RNZAF Museum’s Canberra WT346 Arrives at Her New Home

Canberra WT346 Fuselage located at Wigram. Photo Credit- Air Force Museum of NZ

Back in November 2020, the Air Force Museum of New Zealand‘s Trust Board signed an agreement with the NZ Warbirds Association Inc. at Ardmore, for the loan of ex-RAF English Electric Canberra B(I)8 WT346. Part of this agreement involves this aircraft’s sympathetic restoration to static display condition; once restored, ownership should officially transfer to NZ Warbirds.

The RNZAF Museum Trust Board purchased WT346 from a British scrap dealer in 1993 and shipped the historic aircraft to New Zealand, effectively saving her from certain destruction. The intention at the time was to use the nose, or possibly the complete airframe, in some way to represent a RNZAF B(1)12 variant. However, a later policy review prioritized projects with actual RNZAF provenance in line with the Museum’s mission, coupled with the fact that a Canberra was already on display at the Museum, meant that any effort directed towards the ex-RAF Canberra would be a low priority.

The recent closure of the Air Force museum’s offsite large object store resulted in a significant amount of material relocating to Wigram. This, combined with the collection’s growth, has increased pressure on available storage space. So in recent years, finding an appropriate new home for the Canberra has become a pressing concern for the museum’s Board. The agreement with NZ  Warbirds is the culmination of a significant amount of behind-the-scenes effort, and the Trust Board is delighted that the Canberra has finally made her way north for a new lease of life with the team at Ardmore.
Canberra WT346 will now undergo a two to three year restoration program to which will also see the aircraft transformed to represent a Canberra B(I)Mk.12, eleven of which served in the RNZAF. The New Zealand Government sold the surviving examples to India in 1970, and while there is a possibility that one still survives in that nation (NZ6109 in Pune at the Shri Shivaji Preparatory Military School), there are no original examples available for display in New Zealand. Canberras served the nation between 1959 and 1970.
The museum did whatever they could to help NZ Warbirds get the aircraft to Auckland, including considerable contributions in the form of personnel and logistical support.
The Canberra arriving at her new home at Ardmore Airport. Photo via Canberra Support Group NZ

Gavin Trethewey, Convenor of the NZ Warbirds Canberra Support Group, stated: “As a former RNZAF Canberra pilot, the fact that New Zealand Warbirds are now able to preserve what is considered to be a very rare aircraft is gratifying. It fits ideally with Warbirds’ overall aim to protect the heritage of former service aircraft, particularly those associated with the RNZAF. We’re also grateful that funding for relocation and initial restoration has been readily offered by former Canberra crew and Warbirds members. Offers of both volunteer and professional assistance means we can make a start on restoration almost immediately to meet our 2 to 3 year completion goal.”

After her first shampoo she is tucked into her new hangar home for a few years. Photo via Canberra Support Group NZ

For anyone wishing to help with this project, please do contact NZ Warbirds directly, and follow them on Facebook for updates.

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