Deep in the Dargaville Menz Shed, work commences on a detailed near-life-sized model of Captain George Bolt’s historic floatplane

Honouring a high-flying hero

by Andy Bryenton

A century ago, pioneering Kiwi aviator Captain George Bolt took to the skies to launch our nation’s first airmail service. That first flight took him on a circle route up the east coast, then across the Kaipara Harbour to Dargaville. Now a group of citizens there are commemorating his feat, in a festive fashion.

The Dargaville Community Development Board, Northern Wairoa Genealogy Society, Dargaville Menz Shed, Dargaville Museum, Dargaville Aero Club and Northern Wairoa Boating Club have joined forces to create a tribute to George Bolt’s daring flight, and the aircraft that carried him; a single-engined canvas-and-wood Boeing Model One with a 125 horsepower engine. In 1919 the aviator, who would go on to become chief engineer of Air New Zealand and a decorated war hero, piloted the Boeing from Auckland to Dargaville in just over an hour.

Next week, to mark 100 years since his flight, the citizen’s group mentioned above have created a replica of Bolt’s aircraft to take pride of place in the town’s Christmas parade. The model is near to life-size and is based on photos from 1919, and a perfect replica Boeing residing in the Seattle Museum of Flight in the United States. It will be placed in a pop-up shop with a detailed history of the flight, situated in the centre of Dargaville’s Victoria Street, in the Edwin Arcade forefront. This space will be open to the public up until December 7, when the replica will be feted in the town’s Christmas parade, carried on a trailer decorated with artwork by local painters Miriam and Steve Guthrie and Winsome Cutts.

As the commemorative model and its mannequin pilot cruise the main street in company with Santa, the Dargaville Aero Club will perform a flyover, and collectors from the Northland Rescue Helicopter Trust will rattle the buckets for donations to their very worthy cause.