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THE RESTORATION HISTORY OF SHORT SUNDERLAND RNZAF S/N NZ 4115


A short history of Shorts Sunderland NZ 4115

  • 1945 - Manufactured by Short Brothers in Northern Ireland for the RAF.

  • Manufacturer’s airframe serial number 1552.

  • RAF serial number SZ 584.

  • 2/5/1946 to 16/4/1948 - Relocated to BOAC as a training boat Reg G-AHJR. Then to Shorts Belfast for refurbishment for the RNZAF.

NB. After WW2 there were 100s of Sunderlands decommissioned sitting on the water as they were deemed obsolete.

  • 17/11/1953 - Left UK for Hobsonville, Auckland NZ.

  • 4/9/1953 - Arrived Hobsonville.

  • Flight time 90.5 hours (including flight to NZ - 15,865 miles)

  • 1956 - Into storage Hobsonville, made airworthy and flown to Lauthala Bay Fiji.

  • Coded KN-A, then KN-Q, finally Q.

  • 9/12/1966 - Struck off charge RNZAF Hobsonville and signed over to MOTAT.

  • 25/2/1967 - Towed up Meola Creek and across Meola Road to old tip site.

Above: NZ 4115 just out of Meola Creek on its way to cross Meola Road onto old tip site.

Above: NZ 4115 arriving at site 25/2/1967.

On 9 November 2017, after braving the outside elements for a good 50 years (not good for aircraft) NZ 4115, having been fully exterior painted (including fuel tank removal and storage and a full inspection of the wing interiors and main spar), was brought inside and began her journey towards internal restoration. The interior paint in the rear fuselage is in very poor shape and since her relocation my main job has been sanding, scraping and treating the many hundreds of oblongs between the ribs and intercostals before paint can be applied.


NB Any metal bits and intercostals (horizontal strengtheners) etc that require replacement are manufactured by our restoration manager and metal expert Steve Subritzky.


Although the paintwork in the photos might look ok, believe me it’s not! I have found a lot of paint is peeling and flaked - particularly on the top of the fuselage - and while at a glance it looks okay, under the paint it’s a completely different story.


I would estimate that each oblong takes about 15 minutes to prepare to paint. Some take longer as they vary in size. I also have to hand a compressed air medium blasting unit (grit, sand or glass medium of various size) but this is only good on flat surfaces. It has a brush on the end and a recovery of product vacuum.


I have had help from another volunteer, Richard Cornwell, but to date I have been mainly on my own and with each oblong having to be treated separately it’s going to take hundreds of hours of treatment before painting can be started. Of course, the restrictions of Covid19 are costing us a huge number of hours as we can’t go back until Level 1, which isn’t looking promising any time soon.


Above: NZ 4115 on Lake Wakatipu Queenstown South Island NZ 1963.

SPECIFICATIONS FOR SUNDERLAND MK V (5) NZ 4115 Wing Span: 112 ft 9½ in (34.4m) Length: 88 ft 3½ in (26 m) Height: 34 ft 6 in (10.5 m) Wing Area: 1,687 sq ft (156.7 sq m) Max Speed @ sea level 207 mph (333 kph) Max Speed @ 5,000 ft (1,524 m) 213 mph (214 kph) Economical cruising speed: @ 2,000 ft 241 kph Initial rate climb: 840 ft per min (256 m per min) Service ceiling: 17,900 ft (5,456 m) Only with oxygen as Sunderlands were not pressurised Range with 1,668 lb (757 kg) bomb load @ 2,000 ft (610 m) 2,690 miles (4,329 km) Normal loaded weight: 60,000 lb (27,216 kg) Max loaded weight: 65,000 lb (28,484 kg)


Process required for each oblong section:

  1. Scrape down surface for flaking paint and corrosion.

  2. Clean off surfaces using sandpaper and power tools with discs and wire wheels.

  3. Finish off surface by hand sanding hard to get to areas and any ribs around area.

  4. Vacuum out loose dirt blow down with compressed air.

  5. Treat any bare metal with two pot etch primer with brush.

  6. Once a reasonable area is done and ready, pray with undercoat grey so you can see where you have been.

  7. Then, when a large area is ready, spray with two coats of topcoat.

Above: Interior 17/8/2019
Above: Interior 17/8/2019
Above: The last interior photo is a view looking forward to the nose of the aircraft. Paint looks good but it's not.

- Photos and article provided by Mike Smith -

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