Aerospace Bristol, a new industrial heritage museum in the UK, bought one of only 11 remaining examples of the Bristol Type 170 Freighter to add to its growing collection. Designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company in the years immediately following World War II, the aircraft was used both as a freighter and as a passenger airliner, known as the Wayfarer.
A truly unique opportunity
Returning the Freighter to Bristol was of great historical importance, according to Bill Morgan from Aerospace Bristol. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring a Type 170 back to the UK and put it on public display, where it will help to inspire the next generation of engineers”, he says.
Learn more: WWL’s aviation services
The aircraft was located at Ardmore airfield near Auckland, New Zealand. Bringing a grounded aircraft of its size home from the other side of the world is no easy task, let alone for a charity who had to raise the funds from donors to turn their dreams into reality.
RoRo a cost-effective solution
Originally the team from Bristol Aerospace were in talks with a freight forwarder, but they were concerned with the spiralling cost of the project.
“WWL’s global footprint, vast transhipment network and industry experience meant we could offer a value-packed end-to-end proposal”, explains Nick Bryan at WWL.
Staff on the ground in New Zealand, Singapore and the UK coordinated the efforts, which also involved local ground solutions.
The plane was dismantled by a team of volunteer engineers from the Royal New Zealand Air Force to facilitate transportation. From the Port of Auckland, the cargo was loaded on to the Talisman for the three-week sailing to Singapore. It was put in temporary storage before being loaded on to the Tiger for the 28-day journey to Bristol.
Read more: Final sea voyage for historic aircraft
The fuselage and the two sets of wings were lashed to roll trailers for the entire journey, which kept them safe and secure and enabled easier transportation on and off the vessels.
The Aerospace Bristol team were thrilled with the service provided, and especially the handling of such valuable cargo. “Our expertise is in the preservation of aircraft and not logistics, so being offered a door-to-door service was really important to us. The airplane was undercover for the entire journey, either on an air-conditioned vessel or the specialised storage area in Singapore”, says Bill.
Upon arrival at the museum in UK, a full restoration programme of the aircraft has begun, funded by donations from the public. Although the aircraft is in great condition, it is expected to take around three years before it can be enjoyed by the public.
A flexible ocean timetable
The original plan was for the Freighter to arrive in the UK during the summer of 2017. Upon dismantling the aircraft, white asbestos was found so the team were forced to delay their plans for several months until the aircraft was declared safe.
Read more: Helicopters go RoRo
The flexibility of WWL’s global transhipment network meant that this change of schedule could be accommodated without problems.
“The whole experience of dealing with everyone from the WWL port captain to those that helped us with the export paperwork was fantastic. We were reassured at every step of the way, especially when our schedules had to change”, adds Bill.
Realising a dream
For WWL’s Nick Bryan, the project was a personal career highlight. “Having been brought up in the area and knowing the importance of Bristol’s role within the British aviation industry, it is wonderful to have played a small part in realising many people’s dream of bringing back a 63-year-old piece of history from an airfield in Auckland to its birthplace so that Filton’s legacy can continue for generations,” he says.
Supporters of Aerospace Bristol could follow the journey on the museum’s Twitter account, which posted regular updates including pictures from the WWL ship and the ground transport in Bristol. BBC Radio Bristol and Heart FM were also on hand to document the freighter’s arrival at the historic Brabazon Hangar in Filton and share the story with a wider audience.