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Two Beech Staggerwing Restorations At Wanaka

including Admiral Byrd's Antarctic Service Beech D17A

Over the past few years Tracey and Cam Hawley have been restoring an historic Beech Model D17A 'Staggerwing' aircraft operated by Admiral Byrd in the Antarctic during his third expedition to the frozen continent in 1939. The Antarctic expedition included a newly designed behemoth vehicle known as the 'Snow Cruiser'. This was designed to traverse the Antarctic surface, and to carry the Staggerwing aircraft on its back during an extended overland exploration of the continent.

Beech Model 17 'Staggerwing' VH-UXP is an historic Australian aircraft currently based in Wanaka, New Zealand. The aircraft wears the same colour scheme that it wore when it was first imported into Australia in 1937.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

The Snow Cruiser had difficulty gaining traction on the Antarctic snow and was never used in its primary role of expedition command vehicle and aircraft transport. However the Staggerwing (with skis) was used extensively during the expedition and many successful flights were conducted during its time in the Antarctic.

The Staggerwing was eventually loaded back onto the USS North Star in early 1941, while the Snow Cruiser remained at the expedition's Antarctic base camp. By 1942 the aircraft had been purchased by an Australian businessman, but as soon as it arrived in that country it was impressed into Royal Australian Air Force service. Eventually returning to civil service in the 1950's the aircraft was written off in an accident in Queensland in 1963 -- the Hawleys then recovered the remains in 2007, and the restoration project began...

While the Hawleys are working away on this current restoration of Admiral Byrd's aircraft, they've been enjoying the fruits of their earlier Staggerwing restoration, VH-UXP.

This aircraft is a Beech Model C-17B which was originally built in Wichita, Kansas, in 1936, and shipped to Australia that same year. A brief civillian career was interupted when the aircraft was also impressed into RAAF service during the Second World War. In 1947 it was disposed of by the RAAF and this began a long civillian career in Australia, with a variety of owners and minor restorations over the years until 2005.

Purchased by the Hawley's in 2005, the aircraft was sent to New Zealand in 2007 for a complete strip down and re-build, which was completed in 2013.The aircraft that made its post-restoration maiden flight in May 2012, and has been seen at several New Zealand airshows since then.

In this video, Tracey and Cam talk about their two Staggerwing restoration projects, VH-UXP which is complete and now flying (as seen in this footage), and Admiral Byrd's aircraft which is still a work in progress.

To check out more about the Admiral Byrd Staggerwing restoration project, and to follow its progress, see the Facebook page at :

Antarctic Beech Staggerwing

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