Auckland Monthly Meeting - Cliff Tait Presentation Evening

in conjunction with The Honourable Company of Air Pilots (New Zealand Region)

DATE: Thursday 28 November 2019
TIME: 6:00pm for 7:00pm start, finishing 9pm see parking details in linked letter above.
SUBJECT: Cliff Tait Presentation Evening

The Auckland Branch has a special presentation event planned for the 28th November and wants to spread the word as wide as possible to allow non Auckland people to attend if they wish. I have therefore emailed all people that attended the previous Auckland event at which we re-energized the branch.

Event details are as above. Cliff will be awarded his RAeS achievement medal, we will hear the citation and watch a video Cliff has showing his exploits whilst flying around the world. It would be great to get a good attendance and give Cliff a memorable presentation.


On 28 Nov 2019, Des Underwood and I travelled to Auckland for their Branch meeting. This was a special occasion, where Cliff Tait was to be formally presented with his Meritorious Service Award. It was followed by a DVD Cliff had compiled news clips of a number of TVONE News clips of some of his exploits. These set the scene.

Before the meeting we had a few minutes to introduce ourselves to him, his wife Joyce and son, Cliff Jnr. He shared some experiences with us and his recollection of the details was astonishing. His story is something to be treasured and shared with young and old alike as an inspiration for current and future generations. It was a privilege for us both. Cliff’s achievements would be difficult to imagine if you have not been there yourself, and I am one of those people. I did get an inkling of some of the trials and tribulations one may face during ferry flights when I worked for PAC in the 1980s-90s. I was lucky enough to have met some of the ferry pilots of the time and worked on a number of aircraft conversions. However, some of the best insights were provided by the written reports from the ferry pilots and I was lucky to have read some of them. One particular recollection comes to mind where the pilot describes being airborne for 17 hours ferrying a Fletcher. Imagine that for a second, with no info-entertainment, no air-conditioning, no meal options, no recliner seat, and, you are in control. Perhaps QANTAS and AIRNZ could get some advice from these extraordinary individuals on how to keep yourself busy during long flights.

Cliff recounted a story; during a ferry flight where,at night, he went to operate one of the HF radios, this was one of the old variety models, the type known to release the odd spark or two. By the light of the radio he noted liquid on the cockpit floor which he quickly identified as fuel. He switched the radio off to avoid a potential explosion. He tracked the source of the fuel, which was the connector to the hopper, something he couldn’t do anything about whilst flying the aircraft. Realising the magnitude of his predicament, he searched for his tool boxand pulled out a screw driver which he then pointed to the cockpit floor and proceeded to make a hole in the aircraft skin to allow the fuel to drain out. This was obviously only a partial solution, as by now his flight time was severely compromised, so he then proceeded to identify a suitable place to land.

You could say that this was a way of keeping himself busy during a long flight, personally, and probably like most of us, I would prefer a good book and a comfortable seat with the odd drink or two. Hats off to Cliff and the other NZ ferry pilots.

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