Sunday, 11 March 2018


When flying was for birds and dare-devils, and when pilots flew while birds were grounded

The second in a series that will lead to publication of the book Wings Over Waharoa in this 60th year of the Piako Gliding Club.

The Piako Gliding Club’s first glider, Rhonlerche II ZK-GBO was damaged in an accident in July 1958. It collided with the tow plane, Tiger Moth ZK-AQA. A new wing needed to be imported from Germany. But there was a problem.

At the end of 1957 there had been a change of government, the new government faced a balance of payments crisis and Finance Minister Arnold Nordmeyer issued his famous Black Budget, which, among other measures, placed severe restrictions on imports. For a time, it was feared that the club might not survive without a flyable glider. Meanwhile, members kept the revenue flowing with private flights in the otherwise unemployed tow plane until an import licence was finally granted and gliding started again on February 21, 1959.

In those early times everyone was on a learning curve, and with little regulation, incidents and accidents were common.
Rhonlerche II ZK-GBO

The club’s two machines, ZK-GBO and tow plane ZK-AQA were involved in a comedy of errors at Tahuroa, near Morrinsville, on April 7, 1960, that could have seen both aircraft damaged beyond repair. AQA, flown by Peter Blakeborough, had towed GBO, flown by Tony Littlejohn, to Hamilton for maintenance. On the return flight, noticing that AQA had suddenly found extra airspeed, Peter looked over his shoulder in time to see GBO (the Little Stinker) heading for a steep topdressing strip. Tony had inexplicable released the tow. He made a good landing on the strip, stopping half-way up with room for AQA to pass to one side. Peter landed and taxied to the level loading area at the top and together they hauled GBO to the top of the strip ready for take-off. After a council of war, a phone call to Les Marshall, who lived in Morrinsville, brought him to the strip to fly AQA so that Peter could fly GBO with Tony as passenger. A strategy was devised whereby the Tiger Moth, famous for not having brakes, would idle slowly off the edge of the loading area, taking up the slack as it proceeded downhill. But this was a serious miscalculation. The strip was steep enough for the Tiger to get airborne without the propeller doing anything. It was thought that when the slack was taken up, the two aircraft would take-off normally. That was the plan. But it didn’t quite work out that way. Immediately the tug was clear of the level loading area, it quickly gathered momentum, the rope tightened equally quickly, and in less than its own length, GBO was catapulted into space, immediately catching up with the tug. Les continued his downhill take-off while Peter, already airborne, used spoilers to stay in position and thereby avoided towing the tug. The two aircraft then returned to Waharoa without further incident.

DH Tiger Moth ZK-AQA

Two days later April 9, 1960, GBO was involved another adventure that was possibly a first for Piako, and possibly a first for any New Zealand gliding club. At an air pageant at Whakatane three gliders performed formation aerobatics, including loops and stall turns followed by a maximum speed downwind run before landing from a 180 degree turn. That was not easy for two Rhonlerches formating with a faster Slingsby Skylark II. The aircraft were Skylark ZK-GBM from the Auckland Gliding Club, ZK-GBO (Peter Blakeborough) and Rhonlerche ZK-GBQ (M. Kirk) from the Tauranga Gliding Club. The pageant was to mark the opening of Whakatane Airport. (Some of this information may be in need of correction)

The Rhonlerche was a trainer with limited soaring capabilities. It could handle thermals that were close to the home base at Waharoa and it could make a downwind return to the airfield from the easterly Kaimai Range wave, provided the pilot kept a close watch on height and distance. On Saturday September 3, 1960, the club began a new type of operation that would enable ridge flying in a westerly wind. The Montague family at Gordon offered the use of their farm airstrip, a flat paddock, within easy distance of the Kaimai Range. For most Piako members, ridge flying was a new and enjoyable experience and by Sunday night Ross Carmichael, Peter De Renzy, Stuart Rogerson and John Cresswell had flown solo on the ridge in GBO.

Tiger Moth ZK-AQA was involved in numerous incidents with the Piako Gliding Club during its three years of service. One incident highlights the adage, ‘There are lots of young bold pilots, but few old bold pilots.’ Les Marshall in AQA, and Peter Blakeborough in GBO, decided one foggy winter morning in 1960 to check out the ceiling. Several members were keen to fly, and the crew were keen to see them airborne. The fog seemed to lift a little and the tug and glider took off.

Unfortunately, at about 200 feet both aircraft entered cloud and Houston had a problem. Fortunately, Les had completed the instrument flying part of his commercial pilot training just days before and Peter was just able to keep him in murky view at the other end of the rope. The Rhonlerche had only an airspeed indicator, altimeter and variometer. Without the tow plane as his artificial horizon, Peter would have been doomed within seconds. He carefully followed the minor control surface movements of AQA, keeping his wings level with the tug, while Les executed a 180 degree turn. For an age they flew downwind on reduced power. Then the small control surface movements indicated another turn for Peter to follow. Then the power came all the way back and Peter opened the spoilers to stay in position. A short time later, the trees on Jagger Road (now removed) at the approach end of Runway 10 slipped by with ample clearance. The runway, clubhouse and hangar also appeared, both aircraft landed safely, and that would have been the end of the escapade, but for a third aircraft that appeared out of the fog.

AQA and GBO had barely rolled to a stop when a Piper Apache landed alongside them and taxied to the pump. On board was Civil Aviation inspector George Arkley. George took Les aside for a stern lecture on flight safety, after which he relaxed somewhat and thanked Les for saving his life. He explained that he had been flying from Wellington to Auckland but diverted to Hamilton because of fog in Auckland. But when he got overhead Hamilton, it had closed too. He decided to fly to Tauranga, but halfway there he realised he didn’t have enough fuel to make it. With no airports available he was looking for holes in the fog when he just happened to catch a glimpse of a Tiger Moth with a Rhonlerche on tow, so he followed in a wide circle to compensate for the Apache’s higher speed.

For some time after this incident, it was remembered as the day that Les Marshall saved three lives, including his own.

In those early days there was often times when the best of plans failed to go according to plan. One such day was when Arthur Bull, and aero club instructor from Tauranga, visited to sign tow ratings for some Piako pilots. The requirement at the time called for both tester and applicant to demonstrate that they could operate from both ends of the rope. So, Arthur flew the glider while the local pilot flew the tug. Then they swapped places, and everything went to plan until the glider pilot released the rope whereupon the tug pilot released his end too. Members spent the rest of the day looking for the rope, the only one the club had, but like Houdini, its escape was complete. The rope was never seen again.

ZK-AQA was a good performer due to its large diameter metal propeller, an unusual feature on a Tiger Moth, which increased the climb rate while aiding with engine cooling on long climbs. It also had wing slats which lowered the stalling speed and improved low speed handling. The metal propeller was heavier than standard wood propellers and was inclined to run on for a time after shutting down. It also had a larger diameter and these two qualities suddenly became a burden one Sunday when AQA was being put to bed for the night. Someone waved Les Marshall right into the hangar, but to be on the safe side he cut the switches immediately after a short burst of power to get the wheels over the hangar door tracks. AQA kept rolling forward and the prop continued to rotate, the propeller tips grazed the steel rafters, and a fireworks display lit up the hangar in the fading light.
On Christmas Eve, 1960, ZK-AQA had an unscheduled brush with Terra Firma that resulted in substantial damage. Meanwhile, aircraft loaned from the Waikato Aero Club kept members flying while a search was mounted for parts. That was in the days when it was commonly believed that sobriety came immediately after downing the last drink, and it was safe to drive and/or fly immediately. The incident happened early in the morning and was therefore quite unexpected, as accidents usually are. Les Marshall towed the Rhonlerche into the blue and immediately returned to Waharoa to await the next launch. It must be said that in those days flying and gliding were less regulated than in later years and there was always a degree of experimentation with the way things were done. It was common practice to drop the tow rope before landing. This was sometimes accomplished with a high-speed, low-level run downwind, a little like an elated Spitfire pilot returning from a successful mission, with the rope landing as close as possible to the duty pilot’s feet. It was felt that landing with the rope trailing behind was bad for the rope, especially if it dragged over a fence. So, following the downwind dash, the tug would pull up into a steep turn, power would be cut, and a steep slipping turn would place it on the ground and clear of the runway before the glider approached. This day, Les did everything perfectly until it was time to straighten up from the steep slipping turn, and AQA would have been history except for some brilliant team work and the sudden appearance of main planes and other bits and pieces, several weeks later. After two days of hectic work, on a balmy moonlight night, ZK-AQA survived a test flight at the hands of Wally Christofferson of Tauranga, who also supervised the rebuilding. The test flight included some low-level aerobatics and a dead-stick landing. It was all typical of the times.

That was 60 years ago. Flying and gliding are much safer now, and that is how it should be.

In this 60th year, the history of the Piako Gliding Club is soon to be published in a book and assistance would be appreciated with photos of people, places, events and aircraft, along with documents, records and stories. If you can help, please contact Peter Blakeborough at or call on 021-115-0543.

Saturday, 10 March 2018


Facebook group ‘Climate Change and Environmental Issues’ a haven for fanatical cyber bullies

Social media giant Facebook has groups for every topic imaginable, some with millions of members worldwide. In 2017, the largest Facebook group was ‘Facebook for Every Phone’ with 498 million members. That’s a far cry from the less than 500 members who belong to Climate Change and Environmental Issues (CCEI) worldwide. Sure, Facebook has been in business longer, but CCEI has not been handicapped by time or exposure. The group has knee-capped itself by its Admins’ failure to reign-in its more abusive members. Their behavior is threatening to destroy the group.

Whichever way one looks at it, climate change is a controversial topic.  In recent years there has been a proliferation of organizations and social media groups devoted to climate and the environment. Perhaps the most significant is Greenpeace International with 2.7 million Facebook followers, 15,000 volunteers and 2,400 staff in over 40 countries. But critics of Greenpeace have described it variously as a business, a subversive movement, and a political party. It is as controversial as climate change itself.
Climate skeptics often post pictures of blizzards to
counter claims of global warming

It is not surprising to see people taking a firm stand on their version of what is correct in the climate debate. Robust debate is expected. But so also should respectful debate be expected and that is not happening in the CCEI group. CCEI is one of the few groups with a majority of members stridently supporting the hypothesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW). They allow no leeway for people whose opinions may differ on the degree of warming, the cause of the warming, what can be done about it, or if anything other than natural climatic changes are taking place. They also give no ground to those believing that a warmer climate may be more beneficial than a colder climate. These are all valid arguments that should be debated openly, providing opinions or evidence as the members choose, without being abused for their contribution. Abuse kills debate and when that happens, the truth flees.

Other Facebook climate groups are not immune to abusive behavior, after all it is a controversial topic and, in the opinion of some, vital to the survival of the planet and/or humanity. But CCEI stands out as a kind of abuser grand central. The group’s admins are always more critical of victims than of abusers. They are like old fashioned cops telling rape victims they must have brought it on themselves.
Climate alarmists often post pictures like this as
a warning about the future

Commentators can easily get carried away with the importance of the own point of view, or the point of view of the scientists they quote. But not all scientists agree. While millions of dollars continues to be spent on research, CAGW remains a hypothesis only with a variety of computer models predicting different outcomes.

The other groups manage the abuse and keep it to a minimum. The Admins sometime caution rebel members and occasionally remove them from their group. Facebook requires groups to have group rules which bind all members, and Facebook has its own rules regarding behavior. Many countries now have laws to control cyber abuse with severe penalties for those who break them. Most of the climate groups and individual members on Facebook welcome these rules and abide by them. Many CCEI members and admins thumb their noses at the rules. There seems to be a belief that CAGW is too import for rules, respect and dignity to be a consideration. Their position, and the existence of skeptics, justifies all-out war, in their opinion.

Key to the CCEI group of climate alarmists is their insistence that posts and comments from climate skeptic are not allowed, without reference to published, peer-reviewed, scientific papers. Although they fail to demand this standard for themselves. When this member turned the tables and asked another member to provide back-up for a statement, this is how he responded:

Rick Conrad: You know what? You could do the bloody research yourself Dude!!! If you were not LYING about being truly interested in climate, and are not just harassing others for some reason(s)!
Peter Blakeborough to admin Philip Trimby: Please ask Rick Conrad to respect the rules of the group. Thank you.
Philip Trimby: I will Peter and I’d like to point out to you that if you don’t address a refutation then you’ll not be able to use it again. We are a tolerant group but that doesn’t mean you are able to swamp the group with posts (four posts in three weeks).
Another member then joined in the beat up. Jon Glass: Do the math Mr Peter Blakeborough. How do YOU justify killing billions with the policies of ignorance you are pushing for?

On another post, admin Philip Trimby said: Peter Blakeborough silly statements like “CAGW” is crazy science are not encouraged on a site that has confidence in science. Please remember that.

Then there was this little germ. Peter Clark: Booker???? Hahahahaha! And you wonder why you’re treated as an imbecile Peter Blakeborough. You dredge up these vacuous cretins from the very bowels of the propaganda machine, from utterly spurious sources like the total bullshit of FEE and their drooling hand-waving “Free market and fuck the planet” idiocy, and then you whine that you’re being “bullied”? Your propaganda stinks almost as much as that of Julius Streicher.  Combine sex and travel and fuck off. The planet isn’t big enough for people who understand reality and people like you who seek to destroy humanity.

More from the same person: Peter Clark: There is absolutely no plausible reason you have for being so ignorant, or so badly informed. Peter Blakeborough, unless you’re pretending to be an idiot, or you’re paid to be an idiot.

Most scientists will acknowledge that you can’t prove a negative, and that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. However, some climate alarmists seem to think otherwise. They will loudly demand that climate change skeptics should prove the non-existence of unusual and/or man-made climate change.  Look at this rant from Jon Glass.
Jon Glass: Mr Blakeborough, every time YOU post on here, you sound more and more deceitful. YOU have yet to meet the challenges put before you to refute the empirical evidence, tests and studies. YOU have yet to provide a single scintilla of evidence to support your position of irrational denial. The garbage you do manage to vomit, falls completely apart under the most casual of scrutiny. YOU have to lie about what you pretend to be refuting (strawman fallacy). I have yet to appeal to authority of saying you have to accept what I say or what “we” say because we are scientists. I am saying YOU have to provide evidence for YOUR denial that will pass scientific scrutiny since your half-assed, unsubstantiated opinions do not match either reality nor meet the burden of proof your irrational position requires. And YOU have to refute the empirical scientific findings and evidence and studies…NONE of which…I repeat…NONE of which you or your fellow worshippers of the Church of Denial have been able to do. Its time to quit lying, and quit peddling fraud Mr Blakeborough. You have already branded yourself as the less-than-mediocre troll you have revealed yourself to be. Time now to face the brutal truth of your impotence in the face of overwhelming evidence that you cannot address.
Peter Blakeborough: Jon Glass your latest statement is an outrage. It is defamatory. Please amend or delete it.
Jon Glass: LOL…my statement is neither defamatory nor outrageous. And you own behavior in this very thread has shown it is neither. Meet the challenges put before you, put up the evidence to support your bullshit assertions or simply shut the hell up.
The New Zealand Tour Commentary

If these are comments from members of a “we are a tolerant group,” one can only wonder at the behavior in an intolerant group.

Above is just a sampling from dozens, perhaps hundreds, of comments in the last three weeks that breach the group rules, Facebook rules, and the cyber-bullying rules which many countries now have and for which severe penalties are prescribed. But seemingly that is no bother to the admins of Climate Change and Environmental Issues. To them, the importance of their crusade overrides all legal considerations.

Perhaps it is time for Facebook to step in and remove Climate change and environmental issues from their server before some other victim suffers irreversible harm at the hands of these cowboy scientist zealots. Meanwhile, the campaign to halt the CAGW madness goes on with this writer remaining fully dedicated to the cause.

For people interested in climate change debate and information and data, on Facebook, THE CLIMATE CHANGE RATIONAL DEBATE GROUP is recommended. Members, whatever their point of view, are treated with respect. Bullying and foul language are not tolerated.

Peter Blakeborough’s Blog has almost 1,000 posts. Below is a handful of posts written or commented on by Peter, some of which were posted on Climate Change and Environmental Issues after members demanded evidence:

Friday, 16 February 2018


Scott Bainbridge writes about The Great New Zealand Robbery of 1956

Largely forgotten today, the waterfront payroll robbery of 1956 gripped the nation at the time and for decades after.

But that was only after details of the crime could no longer be suppressed. This was a crime on a scale that threatened to embarrass the government less than a year out from a crucial general election. The political atmosphere at the time was one of the government losing its grip, regarding unsolved crimes, and Minister of Justice Jack Marshall put pressure on police to solve the waterfront robbery quickly.

The Great New Zealand Robbery published by Allen & Unwin, is a masterly work by leading true crime author Scott Bainbridge. It is a well-researched story of the most audacious and meticulously executed heist in New Zealand’s history. Scott Bainbridge is the author of four true crime books.

Only one man, small-time crook Trevor Edward Nash, was ever convicted for the crime, and he may have only been called in at the last minute when the main perpetrators were unable to open the safe that contained the payroll for Auckland’s waterside workers.

Nash became a legend in his own lifetime as a man who could escape from prison while serving a seven-year sentence, stay on the run for months and leave the country, only to be arrested by a foreign cop with a photographic memory.

Interestingly, while Trevor Nash was serving time in the Big House (Mount Eden prison) another Nash (no relation) was serving time as New Zealand’s oldest prime minister. Both were elected within months of each other (one with only 12 votes) and both escaped their sentence within months of each other.

Nash never acted alone in the robbery, or with his escape from prison. Many high-profile gangsters of the time were investigated but none was ever charged with the payroll robbery or with assisting with Nash’s escape. Nash alone took the rap, and in 2001 he took his secrets, and the names of his co-offenders, to his grave. He was a poker-faced criminal who carried out his crimes and covered his tracks with meticulous care. Apart from one fateful episode, Trevor Nash never drew attention to himself. But that one episode changed the course of the police investigation and put Trevor Nash behind bars. Bainbridge describes it all brilliantly.

Nash was elevated from an over-looked, small-time crook with few skills or connections, to a daring highly organised criminal who would be closely scrutinised by police for the rest of his days. Despite that, he was only ever charged with one other robbery. But on that occasion the jury found him not guilty.

In the book, Bainbridge names the criminals who most likely organised New Zealand’s greatest ever robbery and helped Nash escape. A fascinating read that conveys the strong message that there is loyalty among thieves, sometimes, even if it come with a price tag.

Thursday, 15 February 2018


Don't kid yourself it won't happen to you, because if you think that way, it will happen to you

If you think that you are the exception to the rule, watch this video:

Drink/drug driving kills. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sunday, 7 January 2018


The history of the Piako Gliding Club, Matamata

That day in December 1956, when a small group of gliding enthusiasts met at Bedford Park, Matamata, became a legend that would be retold many times over the following decades. It was the beginning of the Piako Gliding Club.

Lew Hale, a 24-year old bank employee from Ngarua a few miles north of Matamata, was the instigator. Hale was a model aircraft flyer who had also made some flights with the Auckland Gliding Club and he was smitten with the then novelty of motorless flight. He decided that glider flying should be available closer to home where the conditions for sustained lift in thermals, ridge and wave, were legendary. Hale placed an advertisement in a local newspaper and posted a copy of the advertisement on the notice board at the Piako Aero Club at Matamata’s Waharoa airfield. The result, a few weeks later, was the meeting in Bedford Park. They sat in the shade of the trees on a Sunday afternoon and laid the foundations for one of New Zealand’s aviation success stories.
ZK-GBO at Invercargill in 1968
Photo: Tom Smellie
The minutes of the meeting have been lost over time, perhaps carried away by a super thermal of the Thames Valley kind, or ripped away downwind by a mighty Kaimai easterly wave to later reside on the sea floor somewhere near Tasmania. Who knows? Interviewed recently, Lew Hale was able to recall from memory that about twelve people were present, including Bob Connor, Tony Fowke, Brian Kosoof, Harold Oates, Bill Pipe, Eric Pulman, Clive Walden, Ivan Whitehead, Brian Balme and possibly two others.

It was agreed that a gliding club should be formed, and a plan should be drawn up for financing the purchase of a sailplane. They needed £960 (approximately the price of a house at the time) for a new Schleicher Rhonlerche II from the factory in Poppenhausen, Germany, through local agent Roy Russell. The group didn’t have £960 but that didn’t deter them. They decided to meet again in the new year.
ZK-AQA before being owned by Piako
Photo: Peter Lewis
The group, then numbering about twenty, met again on February 18, 1957, formed the Piako Gliding Club and elected the first committee: Bob Connor, chairman; Lew Hale, secretary/treasurer. The committee is believed to have included Eric Pulman, Bill Pipe, Ivan Whitehead, Bill Monteith, Brian Balme and Don Chismon. Bob Connor was a radio technician and a quiet considerate man who would lead the club as chairman, through good times and bad, until his untimely death in 1965. Lew Hale remained on the committee for several years and continued his career in banking and local government until retirement. Bill Pipe was a Morrinsville engineer and remained on the committee until the 1960’s. Don Chismon was a charismatic south Waikato car dealer. Little is now known of the other foundation committee members.

The first committee was mostly young with lots of enthusiasm and a wide range of skills. They made some good decisions, thereby assuring a long, stable future for the club. A gliding club without a glider is not ideal, or one that could be expected to survive long, so the foundation committee tackled the non-existent fleet problem in a business-like way. The bank account at the Bank of New Zealand was as dry as a desert thermal, but they were sure they could find the lift with some lateral thinking. Someone made a £500 loan to the club and ten members provided guarantees of £100 each. The bank then provided the funds for the glider purchase and an order was placed with Roy Russell in August or September 1957.

The club’s first machine, Schleicher Ka-4 Rhonlerche II, Reg. ZK-GBO (c/n 329/57), was assembled at Ardmore on March 3, 1958, and was test flown by Gordon Hookings, a University of Auckland mathematics professor and one of New Zealand’s most experienced glider pilots. However, another authority suggests the date may have been March 7 and the pilot, Ralph Court. ZK-GBO remained at Ardmore until March 23 so that Piako members could gain experience under supervision. During this time, Lew Hale became the club’s first instructor and was joined a month later by Tony Fowke.

The specifications for ZK-GBO (From Sailplane Directory) were: -
Seats: two
Length: 7.3 m (23ft 11in)
Wingspan: 13m (42ft 8in)
Wing area: 16.34 m2 (175.9 sq ft)
Aspect ratio 10.3:1
Empty weight: 107.5 kg (237lbs)
Max take-off weight: 400 kg (882 lbs)
Stall speed: 56 km/h (35 mph/30kn)
Never exceed speed: 170 km/h (106 mph/92 kn)
Max rough air speed 120 km/h (74.6 mph/64.8 kn)
Max aero tow speed: as above
Max winch speed: 90 km/h (55.9 mph/48.6 kn)
G force limits: +4.7 and -2.3 at max speed
Best glide ratio: 17.5 at 78 km/h (48 mph)
Rate of sink: 1.1 m/sec (220 ft/min) at 62 km/h (39 mph)
Wing loading: 24.5 kg/m2 (5.0 lb/sq ft)

With the purchase of de Havilland Tiger Moth ZK-AQA as the tow plane, the club was in business. Harold Oates, who would go on to have a longer continuous association with the club than any other member, became the first tow pilot. He was soon followed by Tony Fowke and Brian Kosoof. Sometime early in 1958 Tony Fowke became the first CFI. Brian Kosoof also became an instructor in 1958. Peter Blakeborough joined in April 1958, started towing in June, became an instructor in February 1960, and CFI later that year.

Other members who joined, or came as members of other clubs, between 1958 and 1962 included Les Marshall, Peter de Renzy, Ross Carmichael, John Cresswell, Tony Littlejohn, Jack Kivell, Norman Lord, Derek Miller, Pat Bashford, Stuart Graham, Bill Sayer, Con Clarkin, Alec Mowat, Keith Litchfield, Ron Dunford, Mike Feeney, Peter Bankart, Mike O’Grady, Iris Allan, Lesley Gibson, C. Mitchell, Stuart Rogerson, Alan Irving, A. Roponi, Joan de Renzy, G. Williams, P. Demler, Jack Bindon, J Williams, R. McIntyre, Ben Berg, John Gattenby, Ralph Fenton, H. Christie, Shirley Morrell, N. Williams, John Mercer, Don Rowlands, Ross Reid, Brian O’Leary, Gary Walker, P. Fuller, G. Russell, A Phillips, Jock Craddock, Dennis Hipperson, P. Martin, B. Marks, Jim Aitcheson, H. Elliffe, A. Shaw, Geoff Nelson, and Brian Thornton. Information, memories and photographs regarding these pilots and others is wanted for a book to mark the 60th anniversary of the club.
Because of its registration, ZK-GBO was known as the Little Stinker and it lived up to its nickname on July 20, 1958, when pilot Bob Connor found himself in a collision with ZK-AQA (Brian Kosoof) while landing. The tow plane had been parked with the engine running in readiness for the next launching. Some rapid throttle and rudder work by Brian saved the Tiger from major damage, but the Little Stinker needed a new wing. This incident proved to be a major set-back for the new club. After only four months of operations, the members faced eight months without their pride and joy. A new wing had to be imported from Germany, but the granting of an import licence seemed to drag on forever. Meanwhile, members kept the revenue flowing with private flights in the otherwise unemployed tow plane Gliding started again on February 21, 1959.

ZK-AQA was built at de Havilland’s Hatfield factory and assembled in New Zealand for the RNZAF in 1940 as NZ863. It was sold to J. Reid in 1947 and the Nelson Aero Club, before being acquired by Piako in 1958. In 1961 it was transferred to the Auckland Gliding Club where it came to a rather spectacular end on January 25, 1965. While taking-off in a cross-wind with Slingsby T-31 ZK-GAD on tow, pilot Len Hill lost control and drifted over the Ardmore Teachers Training College. The glider pilot released and landed on the airfield, but ZK-AQA finished up with its front-end poking through the principal’s ceiling where a meeting was in progress. At the last report it was in storage at Dairy Flat airfield.

ZK-GBO was sold to the Southland Gliding Club on August 14, 1965. At that time, it had flown 1,902 hours and completed 9,300 flights. Over the next several years the Little Stinker was involved in numerous incidents and was once damaged in a flood. The registration was cancelled in 1991. Despite the nickname, the Rhonlerche, or Lerche, was a study little machine with ideal handling characteristics for training. It was often said, that although it had the penetration of a brick between thermals, it could hold its own with the best in smaller thermals.

In this 60th year, the history of the Piako Gliding Club is soon to be published and assistance would be appreciated with photos of people, places, events and aircraft, along with documents, records and stories. If you can help, please contact Peter Blakeborough at or call on 021-115-0543.

Monday, 1 January 2018


New Zealand’s claim to first votes for women questioned

In her New Year message to New Zealanders, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, has hailed the country’s record of equality for women and spoke of New Zealand women being the first in the world to vote.

The year 1893 was a landmark year for New Zealand politics and the women’s suffrage movement around the world. Now, 125 years later, women still have much to achieve in their march to full equality and recognition, but they have achieved a lot, despite sometimes bitter opposition.

However, the often-made claim that New Zealand, as an independent country, discovered, or pioneered, votes for women is overstated because (1) New Zealand women were not the first to vote, and (2) In 1893, New Zealand was not an independent country. In some ways, the New Zealand claim detracts from the long, bitter struggle worldwide by women, because it gives the impression that New Zealand suddenly came up with the idea and the rest of the world followed. It wasn’t as simple or easy as that.

Firstly, women can blame the ancient Greeks, who are often cited as the founders of democracy. They decided that only adult males could vote, and then it was up to women to prove that they were capable of exercising that right too. Somewhere, sometime after that, the struggle began in earnest.

By the time the New Zealand people started debating the merits or otherwise of female voting, society had long ago settled for the woman’s role as being in the home as a dutiful housewife and mother. The man was the head of the house and the only one capable of making important decisions. Men were more likely to have an education and a career, whereas women from childhood had been raised to fill the role wife and mother only.
Kate Sheppard

But in New Zealand there was one woman who failed to adopt the stereotype. She was Catherine Wilson Sheppard (Kate), born in Liverpool, United Kingdom, in 1847. She arrived in New Zealand with her mother and sister after her banker/lawyer father had died in 1868. Kate Sheppard led a busy social life, joining and leading many women’s organizations. She edited New Zealand’s first all-female newspaper and produced many pamphlets on women’s issues including suffrage. She was a persuasive speaker and effective lobbyist. She was soon the central figure of the New Zealand suffragette movement and became widely known internationally for her leadership skills. The culmination of her campaign was the passage of the Electoral Act 1893 enabling all women over the age of 21 to vote in parliamentary and local government elections and to offer themselves for election. Kate Sheppard married twice and had one son, Douglas, who died in 1880. She died in Christchurch in 1934.

Kate Sheppard was perhaps the best-known driving force of the suffragette movement worldwide during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and after success in New Zealand she continued the campaign in other countries. But the movement did not originate with her. She took up the cause where others had left off.

The earliest known voting by women was during Sweden’s Age of Liberty (1718-1772) when women were conditionally allowed to vote. The women of the island of Corsica had long had the right to vote in local municipal elections before the island became an independent republic in 1755 and the constitution granted votes to women in national elections. But the island was invaded by France in 1767 and, after an extended war, Corsica became part of France in 1769 and the female vote law was revoked. In 1756, Lydia Taft became the first woman to vote in colonial America. She voted on at least three occasions in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, for a town council. The state of New Jersey in 1776 allowed women with assets valued at more than $250 to vote. The state later reconsidered, and the female franchise was revoked. In 1792, in Sierra Leone, a new British colony, all heads of households could vote, including African women. In 1837, Kentucky permitted women to vote in school elections. The tiny British territory of Pitcairn Island also claims to be the first place in the world to give women the vote, in 1838. In 2013, the year of the 175th anniversary of women’s votes on the island, the Pitcairn seven-member Council had a majority of women members.
British suffragettes in 1911

In the mid-1800’s, women formed suffragette organizations in Europe and North America and staged protests at their exclusion from politics. A common belief at the time was that a marriage comprised one flesh and therefore what the man wanted was also what the woman wanted and only one vote was necessary. Even many women subscribed to this belief. His vote was her vote. To challenge this concept was to challenge the foundations of marriage. Others argued that women were not intelligent enough to be trusted with a vote.

The Wyoming territory constitution in 1869 granted voting and public office rights to women. At the time Wyoming was a US colony in much the same way that New Zealand was a British colony in 1893. The debate in Wyoming had some interesting aspects. While some debated based on equal rights, others claimed women should not have fewer rights than African American men. Some men argued that the new law would bring more women to Wyoming where the ratio was one female to every six males. The territory of Utah followed in 1870 with full suffrage for women. But in 1887, the US Congress revoked the Utah law. In 1881 the Manx Election Act gave property-owning women a parliamentary franchise on the Isle of Man, and the claim is frequently made that that was a first. After failing get a two-thirds vote in 1877, the state of Colorado constitution was amended, and men voted Yes in 1893 with a 55% vote in favour. In the same year, the New Zealand, still a colony and technically subject to British authority, voted in favour of women votes.

There can be little doubt that the New Zealand decision was a major influence at the time, but even then, other countries were slow to follow: Australia 1902, Finland 1906, Norway 1913, Denmark 1915, Armenia 1917, Estonia 1917, Latvia 1917, Russia 1917, Canada in 1917, United Kingdom 1918 and Netherlands 1919. Full voting rights in the USA for women were granted in 1920.

Apart from dictatorships where all citizens are denied voting rights, only a handful of countries, all Muslim, now ban or restrict voting by women.

Sunday, 31 December 2017


Comparing this year with the state of the world a thousand years ago

The first 17 years of the twenty-first century have been unprecedented as a dangerous time for man and the planet. War, crime, political instability, sudden deaths, natural disasters and other disruptions appear to be breaking all records. Most people will agree we live in truly dangerous times.

Meanwhile, for the past week, commentators everywhere have been busy reviewing the year just closing, and the reviews paint a grim picture. It seems there has never been a year quite like 2017 with so much doom, gloom, violence, catastrophes, and predictions of even worse to come. Apart from 2017, the record of the twenty-first century to date must also appears to be unprecedented. Many are asking, what is the world coming to?

To put 2017 and the twenty-first century into perspective, let’s roll the clock back 1,017 years, and look at the events recorded in The Concise Encyclopaedia of World History, Rodney Castlelton (The Book Company, 1998), from 1000 AD to 1017 AD. Where possible, the birth and death dates of individuals have been added, just to illustrate how short and cheap life was in those far-off days.

1000 Olaf I Tryggvesson (963-1000) is killed in a battle with the kings of Sweden and Denmark. Norway is left without a king and the Danes take over the country. Boleslav King of Poland (992-1025) unites Bohemia and Moravia. Ceylon is invaded by the Cholas under their King Rajaraja the Great (947-1014). Seljuk Turks occupy Transoxiana, the territory east of the Oxus River. Basil II (958-1025), the Byzantine Emperor, attempts to conquer Bulgaria again. In North America, the Southern Cult evolves in the lower Mississippi valley. Mexican influenced, the people make objects of carved shell, metal and pottery showing a preoccupation with death; they focus on such sites as Emerald and Grand Village. The Iroquois people in north-east North America live in villages and cultivate beans and maize. Ethiopia is almost overrun by non-Christian, non-Islamic people from the south. The Polynesians have reached New Zealand in the last stage of the greatest migration and navigational feat in human history. Their ancestors began this migration in about 1500 BC from the East Indies, reaching Easter Island and Hawaii by about 400 AD; they are now the most widely dispersed racial group on earth. Churches are built, especially in France and Germany, to express gratitude for the postponement of the Day of Judgement; Duke Stephen I founds the monastery of Gran. The Indian mathematician Sridhara recognizes the importance of zero. Duke Stephen, who has been in power since 997, is crowned first King of Hungary with regalia sent by Pope Sylvester II (946-1003). The Bridge of Ten Thousand Ages is completed in Foochow (China).
Brian Boru

1001 The Mayan civilization in Central America is in retreat; overuse of land, soil erosion and malnutrition take their toll as the population levels drop.

1002 The Holy Roman Emperor Otto III dies of malaria at Paterno, aged 22, while on campaign against the Romans. He is succeeded as King of the Franks and Bavarians by his cousin Duke Henry of Bavaria (972-1024), who is now 28. The Vizier al-Mansur, chief minister of Caliph Hisham II of Cordova, dies aged 63, the Caliphate begins to decline without his guidance. The Byzantine armies of Basil II overrun Macedonia, defeating the Bulgarians at Vidin. Ethelred II (966-1016) orders a massacre of Danish settlers (racism is not new).

1003 The Danish King Sweyn (Forkbeard) (960-1014) ravishes the English coast and exacts tribute in recompense for the massacre last year. Thorfinn Karlsefni (980-1007) leaves Greenland with three ships for a three-year exploration of North America (500 years before Columbus). His attempts at colonization are unsuccessful. Pope Sylvester II dies (aged 57).

1004 Zhenzong, the Song Emperor of China (968-1022), concludes a peace treaty with the Laio empire of the Khitan Mongol nomads, which costs China 100,000 ounces of silver and 200,000 bolts of silk a year, an extortionate tribute many Song officials find humiliating and offensive. The Lombard King Ardoin is defeated by Henry King of Bavaria, who has himself crowned King of Lombardy at Pavia on 14 May. Ardoin nevertheless carries on fighting and much of Pavia is destroyed by burning and many of its citizens killed.

1005 Kenneth III (966-1005) King of Scotland dies and is succeeded by Malcolm II (954-1034).

1006 Muslims settle in northern India. Mount Metrop in Java erupts; Hindu King Dharmawangsa is killed in the eruption and the Temple of Borbudar, the largest temple in South-East Asia, is badly damaged.

1007 Ethelred II King of England pays the Danes for two years free of attacks.

1008 Mahmud of Ghazni (971-1030) defeats Hindu forces at Peshawar as he expands his empire. The Persian writer Al-Hamadhani dies at Harat (age 39); he invented the literary form called Maqamah, a cameo short story in rhyming prose.

1009 Egypt’s Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim (985-1021) destroys the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. There are demands across Christian Europe for a crusade to recover the Holy Land from Muslim control.

1010 Orders of King Rajaraja of Chola: Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur completed. Mansur Abu’l-Quasim Firdwasi The Book of the Kings written.

1011 Ichijo Emperor of Japan dies, aged 31, and is succeeded by his cousin Sanjo.

1012 Ethelred II pays the Danes another huge sum to stop them attacking England. ‘Heretics’ – Christians professing unorthodox beliefs – are for the first time persecuted in Germany.

1013 The Danes once more attack and conquer England; Ethelred II takes refuge in Normandy. Cordova’s Caliph Hisham II (966-1013) dies and is succeeded by Sulaiman al-Mustain.
Nathaniel's Bloodline

1014 Henry of Bavaria the German King recognizes Benedict VIII (980-1024) as Pope and is crowned by him as Holy Roman Emperor Henry II on 14 February. Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard dies suddenly at Gainsborough and is succeeded by his son Canute (994-1035). Canute, who is 20, returns to the safety of Denmark as Ethelred comes back from Normandy to reclaim his throne. April 23: Battle of Clontarf: fighting rages all day between two Irish factions. The victorious Munster army is led by Brian Boru (941-1014), the 87-year old High King of Ireland; the other, led by Mael Morda King of Leinster, is aided by the Vikings. Morda himself breaks through Brian Boru’s bodyguard and stabs Boru to death. Morda is later tortured to death by the High King’s army. Basil II, the Byzantine Emperor, annexes part of Bulgaria and orders that the Bulgarian army is to be blinded.

1015 Olaf II (995-1030) of Norway re-establishes Norwegian independence. Canute returns to England and is recognized as King of Wessex.

1016 Sanjo, the blind Emperor of Japan, abdicates, aged 40, and is succeeded by Ichijo’s eight-year old son Goichijo (1008-1036). Ethelred II King of England dies, aged 48, and is succeeded by his son Edmund Ironside (990-1016), who is chosen by the people of London; Canute is chosen to succeed by the witan at Southampton. Battle of Ashingdon in Essex: Canute routs Edmund’s army but permits him to reign in the south until his death. Edmund dies later in the year, aged 26; Canute rules all England.

1017 Canute divides England into four earldoms for ease of administration.

Other research reveals that the year 1000 AD was a time of major upheaval and extraordinary suffering. For example, in France, the whole country was seized with panic and despair, people feared that the world would end during the millennial year. People went on pilgrimages, leaving their homes, crops and animals, throwing into chaos the normal course of living. Fields were unploughed, crops untended, and when the world didn’t end, there was widespread starvation, disease and death. Does that ring a bell with Y2K? Then there was drought in 1002 followed by unprecedented rain storms and flooding in 1003. The years 950-1250 was the period of Medieval Climate Optimum, a time of global warming, but inside the Optimum, 1000-1017 was mostly cold, dry and harsh, an abrupt and seemingly inexplicable climate reversal.

From 1004-1016 England experienced, ‘such a famine prevailed as no man can remember.’ Although the wars between Ethelred and Sweyn the Dane took the lives of thousands, famine took thousands too. Some authorities have estimated that England lost half its population during this period. In 1008 there was famine in Wales. In 1009 Italian troops had to march on frozen rivers. In 10111 the River Nile was frozen. In 1012 many European cities were flooded by the sea. In 1013 England had a hurricane, an earthquake, and severe flooding. The year 1014 was notable for many English towns being destroyed by the sea with the loss of many lives. The climate was erratic and unpredictable, just as it is now.

In the period 1000-1017, war, violence, and sickness were a way of life. Almost half of deaths recorded by early coroners were due to violence. But by far the greatest number of deaths were due to infectious diseases. Life expectancy from birth at the time was 20-30 years. From the birth and death dates for the famous people above, it can be seen how much longer the privileged classes lived, and even they did not live long by today’s standards.

A thousand years ago, crime was not a major worry to the citizenry at large – they just lived and died with it. Crime statistics and research data gathering did not start until much later, but there is anecdotal evidence of widespread crime a thousand years ago. It was a dangerous time to be alive.  However, there is a discernible downward trend from 1300 onward in the European homicide rate and it is now barely 10% of 1300 rates based on the number of homicides per 100,000 population. In short, the world is not falling apart because of crime.

Whether we compare the world situation now with that of a thousand years ago, or of ten years ago, it will always appear to be worse now. But it isn’t. A thousand years ago there was no newspapers, radio, television or internet to prime the crime fear. A thousand years ago entire populations were illiterate. Ten years ago? Well, it’s not easy to remember everything from ten years ago, even many major events and experiences are lost in the mists of time.

Like the years 2000-2017, the years 1000-1017 were normal in their own wild and erratic ways, but we can be assured of some things; there is now less poverty and more security than a thousand years ago. We have welfare services, fair justice systems, education systems, and employment and business and leisure time opportunities like never before. More people now live full lives with secure retirements at the end of their days than ever before. But then, we wouldn’t be people if we didn’t have something to gossip or complain about, would we?

All in all, 2017 has been a good year, and I can’t wait for the sun to rise on 2018.

Thursday, 28 December 2017


Life on the road is rarely boring with a CB radio

An excerpt from Highway America – the adventures of a Kiwi truck driver, by Peter Blakeborough, and available as an eBook from

The smooth, rounded hills of Pennsylvania gave way to the flat plains of Ohio and Indiana as I continued west listening to the CB. Anything and everything can be heard on the CB. It’s a great way to keep up with the latest traffic situations, the location of highway patrols, accidents, gossip and humor. In the southern suburbs of Chicago I switched off the music and turned up the CB for a change of entertainment as a truck convoy gradually caught up with me. In my mirror a big red Peterbuilt was drawing closer and in the following convoy a big-mouthed ladies man was doing most of the talking.
‘That’s a mighty fine rig you got there, gal.’
‘Yeah, mister, it’s gets me everywhere I wanna go. What you driving?’
‘You just passed me. I’m in the white KW. Where you headed?’
‘I’ve got a load here for Elmhurst up there by O’Hare International.’
‘Hows about that. I’m going to East Romans Road, Elmhurst, right next to the I-294. What time is your appointment?’
‘Not till eleven.’
‘I’ve got plenty of time. They don’t want to see me until six in the morning. We could meet someplace for a coffee and whatever else that happens to rear its head.’
‘You married?’
‘Yeah but that don’t matter. We pretty much live separate lives. I’ve got all the freedom a man needs. You married?’
‘I was till I kicked him out last year. I’m a free agent now and enjoying every minute of it.’
‘You sound like just my kind of lady.’
‘I like a big man with a big heart and an outgoing friendly personality and willing to live it up, have fun and not afraid to spend a buck. I’ll bet you’re a pretty impressive guy.’
As the red Peterbuilt drew alongside my truck, Old Bluey, I saw a feminine hand hanging up the microphone and then she looked my way, gave a big smile and waved. She was an attractive lady in her thirties and mistress of her own destiny. As she pulled ahead, the white KW was right behind her trailer doors and the rest of the dog pack followed closely, fearing that they might lose the scent. The man in the KW was a big man in his early forties and good-looking with a flash cowboy hat to complete the image.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Sandra. What’s yours?’
‘I’m Randy.’
‘Yeah, I’ll believe that.’
We were nearing the point where three lanes curved around to the right to become the I-294 North through Chicago while the far-right lane went onto a flyover to continue westward as the I-80 to Iowa and eventually to San Fransisco. Approaching the interchange Sandra was in the far left hammer-lane with the hammer down and Randy was still hanging on right behind her trailer doors. Suddenly the red Peterbuilt veered across three lanes at the last moment and shot up the flyover and onto the I-80 West. Sandra came on the CB radio again.
‘Bye Randy. It was nice talking with you.’
The CB was silent for about three seconds before all hell broke loose as the rest of the convoy took the Mickey out of Randy.