A bittersweet farewell for the Tempest project from Pioneer Aero engineers Craig Cunha and Allen House.
In July 2012 Pioneer Aero took delivery of a Bristol Centaurus-powered Hawker Tempest, MW376, to be restored to full flying condition for New Zealand-based owner Eric Hertz. In a cruel twist of fate Eric and his wife Kathy lost their lives in an aircraft accident in March 2013.
Given that many New Zealanders flew the Tempest in WWII, and in tribute to Eric, Pioneer Aero director Paul McSweeny hoped that a new owner could be found within New Zealand and that Pioneer could continue the restoration.
But despite much publicity it wasn’t to be, and last month Paul, Steve Cox and their team bid a sad farewell to MW376 which departed Ardmore in two containers, bound for an undisclosed buyer in Canada.
Paul still has a bottle of champagne, one of two that Eric brought to Ardmore in 2012. One was opened then to celebrate the arrival of the aeroplane from France, and Paul hopes that in the not too distant future he will be able to take the other to Canada to toast its first post-restoration flight.
No 486 (NZ) Squadron received its first Tempests to replace its Hawker Typhoons in January 1944, receiving its final batch in April and continuing to fly the powerful fighter with great success until war’s end. In total 486 Squadron flew 11,000 sorties and claimed 81 enemy aircraft destroyed, 59.5 of them while flying the Tempest.
-Report and photography by Nicholas McIndoe.
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