Personal History/Album - Bill Howell

My Life After Halton by Bill Howell  - 68 Engines

Together with the other members of the New Zealand contingent of 68th  Aircraft Apprentice entry, Royal Air Force, I returned to New Zealand by sea, arriving home in May 1955 after having left four and a quarter years previously.

 After a monthís leave we all attended an NCOís familiarisation course at RNZAF Station Wigram, and were then posted to our appropriate Bases, and in my case it was on to Sunderlands at RNZAF Hobsonville to the North West of Auckland city on a reach of the Waitemata Harbour.

Here I was stationed for one year until being accepted for pilot training at RNZAF Wigram, and my course commenced in April 1956. A year later I graduated as a fledgling Pilot Officer, along with the other members of 23P course.

Next followed a multi engine conversion course at RNZAF Ohakea, training on Devon aircraft, which was to be followed by a maritime conversion on to Sunderlands back at RNZAF Hobsonville.

However fate intervened and I found myself grounded medically with a shoulder problem which necessitated fairly major surgery followed by a long period of physiotherapy. When I was offered the choice I accepted a return to civilian life, completing nearly eight years service.

 Eventually my medical status was restored and with newly acquired civil aircrew licences I was accepted as a pilot by NZ  National Airways Corporation as a First Officer on DC-3 aircraft late in 1959. Four years of this followed, then a conversion on to F-27  aircraft. This in turn saw my promotion to Captain, DC-3ís in 1965. For a couple of years I was on DC-3ís before a change back to the F-27 as Captain, and shortly afterwards acceptance for a posting to All Nippon Airways, as an expatriate F-27 Captain, initially for a 2 year period. This also coincided with an attempt at marriage, and caused me to decide that life in Japan was not really my scene.

 For 11 years I was on the Friendship Fleet based in Wellington until  a major change saw NZNAC merged by Government decree, with Air New Zealand, formerly TEAL, which was the International Airline of NZ. This all coincided with a promotion on to B737ís, and a transfer to Auckland, and employment on 737 regional flights which encompassed  Tonga, Samoa, Raro-tonga, and Tahiti to the east of NZ, Fiji, Norfolk Island and Noumea to the north and also flights on behalf of Air Pacific through Port Villa,  and Noumea to Brisbane.

The final change saw a change to B767 aircraft in early 1987, and it was on this aircraft type that I retired in late 1988 after 29 years airline flying.

Shortly before commencing on B767ís I was involved with the purchase and delivery flight of a DC-3 aircraft from Mackay, Northern Queensland to Ardmore, South Aucklandís GA airfield where I was heavily involved with NZ Warbirds Association. I had been a member since shortly after transferring to Auckland, and at that stage was a part owner of  a Harvard aircraft which was ex RNZAF  NZ1078 and which we totally refurbished. Eventually my involvement included shares in 3 Harvards, NZ 1052, Ď78, í92, 2 Devons, NZ1808 and 1821 and the DC-3, ZK-DAK of which syndication I was the founding chief pilot, and remained so until I retired from the position some 5 years or so ago.

Finally at age 65 I decided that it was time to hang up the goggles and helmet, and disposed of my  aircraft shares, and let my medical licence lapse.

Golf has stopped due to a recurrence of shoulder problems, so it is now car driving, and computer tutoring for the local branch of SeniorNet that occupies most of my spare time. Travel has very much taken a back seat since retirement, as I long since lost any sense of glamour with air travel.

The following image was taken during the 1994 Warbirds Over Wanaka Air show, and depicts a formation flight consisting of ZK-DAK flown by myself and crew, and with 2 Spitfires flown by Mark and Ray Hanna, and 2 Mustangs on the other side, flown by TT Bland ex Air NZ, and Geoff Bethel, ex Cathay.

This probably constituted my greatest pleasure.