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Warbird Enthusiast Is New Corsair Custodian

...and hints at RNZAF colour scheme

New Zealand businessman Mike Jones has long held had a fascination with warbird aircraft, and while he's considered buying one of his own on a number of occasions, the time was never quite right. Kiwi warbird enthusiasts are pleased to learn that Mike is now the new custodian of NZ5648, a Goodyear-built FG-1D Corsair previously operated by The Old Stick And Rudder Company, and that the aircraft will be staying in New Zealand.

NZ5648 seen on the eve of her first flights in around six years, after successful engine runs at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton, New Zealand.  Photo: Mike Jones, Supplied.

Always impressed with the size, noise, and signature folding wings of the locally based Hawker Sea Fury, Mike was disappointed to discover the aircraft had been sold and exported to Australia in the mid 1990s as he would have liked to have purchased it himself, to ensure it remained in New Zealand. In 2020 he had a tilt at another example of the Sea Fury, a dual-control T.20, but narrowly missed out on purchasing that aircraft. To-date he's only managed to secure a powerplant -- the Allison V-12 from a Curtiss P-40 fighter which was previously owned and operated at airshows and events by Manawatu man Laurie Gudsell.

Recently, several warbird operators independently suggested to Mr Jones that the time might be right for him to consider purchasing a complete aircraft, especially as the Corsair had not yet found a new home after being put up for sale by tender in late 2022. HAFU can confirm that the sale of this aircraft has been completed, and Mr Jones is now the very proud custodian of ZK-COR, his very own WW2 fighter aircraft.

Mike Jones with the FG-1D Corsair NZ5648 at Hood Aerodrome.   Photo supplied

Mike has told HAFU

"After NZ5648 returned to New Zealand in 2004, the Corsair became my favourite aircraft but I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to obtain and operate one. With an historic connection to New Zealand's campaigns in the Pacific during the Second World War this aircraft is so loved by Kiwi enthusiasts that it seemed that buying it and being the next custodian, at least for the foreseeable future, was the best thing to do. I’ve had some great support from New Zealand’s top warbird operators and organisations, and that's enabled me to develop a plan to operate the Corsair."

Originally owned by warbird pilot and legend Ray Hanna, the Goodyear-built Corsair was operated by Ray's Old Flying Machine Company and displayed throughout the UK and Europe as part of the Breitling fighters display team during the early 2000's. Ray returned the aircraft to New Zealand in 2004 and had planned to operate it from a base in Wanaka, but following his death in 2005 the aircraft was purchased by The Old Stick And Rudder Company and moved to Masterton.

Keith Skilling, former Corsair display pilot (left), provides information to newly rated pilot Frank Parker (in cockpit) and owner Mike Jones, while Bevan Dewes, pilot of the T-6 chase aircraft (right) listens on.   Aaron Bennett, Supplied.

Already aware of Kiwi enthusiasts concerns about the aircraft wearing US colours, Mike has said,

"We do want to have the aircraft in a more representative RNZAF colour scheme, but we're not sure what form that will take, or how quickly we'll be able to achieve it. In the first instance we may simply overpaint the US star 'n' bar insignia with RNZAF roundels, just as would have been done in the field in the islands in 1944 when the first ex-US aircraft arrived for the RNZAF."

"But any changes to the colour scheme will come a bit later—our top priority at the moment is to try and get the necessary maintenance done on the aircraft so it can be displayed at the Wings Over Wairarapa Air Festival in November (2023)."

For more information on Wings over Wairarapa see:

The aircraft was displayed in an RNZAF colour scheme at the Warbirds Over Wanaka 2004 airshow after it had recently returned to New Zealand.   Video Still, Blue Bicycle Flicks Ltd

NZ5648 never saw active service, and spent most of its life with the RNZAF in storage in New Zealand. Following the end of the war most active Corsairs were returned to New Zealand and stored, pending post-war scrapping. One squadron of aircraft were sent to Japan as part of the occupying J Force, but those aircraft were pushed into a pile and burnt before the unit returned to New Zealand in the late 1940's.

The Corsair in Kiwi Colours: During the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow in 2004, Ray Hanna, Nigel Lamb, Lee Proudfoot and Keith Skilling performed their last public airshow displays as the Breitling Fighters team. During that event ZK-COR was painted in RNZAF colours. This video shows some previously unreleased footage of the aircraft, from that event.

Eventually all the remaining RNZAF Corsairs ended their days at Asplin's scrapyard at Rukuhia near Hamilton. Graeme Asplin, now 80 years old, has told Mike that he remembers growing up with forty or more Corsairs sitting in the field outside his bedroom window, and that he's pleased and excited to learn that ZK-COR is staying in New Zealand and will be seen in our skies again soon.

Graeme has said his father always planned to keep at least one Corsair intact and so along with the efforts of Ron Adamson, Frank Bisch, the Atlantic Oil Company, Aero Engine Services, and members of the Waikato Aero Club during the 1960s, the airframe was saved and eventually "Josephine" as she is now known, was restored to an airworthy condition.

Mike is excited and is looking forward to his tenure as the aircraft's custodian.

Newly rated Corsair pilot Frank Parker, President of the New Zealand Warbirds Association, gets familiar with the cockpit instrumentation and the engine.   Mike Jones, supplied.

To keep up-to-date on ZK-COR’s future plans and the air displays the aircraft is scheduled to attend you can join the "RNZAF Corsair Supporters" group on Facebook at :

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