Former RNZAF P-40 finds new home in Australia

Within days after we published an item on the new Belgian Curtiss P-40 OO-WHK, there is more P-40 news from ‘Down Under’. Former Royal New Zealand P-40E Kittyhawk NZ3009 (c/n 19177) has changed hands. It lost its registration ZK-RMH on 1 March, and has now been taken up in the Australian registry as VH-AK4.

The Kittyhawk has made its first flight on 24 April after it was prepared for it by Performance Aero based at Archerfield Airport, Brisbane, Australia. VH-AK4’s new owner is Kennedy Aviation Pty. Ltd. of Gunnedah (NSW). (To avoid confusion: The Americans called their P-40s ‘Warhawk, while the Commonwealth and Soviet air forces named them Tomahawk and later Kittyhawk.)

The fighter is painted in the colours of the Nationalist Chinese Air Force in WW 2.  Its serial 88/663/P-11151 represents one of 27 P 40E's delivered to China in early 1943. It was flown by fighter ace Xu Hua Jiang, who was one of the two most famous aces in the Nationalist Chinese Air Force in WW 2. 

VH-AK4 has a long and interesting history: it was originally manufactured as USAAF serial 41-25158 for the RAF where its serial number was to have been ET482. However following Pearl Harbour it was diverted to New Zealand as NZ3009 in the first batch of Kittyhawks to be delivered in April 1942.

After the war had ended, it was flown to the Rukuhia storage facility along with more than 100 other Kittyhawks, to be scrapped (out of the more than 300 Kittyhawks operated by the RNZAF).  It was rescued in 1959 by a group of schoolboys!

After years of storage, NZ3009 was acquired by famous British warbird collector Ray Hanna. He hired local restorer Pacific Aircraft to restore the project, but this firm collapsed in June 1997. Its assets were taken over by Pioneer Aero Restorations Ltd.

Pioneer succeeded to finish Hannah’s P-40 and it made its first flight as ZK-RMH in December 1997. It was then shipped to the UK, where it arrived at the Old Flying Machine Company, Duxford in March 1999. It initially carried its original RNZAF colours and serial, but at some point the Chinese Nationalist colours were applied.

In 2003 the Kittyhawk which had become G-CCBE, returned to New Zealand. Flying with the Old Flying Machine Co (NZ) Ltd of Auckland it once again became ZK-RMH. In May 2004 it went to Pioneer Restoration for a two seat dual control conversion.

In 2005 the fighter was acquired by Airtight Trust of Masterton and seven years later the ownership moved to The Old Stick and Rudder Company of Auckland but it was still based at Masterton. New Zealander Oliver Wulff bought ZK-RMH in January 2018 but it was not flown in recent years. Fortunately things have changed!

Source: NZ Civil Aircraft

Photos: John Mounce via AirHistory.net, Walter van Brempt.

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