Portsmouth-built plane gets a new lease of life in New Zealand

PAINSTAKING The restored 1945 Airspeed Oxford PK296 on display in Christchurch, New Zealand
PAINSTAKING The restored 1945 Airspeed Oxford PK296 on display in Christchurch, New Zealand
Opening of the new school by the home secretary in October 1927. The headmaster, Canon Barton, is on the lowest step, on the left. Dorothea Barton is possibly there, somewhere. (PGS Archive)

NOSTALGIA: A red bluestocking at Portsmouth Grammar School

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Airspeed is a name synonymous with Portsmouth’s aviation history.

Many of you will have had connections with the company which had a factory adjacent to the old city airport.

TRUSTY A Prototype of an Airspeed Oxford on its maiden flight from Portsmouth on June 19, 1937.
Nearly all Second World War Bomber Command crews trained in this type of plane, of which 9,000 were built.

TRUSTY A Prototype of an Airspeed Oxford on its maiden flight from Portsmouth on June 19, 1937. Nearly all Second World War Bomber Command crews trained in this type of plane, of which 9,000 were built.

One of the most famous names to emerge from the site off Eastern Road was the Airspeed Oxford and one has been completely rebuilt and gone on display at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum in Christchurch, pictured right.

It took 14 years and more than 33,000 hours of restoration work to get the 1945 Airspeed Oxford PK296 ready for public viewing.

The Oxford was widely used for aircrew training, reconnaissance, and aerial survey work by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) between 1938 and 1954.

Museum collections manager David Watmuff said the RNZAF operated 299 Oxfords, more than any other aircraft type.

CONSTRUCTION The old Airspeed factory on what is now the Airport Industrial Estate off Eastern Road, Portsmouth

CONSTRUCTION The old Airspeed factory on what is now the Airport Industrial Estate off Eastern Road, Portsmouth

He says: ‘This is a fantastic representative of that fleet. A lot of the pilots in the Second World War, who went on to fly in coastal command and bomber command, probably would have flown Oxfords. So they’ll have a strong identification with it. It’s a very significant aircraft.’

The aircraft was built in Portsmouth in 1945, and was constructed too late to see operational service during the Second World War.