First flight from North Cape to Bluff

1 December 1933

Teddy Harvie and family with Gipsy Moth (Alexander Turnbull Library, WA-06347-F)

Pilot E.F. (‘Teddy’) Harvie and his passenger, Miss Trevor Hunter, set a record for the longest flight within New Zealand in a single day.

They flew approximately 1880 km between North Cape and Invercargill in 16 hours 10 minutes. It was a remarkable feat, as 22-year-old Harvie had been flying for just a few months.

Harvie had long desired to make the record-breaking flight. In his book Venture the far horizon he recalled how he first thought of it in 1929, his last year at school. He took his first flight as a passenger that year. But when M.C. McGregor set a new single-day long-distance flying record in 1931, Harvie still hadn’t learned to fly. He was fortunate to be given instruction between January and March 1933 while a crew member on Kingsford Smith’s Southern Cross during a tour it made to New Zealand. In May 1933 he joined the Western Federated Flying Club in New Plymouth. After some training with flying instructor Ian Keith, and some solo flying, Harvie gained his ‘A’ licence.

Harvie aimed to fly at least 100 hours solo before making his record flight. As he got close to this goal in November 1933 his preparations began in earnest. He tested the fuel capacity of a De Havilland Gypsy Moth, ZK-ABP. He also found a willing passenger: 18-year-old Trevor Hunter, a fellow member of the flying club. When planning the journey Harvie realised that he would have to make part of it at night. He decided to proceed despite not having done any night flying. ‘To be safe’, he would fly when there was a full moon and, in case he had to make a forced landing, when the tides were out on northern beaches. These factors led to him making the flight on 1 December.

Harvie and Hunter took off from a paddock in Kaitāia at 2 a.m. They were assisted by the taxi driver who had dropped them off and some of the bystanders who had gathered. While the driver positioned his car’s headlights behind the plane, two people at the other end of the paddock pointed flashlights towards it. Once in the air Harvie headed north, then turned south once he had reached the latitude of North Cape.

Harvie had kept his intentions quiet so as not to alert anyone who might prevent the journey. One person he did not confide in was Ian Keith, who was in charge of flying at New Plymouth, Hāwera and Whanganui. But by the time Harvie and Hunter arrived in Hāwera, their third refuelling stop, the secret was out. Harvie had given a scoop to journalist Douglas Stewart and, as planned, it appeared in the papers that day. While Hunter enjoyed a welcome breakfast put on by the local aero club, Harvie made his ‘feeble apologies’ to Keith, who allowed them to continue. At 7.57 p.m., after eight stops, the pair landed at Myross Bush, near Invercargill. Harvie had set a record that would stand for 29 years.

On 3 December 1983 a re-enactment of the flight was staged by Harvie’s nephew, Don Haggitt. Both Harvie and Trevor Colway (née Hunter) were in Invercargill to greet him. Each had enjoyed careers in aviation: Hunter was one of five New Zealand women to serve in the Air Transport Auxiliary in Britain during the Second World War, while Harvie was chief air accident investigator from 1968 to 1977.

Image: Teddy Harvie and family with Gipsy Moth. (National Library)