Welcome to our first episode for 2024 with this episode featuring a great set of interviews to kick off the new year. From Grant recording chats with Jerry & Jan Chisum in their incredible hangar home over in New Zealand to the next part in the Steve Padgett story, this episode covers flying from the UK to NZ in a Gipsy Moth back in 1934, bush flying 737s in Alaska, setting up Sunshine Express Airlines, and so much more.
If you’re wondering where Bridge Pa is, it’s just outside Hastings which is near Napier on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The easiest way to find it is to use Google Maps and look for Hastings Aerodrome at Bridge Pa (or click that link :) ).
The episode unfolds as:
06:16 – Grant chats with Jerry Chishum about learning to fly with his father while growing up in Alaska, how eventually his father got into helicopters while he went on to larger aircraft. This lead to him flying civilian Hercules aircraft from Fairbanks, then proceeding on to 737-200s with gravel kits on some less than brilliant runways that were frequently covered in snow, ice and slush. Bush flying a 737… who knew?
Jerry also flew the MD-11 and compares flying that to flying the Hercules (like a big Super Cub) and the 737. Suffice to say, he wasn’t a fan of the MD-11.
Jerry steps us through the history of the Gipsy Moth aircraft, his visits to New Zealand, how he met Jan, and flying WW1 replicas such as the Fokker Triplane, Fokker D.VII and the S.E.5.
31:52 – We then bring Jan onto the show, introducing her by her maiden name of Jan White. She tells us how she learnt to fly, getting into tail draggers like the Piper Cub, and then transitioning to flying Tiger Moths. Jan also talks about flying in the UK before returning to New Zealand, where she flew the Tiger Moth in competitions, eventually meeting Jerry at one.
Jan also talks about her father buying a 1929 Gipsy Moth when he was living in the UK in the early 1930s, then how he flew it to Sydney, Australia in 1934. She discusses his trip, the adventures he had, and that the most difficult flights were getting from Darwin to Sydney. Jan also talks about the memorabilia her father kept that she now has, including his maps, a letter from Nancy Bird Walton, and even the receipt from buying the aircraft.
52:04 – Our second part of our interview with Steve Padgett OAM covers purchasing Red Baron at Noosa Airport, which had a Grumman AgCat biplane for tourist flights, and setting up Sunshine Express Airlines, initially with Bandierante aircraft, to fly passengers on routes to and from the Sunshine Coast. Steve talks about dealing with the Civil Aviation Authority of the time and how the process was a lot different back in the 1990s with much less red tape.
Sunshine Express also flew Fairchild Metros and worked closely with Ansett Airlines, flying passengers for them until that airline went into liquidation, owing Steve’s company a large amount of money. Fortunately, Steve got a call from Qantas who wanted to work with them, although Qantas were able to dictate much tighter terms.
Steve also talks about helping to set up Bangkok Airways in Thailand and his experience acquiring & operating Austin Aero in Texas. He wraps up this part of the interview by giving us a comparison between the aviation environment in the USA versus here in Australia.
The next part of this interview will include Steve starting, along with Don Kendell and Max Hazelton, the organisation that became the Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA). It will also cover Alliance Airlines and his work with the RAAF Cadets.
1:13:43 – We wrap up the episode.
You can hear more of Jan & Jerry’s stories on a recent episode of the Warbird Radio Down Under series by Grant with Dave Homewood in New Zealand. It’s one of the segments on the Warbird Radio show, a great podcast run by Matt Jolley in the USA. So if you’re listening to us, you should give his show a go too.
We’d also like to help spread the word about some great organisations and people we think are worth supporting, including:
Thanks also to Terry Daniel for our intro & outro voice overs.