A couple of the team who were involved in creating this very special Skyhawk colour scheme, Glen Turner and Steve Jenks, have kindly offered their memories and photographs here to show the work involved.
Glen Turner explains his involvement, "I spent twelve months on No. 2 Squadron after finishing Armament Mech's Course, from early 1986. NZ6256 was the only TA-4G that arrived in the grey paint scheme, and I was asked by the Corporal Safety and Surface chap at the time to draw up some designs for the commemorative aircraft. I put in three main designs, and basically all three designs ended up on the aircraft. What was eventually put on the aircraft seemed to be a mix of my designs. Of course I received no acknowledgement of the designs, since I didn't give them to a senior person!! I did get the plans back some years later. I have those drawings somewhere in my many boxes in the garage. It was known as the B+H (Benson + Hedges) scheme. A paint company donated the paint I think."
Steve Jenks explains his involvement, "I became involved through my father, then a Wing Commander in the RNZAF, who offered my services as a graphic designer to the crew in charge of creating the scheme. Run by Flight Sergeant Purdie if I remember correctly (my apologies if my memory is putting me wrong on the name - it was a long time ago!). I'm not sure there was ever a FULL 'plan' for this scheme. I was involved with some of the fine tuning of the design and some of the solutions that ended up on the final scheme were very unlikely to have made it onto a plan as some were only really decided when the scheme was already half completed!"
"I first came in on the project in November 1986, Steve says. "I guess at this point a plan may have been drawn up, but for a one-off I wonder if there was any point. I certainly didn't see any plans at the time. At that stage most the overall design work had been done and I was just assisting with tidying up and coming up with a couple of solutions for the areas that hadn't been worked out. The gold and basic striping idea was already established at that point. Some of the discarded options for the colour scheme sounded quite interesting and I wish I had been able to see them. Supposedly one consisted of an all black aircraft with Maori motifs on it!"
Steve continues, "Amongst my contributions were adding the scroll under the cockpit with the commemorative dates to get around fitting in all the necessary information on the airframe tidily, the way the stripes terminated with the broken lines, plus adding stripes to the tanks. The rest of the details, like the southern cross stars on the fin, how the stripe turned to go up the fin and the like we discussed and agreed on at the time too."
The Trial Stripes Paint Scheme
In order to see if the design on paper worked equally as well on the actual aircraft, it was decided to test the concept out before the Skyhawk was paint stripped. The stripes were tried on the grey NZ6256, hand painted on one side only, and flown so those on the ground could judge the effectiveness. This was the first time the RNZAF had attempted something like this so they wanted to get it right.
Steve Jenks says, "I know that the basic striping was designed and roughly painted on to the airframe when it was still in the original Aussie grey colours. It was flown at least once in this temporary scheme to assess how it looked when displayed."
The Skyhawk is now ready for the test flights. Note by this time the back-to-front
roundel had been removed
The Commanding Officer of No. 2 Squadron, Squadron Leader Jim Jennings, flew the test scheme flights. Glen says, "Sqn Ldr Jim Jennings flew it low and slow past with several fly bys to see if it worked. We took film and photos from on top of the No. 14 Squadron hangar (before they put the longrun roofing on)."
Above and below are some shots of the aircraft in the trial scheme
Stripping the Paint
Glen Turner took these two photos of the Skyhawk being prepared for the repaint:
Before the aircraft was paint stripped for the overall repaint, the painters had
a bit of fun with some graffiti.
The aircraft now stripped of paint, being prepared for the gold paint
The Gold Paint Application
Steve Jenks says, "When I returned in early December 1986 the aircraft was already all-over gold and the basic striping shapes were being masked out. There were full size painted paper copies of the roundels, stripes, etc., tacked to the airframe to assess positions and sizes. It was a real honour to have helped out with my small part in the project and full credit to F/Sgt Purdie and the team that did it. I was amazed the way the guys could mask the curves of the stripes and roundels etc pretty much freehand. Their skill was very impressive."
"I took a few pics of the aircraft as it was progressing and still have a full size piece of the test stripe end that was painted on paper and tacked to the aircraft while we were checking to see how it worked."
The aircraft has been stripped here, and is wearing new primer, and various markings are being applied to see what they would look like, before the final decision was made. Note the lettering RNZAF above the
roundel, and that the kiwi has been applied facing backwards!
Photo: Glen Turner
Photo: Steve Jenks
Note the roundel is still pointing backwards! Photo: Steve Jenks
Repainting the roundel, and the white stripe is being appiled here. Photo: Steve Jenks
Glen Turner also took a series of photos as NZ6256 was being painted. He says, "I took almost daily pics of it being painted in the paintshop." The following paint shop photos are his shots:
Above and below: Applying the red stripe
RNZAF Skyhawk expert and ex-RNZAF Avionics Technician Don Simms states, "Another small detail I have noticed is prior to going into the paint shop it had the original "G" rounded fin tip. After it came out it had the "K" squared off fin tip. This was part of the G to K conversion - fitting a new IFF system (APX-72), including a new antenna on the fin tip. The rest of the G to K conversion already appears to have been done, (fitting of drag chute and new radio antenna behind the cockpit) before the gold paint job."
The RNZAF Safety and Surface team who painted the Skyhawk.. Standing, Left to Right: Sgt Barry Cockran, AC Rehi "Red" Sullivan, LAC Wilson, LAC Steve Leach, F/Sgt Brian Purdey. Kneeling, Left to Right: Cpl Alen,
Cpl Sid Kendall,
LAC (W) Hinds, GSH Hefferon. Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official Photo
Roll Out - The Finished Gold Skyhawk
Glen says, "And then I was the mug that towed it out of the paintshop for photos, with one of the chaps riding brakes in the back seat as there was no seat fitted in the front! The aircraft still had to have ailerons and seats etc fitted."
Air Force Museum of New Zealand Official Photo
"After the aircraft was re-rigged," Glen continues, "the Commanding Officer of No. 2 Squadron, Sqn Ldr Jim Jennings took her up for the test flight. .Jennings did most of the flying I recall. He asked me several days after the test flying was done if I had had my medical and my camera at the ready... alas no ... that day he went up and they took the photo of the aircraft going straight up that was on all the posters."
Here is the RNZAF Official photo taken on that sortie on the 17th of December 1986,
which was to become
famous on posters and flyers, and the cover of New Zealand Wings
for April 1987, and the programme brochures for all three RNZAF Anniversary airshows
Glen Turner says, "The next day I was ready medical done, camera at ready, kitted out by Coops waiting for Jennings and I got the first ride in the back seat as a Gold aircraft. We stooged around Raumai getting footage from NZ6255 with a Photographer in it's back seat filming with a National Film Unit camera. They had another camera situated half way along the runway, and Jennings was cleared to make a run as low and as fast as he could down the runway. First time I have heard Air Traffic Control give permission for as fast and as low as she'll go!!!
We started out over Fielding for that one.... that clip featured in the video of the Anniversary, I recall...."
Above: Some early morning foggy shots by Glen Turner.
Below, a couple of shots taken by Steve Jenks.
Glen gives a few details of how this aircraft was basically withdrawn from normal service for several months for this special duty as the Anniversary Skyhawk, "The aircraft was only operated by No. 2 Squadron. I cannot recall us using her for weapons sorties. Generally when training the new pilots on weapons it was usually guns, bombs (HE+Prac), rockets. There was no guns fitted, and guns and rockets would have been very dirty to the paintwork anyway, so this may have been a no goer. She was a showbird first off - we walked on the skin with covered shoes!
Initially we wore booties on our feet whenever we had to go on the painted surface, and we used a cushion between the stairs and the side to prevent scratching. In the gold scheme, NZ6256 only had the 150G tanks painted and fitted as far as I remember and looking at my photos. "
Steve agrees with the fact about the smaller tanks, which were ex-RAN and never used in normal RNZAF service. "As far as I recall the Gold Hawk only ever flew with the smaller drop tanks at airshows, so there were no large drop tanks in the gold scheme. The standard large ones presumably being unnecessary for it's airshow role."