The Vickers Viscount is a 50-60 seat medium-range turboprop airliner which was built by Vickers-Armstrongs in the UK from the late 1940’s. One of the first turboprop airliners to be introduced, the Viscount was a very successful design with 445 eventually being produced, the last of which remained in service worldwide until around 2010.
New Zealand National Airways Corporation introduced 3 of the type on main trunk routes in 1958. The type initially operated between Auckland and Christchurch, with routes to Wellington being introduced after the opening of the current airport at Rongotai in mid-1959. The fleet eventually expanded to 5 aircraft and coverage extended to other provincial centres. NAC Viscount operations ceased in 1975 following the introduction of the Boeing 737-200. The Viscount is remembered fondly by those who traveled on it for its passenger comfort, smooth ride and large windows, which were quite a contrast to the DC-3’s serving many provincial centres at the time.
ZK-BRF (constructor’s number 283) arrived at Harewood in Christchurch on 23 March 1959. She was named ‘City of Christchurch’. She operated on National Airways Corporation’s main trunk routes until she was withdrawn from service on 15 July 1974, having amassed 35,795 flying hours. She was presented to the Ferrymead Aeronautical Society on 9 April 1975, and was stored outside at the park for the next 18 years.
In 1993 ZK-BRF was returned to Air New Zealand at Harewood and was partially restored before being moved into a purpose built display hangar at the Ferrymead Heritage Park in 2000. While cosmetically complete, detail restoration and preservation work continues on ZK-BRF.
Damage to the hangar caused by the earthquake on 22 February 2011 meant that the display area was off limits to the public for nearly 5 years, but repairs are now complete and the display area is now open to the public.