This was a three-part series mapping the history of aviation in New Zealand: from DIY pioneers (Richard Pearse, the Walsh bros), via the formation of the RNZAF and NAC, to contemporary aviators. Flying Kiwi heroes (Sir Francis Chichester, Jean Batten) are profiled, along with innovation stirred by the NZ environment: flying boats, ski-planes and top-dressers. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, with veteran Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) directing, the series was made by the National Film Unit for TV, which by the 80s had replaced cinemas as an NFU outlet.

Off the ground pt.1   the first to fly key.jpg.540x405

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.

Off the ground   challenge and crisis key.jpg.540x405

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.

Off the ground   the modern pioneers key.jpg.540x405

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.