ZK-BZK at Hawera in January 1965. (Peter Lewis photo)

The Piper PA-25 Pawnee is a purpose-built agricultural aircraft, designed in the mid-1950’s by the Piper Aircraft Corporation in the USA and produced between 1959 and 1982. A large number of Pawnees were operated in New Zealand, originally for topdressing, and later towing gliders. 

The Pawnee is a single engined monoplane, built from a fabric-covered steel-tube frame. Fertiliser is carried in a hopper between the engine and the cockpit.

ZK-BZK is a 235 horsepower variant of the PA-25, imported into New Zealand in 1960. Like most New Zealand Pawnees, it was modified to place the fuel tanks in the wings, improving safety in the event of a crash but also providing space to add a seat for a loader driver to sit when transiting between jobs.

BZK was operated by Aerial Farming Holdings Ltd of Palmerston North. Later it was transferred to Central Aviation of Central Otago. At some point ownership passed to the Mt. Cook company, apparently in lieu of a debt. From there it went to the Air New Zealand Apprentice Training School as a training aid, but was eventually deemed to be of little relevance and the aircraft was donated to the Society in 1980.

ZK-BZK in the Society’s workshop in 2013. Note the small perspex cupola over the loader driver’s seat. (Alex Liggett photo)

ZK-BZK has now been been partially restored, and is in the Society’s workshop awaiting an opportunity to complete the restoration.