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Off the Ground - 3, The Modern Pioneers

Television, 1982 (Full Length Episode)

The third part of this NFU series on aviation in New Zealand jets off post-World War II, where wartime aircraft and crew provided a base for the National Airways Corporation (later Air New Zealand). The romance of travelling via flying boat made way for mass global air travel; and NZ tourism and airports rapidly became more sophisticated. Presenter Peter Clements looks at how the NZ environment spurred innovation (ski planes, top-dressing, heli deer hunting), and traces the lineage of contemporary garage aircraft makers to DIY first flyers like Richard Pearse.

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Alpine Airways

Short Film, 1963 (Full Length)

This 1963 film looks at how the development of high country aviation is taking on the challenges presented by the South Island’s rugged geography. Piloted by war veterans, small aircraft parachute supplies into remote locations for Forest Service hut building and service lighthouses. Meanwhile helicopters and airlines open up opportunities for industry (venison, tourism, forestry, topdressing) and recreation (fishing, hunting). Good keen men, smokos and Swannies abound in this classically-filmed National Film Unit documentary.

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Off the Ground - 1, The First to Fly

Television, 1982 (Full Length Episode)

DIY first flyer Richard Pearse aptly leads off this three-part 1982 series on the history of aviation in New Zealand. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, the survey of the pioneers of the “birdman’s art” covers daredevil balloonists, World War I fighter pilots, flying bishops, and frontrunners like the Walsh bros and George Bolt. A forgotten silver treasure from the archives is footage of Percy Fisher’s monoplane, filmed on a hand-cranked movie camera in the Wairarapa in 1913. The series was made for TV by veteran director Conon Fraser and the National Film Unit.

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Off the Ground - 2, Challenge and Crisis

Television, 1982 (Full Length Episode)

The second part of this 1982 series on the history of aviation in New Zealand hang glides to the 30s golden age where world famous flying feats (from the likes of Aussie Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and NZ aviatrix Jean Batten) inspired a surge in aero and gliding clubs and the beginning of commercial domestic flights and aerial mapping. War saw Kiwis flying for the RAF and modernised an ageing RNZAF, taking it from biplanes to jet aircraft. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, the series was made for TV by veteran director Conon Fraser and the National Film Unit.

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Flight 901 - The Erebus Disaster

Television, 1981 (Excerpts)

On 28 November 1979, an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashed into Mt Erebus, Antarctica, killing all 257 people on board. It was the worst civil aviation disaster in NZ history and at the time, the fourth worst in the world. Made independently of state TV, Flight 901 was the first in-depth documentary on the accident. It surveys the novelty of Antarctic tourist flights, the search and rescue operation, and controversy over causes stirred by the Peter Mahon-led Royal Commission of Inquiry. This 15 minute excerpt was edited for NZ On Screen by director John Keir.

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Reaching for the Skies - An End to Isolation

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

Made for the 50th anniversary of Air New Zealand, Reaching for the Skies takes a journey through New Zealand’s aviation history — from claims that Richard Pearse flew before the Wright brothers and early attempts at Trans-Tasman travel, to the establishment of Tasman Empire Airways and the modern airliner. Vintage aircraft feature, with biplanes and single engine aircraft, as well as rare Solent flying boats. Interviewees talk about their desire to form a new private airline after the war, only to be denied, and the importance of having a national carrier in New Zealand.

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Antarctica

Film, 1980 (Full Length)

The fierce cold and awesome isolation of Antarctica is evoked in this 1980 NFU survey of scientific projects and life on New Zealand’s Ross Dependency. Geological and wildlife work is counterpointed by domestic details: a “housewifely” cleaning regime, an impressive liquor order, time-marking beards, and radio chatter at odds with the desolation. There’s poignant footage of one of the last sightseeing flights before the Erebus disaster; and the doco grapples with the uneasy possibility that research may lead to exploitation of the continent’s natural resources.

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Special Investigators - Episode Eight

Television, 2006 (Full Length Episode)

Special Investigators was an observational documentary series which followed agents from various safety enforcement agencies, as they searched for the causes of plane crashes, mishaps at sea, and other fatal incidents. In this episode from the 2006 season, a Maritime New Zealand investigator interviews two Bay of Plenty teens who survived a tragic fishing trip. Their friend drowned after the runabout they were passengers in flipped while crossing breakers, at Maraetai Bay. The investigation is mixed with recreations and video footage of the accident scene.

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The New Adventures of Black Beauty - The Birdman

Television, 1990 (Excerpts)

A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera. This extract from the eighth episode sees Manfred attempt to fly on Karekare beach in a Richard Pearse-like contraption, as a shady-looking Kurt (Michael Hurst) looks on, and Vicky charges to the rescue on Beauty.

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The Club Show - 12 May 1979

Television, 1979 (Full Length Episode)

Sports broadcasters turned entertainers Glyn Tucker and Ernie Leonard invite viewers to 'Walk Right In' in this ill-fated variety show. There are performances from singers including Bridgette Allen and Glyn Tucker himself; and belly dancing from the Elektra Dancers. It’s FA Cup Night, so Glyn interviews the manager of English football team Norwich City (with dimly lit footage of them playing a local selection) and Ernie has a rather odd chat with aviator Fred Ladd (who insists on answering in rhyming couplets). Equally curious is ‘The Silver Shot’ ...