NZ3548 Part One - The Flying Years
The following photos are
presented in chronological order and show the life of Douglas C-47B /
DC3C NZ3548 / ZK-AWO. If anyone has additional photos they
are able to add to the collection, I'd love to hear from you.
Also, if you are able to provide details on colours, corrections or
further information to that given below, it would be appreciated.
Please contact Chris Rudge at Chris.Rudge@xtra.co.nz or contact me at
P.O.Box 240, Lyttelton, New Zealand. I hope you enjoy the images.
NZ3548 / ZK-AWO (c/n 33480/16732) was built in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
USA in 1944 as a model C-47B-35-DK. Initially registered
44-77148, it was delivered to the USAAF on 15 June 1945, then to the
Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) at Rukuhia on 7 July 1945. It
was brought on charge with the RNZAF as NZ3548, one of 49 such aircraft
acquired by the RNZAF
during WWII. It initially served with 40 Squadron before being
issued to 41 Squadron on 25 March 1946. There are no known photos
of the aircraft in wartime olive scheme.
photograph of NZ3548 while with 41 Squadron RNZAF. Given the
post-war bare metal scheme, this photo was probably taken in the late
1940's. "41 Transport Squadron R.N.Z.A.F" is written within the
fuselage stripe. Note the early features of the aircraft, such as
astrodome (used by navigator),
upper aerials, and the holes in the windows so that those aboard could
shoot back at attacking aircraft! The forward-facing double aerial
shown on the port side of the cockpit was part of a REBECCA unit.
After seven years
service with the
RNZAF, NZ3548 was
charge on 1 July 1952. It was bought by the National Airways
(NAC) and registered ZK-AWO on 11 July 1952. The aircraft was
converted to a passenger aircraft in November 1952 and was a common
sight to air travellers. This photo, taken circa 1953, shows the
aircraft while in civilian passenger configuration (as evidenced by
lack of bars over all but the rear window, as well as the earlier paint
scheme). Photo courtesy of Ed
photo of ZK-AWO was taken at Paraparaumu sometime between early 1953
and late 1958 and was produced as a postcard. It shows the aircraft in
an early NAC colour scheme while configured as a passenger aircraft.
The registration is clearly shown on the tail and the word "Putaitai"
can be read under the co-pilots side window. "Putaitai" is the Maori word for a
native duck, the
shoveller. With the
high sun angle, dry hills and high cloudbase, this would have been
taken in summer.
In late 1958, the aircraft was
converted into a freighter in the NAC Overhaul Workshop at Christchurch
Airport. The interior was stripped of all furnishings and
linings. Floor beams were strengthened for tying down freight and
the wooden floors were replaced by the original metal ones. A
small door was fitted to facilitate the inspection of freight and
replaced the normal door between cabin and crew space. Folding
seats were fitted into the rear of the aircraft for use by attendants
when livestock was carried. ZK-AWO was the fourth such conversion
at the Christchurch Airport workshops, each conversion taking about
This photo is
from the NAC Airline Review Vol 3
Summer issue 1958 newsletter and shows ZK-AWO having the
passenger fittings stripped from the
aircraft. Note the overhead locker "bins" and call service
buttons and lights.
interior fittings removed, the floor is strengthened and replaced with
an original metal floor so that freight can be tied down. Later
on, when converted to a topdresser, the hopper would have occupied the
space aft of the two engineers.
freighters in 1958. ZK-AWO is second on right. From left,
the aircraft are ZK-AOI "Papua" (Construction No. 34226 and ex-RNZAF
NZ3554, which was sold to James Aviation on 19 July 1966 for
conversion to a topdresser); ZK-BKE "Kawatere" (Construction No. 4119,
the only true DC3 in New Zealand skies and imported from Australia -
withdrawn 18 January 1966 and sold in Laos); ZK-AWO "Putaitai"; and
ZK-AQP "Peho". The latter aircraft (Construction No. 32897) was
originally RNZAF NZ3538 and was withdrawn from NAC on 4 September 1966,
being returned to the RNZAF. It was then sold to K B Neely on 16
December 1980 and exported to Air Comoros, thence to the South African
Air Force. It was cancelled on 19 December 1980.
photo shows ZK-AWO
seven years after it was converted to a freighter. This
its designation from a
C-47B to a DC3C, the "C" standing for "cargo". The colour
scheme is bare metal with white upper fuselage, red stripes and upper
black nose. Windows remain from its NAC passemger carrying days
and rails can be seen inside to prevent freight
hitting the windows and fuselage walls. The astrodome and upper
aerials have been removed and a new HF aerial fitted. This
photograph was taken on 22 September 1965 after the aircraft suffered
an engine failure. The aircraft landed at Dunedin on one engine
and, from the photograph, appears to have been towed off the runway.
close-up of ZK-AWO showing NAC paint scheme and the use of the name
"Putaitai". Note the feathered port propeller following the
shutdown. The pilots are still aboard the aircraft as it is towed
off the runway.
photo of ZK-AWO after landing at Dunedin. Just left of the open
door is a crown symbol and "ER" for "Elizabeth Royal" (the Queen) and
the words "Royal Mail". The second window from the rear serves as
an emergency exit, the same as it did when it was with RNZAF.
front quarter photograph of ZK-AWO. Underwing markings show "NAC"
under starboard wing and "ZK-AWO" under port wing (lettering reading
from front to back). A number of probes/aerials are evident under
the front fuselage. The first can be seen at the very
front. Next back are the pitot probes (see close-up photo further
up the page) and, from these, an aerial runs back to two other
"posts", which terminate under the centre section. This was for
for DME (distance measuring equipment) sensing. Behind the
pitot probes is the ADF loop.
ZK-AWO was withdrawn
from NAC on 5 September 1966 and sold to Airland (NZ) Ltd, where it was
delivered on 21 March 1967 after conversion for agricultural
work. It was the fourth DC-3 to be operated by Airland. It
was registered with Airland on 12 April but did not commence work until
15 October 1968.
ZK-AWO in Airland colours.
Exact colours are not known but it is clear that the nose, upper
fuselage, tail and outer wings are probably white. Ailerons and
fuselage are possibly grey (?), or the same colour. The colour of the
stripe is not known. Cowlings and nacelles appear to be bare
Propellers and hubs are black. All external aerials have been
removed. Note two fuselage windows on starboard side - the
forward window being removed at a later date.
location of this photo is not known but there is a large aerial behind
the aircraft which indicates this is a major airport, probably Milson
(Palmerston North). This makes sense given the inspection
platform at right. Also, note the wheel chocks in place. This
image may well have been taken during a maintenance run-up. Note ladder onto rear of port
wing - this allowed the pilots to get into the cockpit via the
emergency door where the window is located as access past the hopper
was not possible.
image of ZK-AWO while with Airland. A large aerial can be seen
behind the aircraft, as well as houses and Norfolk pines. This
could also be Milson aerodrome, Palmerston North but, given the pines,
may be elsewhere.
of this image is also unknown. The area around the airfield seems
to be sparsely populated. Hood Aerodrome perhaps?
photo shows ZK-AWO after it went to Feildair on 20 February 1978 and
Top of nose is black, fuselage yellow and white with black stripes
separating the two colours, wings yellow and white (also with black
stripes), tail is yellow with thick black leading edge (difference in
tonal colour of yellow is because rudder is not central), and probably
bare metal cowlings with black nacelles. The propellers and
spinners are black. Note the registration on rear fuselage is the
full "ZK-AWO" with thicker lettering.
close-up of the nose showing the retention of the "Putaitai" name from
NAC days. Other markings show "Exit" within an arrow pointing to
cockpit emergency exit (only opened from inside), "Fire Extinguisher
Inside" with symbol and "Axe inside" with symbol. The freight
door was removed and replaced with a solid panel while still with
Feildair and prior to the aircraft being scrapped.
can be clearly seen in this photo covering much of the "Fieldair" name
and back over the tail. Location of photos is unknown (Milson or
is something you can't do with a Fletcher! Fieldair pilot Gerry
Kluck carried his Mini with him between topdressing jobs! Note
the "Douglas" logo on top of the rudder.
early colour photo of ZK-AWO at Gisborne Aerodrome. It can be seen that
in the early Fieldair paint scheme the front of the fin had a larger
black area and the engine cowlings were bare metal. Photo: Colin Hunter
Beautiful air-to-air photo of ZK-AWO taken by
Ross Ewing. The colour
scheme shown here is a later version. Differences include bare
metal propeller and spinner, grey coloured cowling, single colour tail
with thin black leading edge, addition of Fieldair logo on the fin and
the "ZK" from the registration. The front freight door has also
been removed. The hopper opening can be see on
top of the fuselage.
reloaded with superphosphate before heading out on another run.
Location of photograph is unknown but is probably taken in the
Wairarapa or Hawke's Bay (Hood Aerodrome?). Ross Ewing photograph.
ZK-AWO making a run across bush-backed farmland, probably
in the Hawke's Bay area. In WWII you'd be worried to see a C-47
looking like this but the trail of phosphate dust of a topdressing DC3
was a common sight over hill country farms in the 1970s.
Throughout its life, ZK-AWO spent 8737
hours on topdressing operations. That's a lot of fertiliser!
One story I've heard about
ZK-AWO's demise is that it was sitting next to ZK-AWP at Milson
Aerodrome, Palmerston North, and someone
had to decide which of the two aircraft should be saved and which
should be scrapped. The decision was made on the toss of a coin and
ZK-AWO lost. The other DC3 is still flying today!
a fairly clean condition. As can be seen, engines cowlings were
painted grey, with nacelles black. Propellers and spinner are a
bare metal. The aircraft made its final flight on 1 March 1984,
by which time it had amassed a total of 32,846
hours flying time. The aircraft's registration was cancelled on
29 May 1985.
Click here to go to Part Two