Interview with Robert Allender on the last journey of RMA Aotearoa flying boat on New Zealand Broadcasting Service Radio review programme
Unknown, Interviewer; Robert Allender, Interviewee;
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Robert Allender, Interviewee
00.16” Recording starts with sound of engines. The Aotearoa. Do you remember, listeners, the first time the trans-Tasman flying boat, the Aotearoa came within sight of these shores? That was a great day for all of us, wasn’t it? In front of me here, I have Mr Robert Allender, publicity officer of Tasman Empire Airways. Mr Allender, precisely when was that, did you say?
Allender: September 1939. She was used on survey flights until 30 April 1940, when she opened the trans-Tasman service.
Interviewer: How far would you say the Aotearoa had flown during her lifetime?
Allender: Oh, over one and a quarter million miles. She had nine thousand hours in the air and had crossed the Tasman 422 times.
Interviewer: Without a murmur of protest, eh?
Allender: Yes. Her regularity was unfailing. In fact, she had a monotonous career. Her sister ship, the Awarua, at least saw some excitement in the Pacific during the war. A zealous American gunner mistook her registration letters – they were ZKAC – for the markings of a Japanese fighter and opened fire.
Interviewer: Was there any damage?
Allender: Only a moderate hole, but I think the crew were at least surprised. The Honourable Walter Nash was a passenger on that occasion.
Interviewer: But you say nothing exciting has happened to Aotearoa?
Allender: No, not a thing. It’s a very good recommendation for an aircraft. Even her last effort was a gallant one. After her service life had finished, she was employed on ‘Food for Britain’ flights which raised about £200 for Auckland’s ‘Food for Britain’ fund.
During her life she carried over six thousand passengers, and she’s fairly well known all over the world. Although we call her ‘obsolete’, we merely mean that she could not continue to fly because spare parts were no longer available. She’s been superseded by the Tasman class and the Solents, which we’ll see early next year.
Interviewer: ‘Radio Review’ is aboard the Aotearoa, broadcasting at the moment from Hobsonville. I say ‘at the moment’ because any second now the engines will be starting up and the flying boat will commence its last journey. It’s supposed to taxi along the water from Hobsonville to Mission Bay. We’re being taken down by Captain Griffiths. Captain Griffiths has crossed the Tasman more times than any other person. Crossings now total over 700. He has transported over ten thousand passengers across the Tasman, and he commanded the last trans-Tasman flight of the RMA Aotearoa.
Well, there she goes now. You might be able to hear the engines starting up. [background noise of engines] There’s only one trouble: in spite of advice received from our presentation officer, Mr Bill Illingworth I forgot to bring my fishing line.
It would seem that the broadcast will have to take part in stages, so I’ll be with you again when we’re going down the harbour.
03.18” Well, here we are again, going down harbour at something like 60 to 65 knots. We’re not actually taking off but we’re going almost fast enough to do so. It feels like ten thousand knots to me. I’m glad I didn’t bring my fishing line now because I don’t know where the hook would finish up.
We’re just past the ferry buildings, and in a moment we’ll be passing Mechanics Bay. Yes, we’re coming to it now, and it is the last journey of the Aotearoa. We are passing the Mechanics Bay base now. I don’t know how Captain Griffiths feels about it, but this is the last time the Aotearoa will roar past the base.
I’ll come back to you again when we reach Mission Bay.
03.59” So here we are at Mission Bay and, as you can hear, all is now quiet. There are quite a number of people on the beach, and here is Captain Griffiths. Well, how do you feel about things now, Captain Griffiths?
Griffiths: [Well, Michael??], it is rather a sad day for the old boat to have her drawn up on the grass beside the road, but she’s still as good a flying boat as ever. And, well, I’d rather see her taken out to see and sunk.
04.25 Recording ends
There is a gap and then the recording is repeated.
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