By Zac Yates

After more than two decades of meticulous restoration an example of Lockheed’s rare 1930s airliner has taken to Kiwi skies. Owner Rob Mackley accompanied test pilot Ryan Southam and engineer Huib Volker of restorers Hawk Aero on the test flight of his Lockheed 10A Electra ZK-AFD (c/n 1145) from Ardmore Airport near Auckland, the flight marking the culmination of nearly 27 years of work.

Lockheed L10A ZK-AFD takes to the sky for the first time in more than four decades. [Photo by Ruth Christie]
Lockheed L10A ZK-AFD takes to the sky for the first time in more than four decades. [Photo by Ruth Christie]

The Electra wears the colors of Union Airways of New Zealand on the port side of the fuselage and is named Kuaka (the Māori name for the bar-tailed godwit), replicating c/n 1045, the fuselage of which is stored at the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland (incidentally another Electra – c/n 1138 ZK-BUT – is also painted as ZK-AFD and on public display at MOTAT.) This was done by Mackley as a tribute to his father Bill, who flew for Union Airways and later the New Zealand National Airways Corporation (NZNAC).

The Electra's Pratt & Whitney R-985s come to life. The aircraft is named Kuaka in tribute to an aircraft flown by Bill Mackley, owner Rob Mackley's father. [Photo by Ruth Christie]
The Electra’s twin Pratt & Whitney R-985s come to life. The aircraft is named Kuaka in tribute to an aircraft flown by Bill Mackley, owner Rob Mackley’s father. [Photo by Ruth Christie]

As a nod to the history of Mackley’s airframe, the starboard side of the fuselage is painted in the markings of Linea Aerea Nacional de Chile. Built in 1941 for LAN, the aircraft flew more than 11000hr for the Chilean carrier and during its time in South America the aircraft wore several different registrations including CC-226 with the name Diego de Almagro, CC-LCN and CC-CLEA. The aircraft was sold to U.S. interests in 1959, receiving the registration N10310 and flying to Oregon before eventually ending up in Alaska. The Electra was later impounded for unpaid parking fees and was a museum display before being acquired by Mackley in 1997, when it was shipped to New Zealand for airworthy restoration.

Rob Mackley's Electra wears its original Linea Aerea Nacional de Chile markings on one side as seen in this photo taken at Ardmore Airport on December 6th, 2022. [Photo by Richard Currie]
Rob Mackley’s Electra wears its original Linea Aerea Nacional de Chile markings on one side, as seen in this photo taken on December 6th, 2022. [Photo by Richard Currie]

The type played a key role in developing New Zealand’s “main trunk” airline routes with seven examples serving initially with Union Airways from 1937 and then NZNAC from 1947, until the five surviving airframes were replaced by the Douglas DC-3 in 1950. It’s believed only one other example of the Lockheed 10 is currently flying worldwide, this being Točná Airport’s L10A OK-CTB (s/n 1091).

Electra ZK-AFD taxis back in from Ardmore's runway after the successful first post-restoration flight on January 31st, 2024. [Photo by Ruth Christie]
Electra ZK-AFD taxis back in from Ardmore’s runway after the successful first post-restoration flight on January 31st, 2024. [Photo by Ruth Christie]

The restoration was carried out at Ardmore by Hawk Aero Ltd and Aero Restoration. The Electra will join Mackley’s other aircraft, including a Boeing-Stearman A75N1 and a Cessna O-1G Bird Dog, at Omaka Aerodrome near Blenheim in NZ’s South Island.