ZK-FTE; Sky Arrow ZK-SKO from Feilding, flown in by Colin MacMillan, Feilding Microlight Club president who helps Athol with the event each year; and a topdressing rarity and NZ’s only flying example, Lindsay McNicol’s Yeoman YA-1 Cropmaster ZK-CPW from Waipukurau.
Although the wind was increasing, the occasional flying visitor was still dropping in. Next up were Tecnam Bravo ZK-LLY, SA 102 Cavalier ZK-JJF and RANS Coyote II ZK-JDP.
Then came the icing on the cake—Hallett Griffin with his recently returned to NZ Auster B8 Agricola ZK-BXO, looking as though it had just come out of the factory. Hallett was marvellous, too, giving a run-down of the aeroplane and its history to the crowd gathered around.
Next was a surprise, in the form of DHC-1 Chipmunk ZK-DUC from Wanaka but flown by Jerry Chisum from Bridge Pa, closely followed by Jan Chisum with their Gardan Minicab ZK-RJK. The final visitor for the day was Sky Arrow ZK-EBR from Feilding.
With the rather inclement weather, most visitors arrived by car, and about 50 people enjoyed the lunchtime barbecue prepared by Athol, Betty and their group of helpers. Athol thanked everybody for coming and awarded gifts to the barbecue/kitchen, setup and support staff, as well as for the furthest travelled aeroplanes from the east and west coasts and the South Island, plus gifts to the first people to arrive by air 12 years ago—John Shakes and Keith Turner.
But Athol then announced that this was to be the last New Year’s fly-in at Athbey Farm as both he and his wife Betty are getting too old. On a brighter note, he assured everybody that the event would not die and would be held at alternating venues in the east and west of the lower North Island with a suggested next year’s fly-in for 2018 at Koputaroa, north of Levin, and 2019 at Waipukurau.
Athbey Farm, a great venue with great hosts, has been one of the most popular fly-ins of the area and will be sadly missed by all, but I believe Athol will still welcome visitors to his strip on other, informal occasions.
- Report & photographs by Clive Wilkinson.
» Summer success at the Walsh
» The luxury of living in the Ivory Tower
» Comper moves swiftly
» UAV usefulness increasing
» Woodville’s even dozen
» 60th birthday party for ZK-BNL
» New airline MRO facility
» Hands across the Southern Alps
» Praise earned in tough place