Aviation Historian 23
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E.Martyn - Flying home for the sheep-shearing
Seemingly undaunted by the colossal journey ahead, Ernie Clark poses on the wing of his Percival Gull Four, ZK-AES, before his departure from Lympne airfield for Italy on October 26, 1936. At this point Clark had flown less than 10hr in the aircraft.
Clark pilots ZK-AES over Christchurch during a pleasure flight in January 1937, a few months after his epic solo flight from the UK to New Zealand. Although some sources claim that the aircraft was at some point fitted with a Gipsy Six, its official New Zealand documentation clearly marks the Gull as being powered by a “118/122 h.p.” Gipsy Major.
The November 25, 1936, issue of Auckland newspaper The Weekly News celebrated the completion of Clark’s flight back home with a full page of photographs of the intrepid aviator’s arrival on New Zealand soil on November 15. Here he is seen being greeted at Blenheim (Omaka) by Marlborough Aero Club’s flying instructor Noel Chandler and President Alexander Macnab.
A by-now somewhat weary-looking Ernie Clark is photographed in the cockpit of ZK-AES after his arrival in the dark at Wigram at 2035hr on November 15, having flown for more than 14hr that day. Note the forward section of the extra fuel tank fitted behind the pilot’s seat by Percival, to give the Gull the extra range needed to complete the UK-NZ flight.
Ernie Clark (second from left) poses with members of the Canterbury Aero Club at Wigram beside ZK-AES. Clark went back to the UK before the outbreak of war and became an RAF officer, flying unarmed photo-reconnaissance Spitfires in France in 1940, before being posted to transatlantic ferrying operations. He transferred to the RNZAF in January 1944 and ended the war with a DFC.
The Gull in the overall silver scheme with black cowling and detailing it acquired some time after Clark sold it to New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Dept, Ernie having flown a total of more than 263hr in the aircraft. The Gull was subsequently used "to facilitate inspections by the Air Staff" until it was impressed into military service as NZ572 in November 1939. It was finally damaged beyond repair during a forced landing, the result of engine failure on take-off from Hobsonville, near Auckland, on July 18, 1940. The remains of this historic aircraft were burnt.
Following his cigarette and a cup of tea at Omaka, Clark got back into the Gull in front of the gathered crowds and had a local flying club member swing the prop before departing for Wigram at around 1900hr local time. Note the absence of the propeller spinner, which had "cracked to pieces" by the time Clark had reached Karachi two weeks before.
The Gull attracts official interest during Clark’s stopover at Darwin. Note the Imperial Airways (IA) Armstrong Whitworth Atalanta, G-ABTI, which may have pushed on from its usual Karachi-Singapore service owing to a problem on the Qantas section of the joint lA/Qantas UK-Australia route.
Percival Gull Four G-ACUL before it was acquired by Clark to become ZK-AES, the registration it wore for his solo flight home, although it was not officially registered as such in New Zealand until January 1937, probably when its New Zealand C of A was issued. The fuselage was a striking red and the wings and tailplane silver doped fabric.
In July 1936 Ernie Clark purchased Avro Avian IV G-AAHE and operated it from Ford in West Sussex. Clark flew the machine regularly, including trips to the Continent, until his return to New Zealand in October that year. The Avian’s C of A expired the following March and it was presumably stored until its acquisition by Horton Kirby Flying Club in Kent in January 1939.
The Gull attracts official interest during Clark’s stopover at Darwin. Note the Imperial Airways (IA) Armstrong Whitworth Atalanta, G-ABTI, which may have pushed on from its usual Karachi-Singapore service owing to a problem on the Qantas section of the joint lA/Qantas UK-Australia route.
A parachutist drops from the Canterbury Aero Club’s de Havilland D.H.60G Moth ZK-AAW (c/n 1197), in which Clark passed his “A” Licence test in June 1935. This photograph was probably taken around the same time that Clark made his jump from Fox Moth ZK-ADH (c/n 4085) the following month.