10 July 2022

The Oxford Freighters - Gould's Air Freight


In mid-1947 Jack Gould, a garage proprietor from Paraparaumu, was successful in his bid to buy two Supermarine Walrus amphibians and 110 Airspeed Oxfords from the War Assets Realisation Board which were declared surplus after the end of World War II. His plan for the Walruses was to strip the aircraft of their wing at Paraparaumu and use the hulls as runabouts for fishing.


The Gisborne Herald of the 13th of June 1947 was reported that, Although warned by the station’s commanding officer that the plane was not even to be taxied on the airfield let alone flown, Mr. J. W. Gould, Paraparaumu, made a sensational take-off from Woodbourne on Wednesday and flew a Walrus amphibian across Cook Strait to his home… A week or so ago he announced his intention of taxiing the amphibians across the Strait on a day when the weather was calm, but on Wednesday he achieved in an hour what might have taken weeks. In doing so, however, he seems to have started something of a “flap” in that an investigation is now in progress regarding the flying of the machine with no certificate of airworthiness. The aircraft had not been flown at all since 1945 when the amphibians were originally placed in storage. Mr. Gould is a qualified pilot, but it is understood that he had never flown a Walrus before. However, he handled the machine perfectly even to taking off with a cross wind, a fact which occasioned pungent comment from the stations’ personnel who witnessed the feat. Mr. Gould arrived back at Woodbourne yesterday in connection with his many other purchases, but it remains for history to relate how cordial was his welcome and whether he will again get his property into the air.


A couple of weeks later Jack Gould was charged that on June 11 defendant flew from Woodbourne to Paraparaumu a Walrus, the personnel of which, including himself, were not provided with prescribed certificates of competence and licences, and that on the same day he flew the Walrus without it having been certified as airworthy in the prescribed manner. He was fined £20.


Rather than being fined again he opted to taxi his second Walrus across Cook Strait on the 24th of July from the Wairau river mouth to the beach at Paraparaumu. Piloted by its owner and carrying two passengers, a Walrus amphibian aircraft was taxied across Cook Strait in about seven hours. It reached the shore at Paraparaumu at 10.46 p.m., after an uneventful crossing, to be welcomed by a group of residents, The aircraft is owned by Mr J. M. Gould, of Paraparaumu, and with him on the trip were his wife and a friend, Mr H. C. Fairlie. Mr Gould stated that the sea was a little rough for most of the trip, but after coming around Kapiti Island the going became smooth. There had been "no trouble in the running of the aircraft, though the condition of the sea created some difficulties. Mrs Gould said she dozed for the greater part of the trip.

The two Supermarine Walruses at Paraparaumu Beach in 1947, NZ157 above and NZ160 below


Meanwhile the Oxford bombers, which he was offering for private sale, were selling without difficulty around Blenheim. Some of them were being stripped for the material and equipment they contained, while others were being set up as fascinating playhouses for children. The result is that many parts of Blenheim are taking on the appearance of war-time dispersal areas, the big yellow fuselages, complete with their motors, looking somewhat out of place in odd corners of residential sections.


In his memoir, "A Steep Curve", Tom Empson who in 1947 was painting houses, writes that he was told of a fellow at Paraparaumu who was trying to start a flying school and air freight business and why didn't I approach him. I had heard of Jack Gould because he had been in the news when he had bought two Supermarine Walruses off War Assets. At the same time as he bought the Walruses he put in a tender for over one hundred redundant Airspeed Oxfords, the old faithful that I had spent one and a half years instructing on in UK. These were also down at Woodbourne. He won the tender on condition that they too weren't to be flown, although he did manage to get authority to have two brought up to flying condition later. The two Oxfords that were returned to airworthy condition and placed on the New Zealand civil register were ZK-APX (ex-RNZAF NZ1336) and ZK-APY (ex-RNZAF NZ1377)This is where I came in. As much to please John as anything I went to see Jack and was somewhat taken aback by his enthusiasm to take me on with hardly any questions asked. He never even wanted to see my logbook and I was to start straight away. 

A couple of photos of one of Gould's Air Freight's two Airspeed Oxfords, ZK-APX at Paraparaumu in October 1947. Photo : Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library

ZK-APX again, also taken at Paraparaumu

He did his check in a Tiger Moth, a type he hadn't flown for four years, on the 21st of September 1947 and I was able to do some solo to get my hand back in. Jack already owned a Tiger Moth. One of the reconditioned Oxfords had arrived at Paraparaumu and reluctantly I fell in with a scheme of John Aldworth. This entailed taking passengers up for rides around Kapiti Island. John organised the loads. I never left the cabin. 

Jack Gould owned a de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth, ZK-APL, which was registered to him May 1947. Tom Empson recounts, A lot of my time with Jack was spent giving flying instruction on the Tiger. I had quite a number of pupils among the locals. All ages too were keen to learn. At weekends I was very busy there being a lot of activity on the aerodrome at that time. The hundred or so Oxfords down at Woodbourne were in the process of being dismantled by a small team Jack had working down there. Every so often I had to fly the air worthy Oxford down there and bring back a load of parts stacked in the back. Sometimes these were badly stored and the aeroplane was not very stable to handle. Often I had what I considered a suitable load when Jack would appear with a passenger or two for me to carry as well. 

Another load we carried across Cook Strait was boxes of cherries. We'd get close to the aerodrome boundary at some selected point and a grower contact of Jack's would unload the cherries off his truck and into the plane for us to take to the Christmas market in Wellington. Jack Gould was very keen to start an aerial freight service. I don't think any such facility was available in 1947, only the passenger and mail schedule of Union Airways. He had no licence to operate one although he was endeavouring to get one, but he was up against bureaucracy and a Labour Government who didn't favour private enterprise. 

Nonetheless, J M Gould Ltd was registered in 1947 with Jack Gould and his wife Margaret Gould as directors. The company traded as Gould’s Air Freight. 

Photo : Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library

On the 7th of November 1947 the Press reported that, An application for a licence to operate an air freight service between Blenheim, Nelson, and Wellington, using a twin-engined Airspeed Oxford aircraft, has been made to the Minister in charge of Civil Aviation (Mr F. Jones) by Mr J. M. Gould, of Paraparaumu. Recently, Mr Gould bought from the War Assets Realisation Board more than 100 Oxford aircraft declared surplus by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and stored at Woodbourne aerodrome, near Blenheim. Two of these aircraft are reported to have been given certificates of airworthiness by the civil aviation branch of the Air Department. Mr Gould, who is a cartage contractor, also owns some Tiger Moths and two Walrus amphibian aircraft, which are on the beach at Paraparaumu. Most of the Oxfords, which Mr Gould bought very cheaply, have been stripped of their equipment, and the fuselages, minus the wings, have been used by Blenheim residents for children’s playhouses and baches, and for storage purposes. One purchaser proposes to convert his fuselage into a caravan.

A view of dismantled RNZAF Airspeed AS10 Oxford Mk II aircraft (No16), owned by J M Gould of Paraparaumu, being towed by a car, Woodbourne Airport. Photo : Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library

An Airspeed Oxford in a back garden in Blenheim, 1947. Photo : Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library

Tom Empson writes that not having a licence was a minor detail and no obstacle to Jack. He heard that some entrepreneur down in Christchurch had a shipment of frozen crayfish tails he wanted to get to Auckland to catch Pan American Airways who were to take them to the lucrative market in the US. His difficulty was to transport them to Auckland in a frozen state. Jack undertook to do this at I guess a worthwhile reward. I was his only pilot so naturally did the flying. We took the door off the Oxford and with plenty of warm clothing flew from Paraparaumu down to Harewood. We loaded the cartons of frozen tails into the aircraft and wasted no time getting into the air. We flew as high as we could to get into the cool air and headed for Paraparaumu to refuel for the long leg to Mangere. To save time we flew from Paraparaumu in a direct line which took us right out sight of land. The fact that we had no radio or dinghy let alone lifejackets was, apart from being grossly foolhardy, indicative of my complete faith in the Oxford. However all went well and the consignment was delivered in perfect order. Unwittingly we had started what developed into a thriving export trade until the depletion of crayfish beds was such as to call a halt to the business.

It was the next episode to the Gould era which proved to be the one which was to end my escapades in the air. When I look back in hindsight I think it may have been my salvation. For too long I had been blessed with good fortune and to expect such a run to continue was indeed testing the improbable. Although it is an episode which my conscience won't let me forget, I can console myself that it ended in the usual fortunate manner but at the same time it forced a definite halt to any temptation to flirt with lady luck in the air again. It was all as a result of a casual remark of a friend who had an interest in horse racing. His suggestion that I take him down to Christchurch to see the Grand National was treated as a possibility. Like a fool I mentioned this to Jack and of course he saw the commercial opportunity and insisted that I take a party of ten. Back to Walter I told him that I could take him along with nine others. In a couple of days he had the required number. They were largely local farmers including my Father, an Otaki publican and other responsible citizens of Otaki and Te Horo. I don't think any of them had flown before. In the meantime Jack had been busy with his mechanic and installed seating using metal bucket seats salvaged from scrapped Oxfords. These were bolted to the floor and cushions were added. The big day arrived thankfully with good weather. I primed Walter up so that he could assist with the start up procedure, it being necessary for someone to kneel on the wing along side each engine nacelle and crank up the starter system. It was an uneventful flight down and we landed at Harewood and parked the aircraft out of the way and got taxis to the race course. Every one enjoyed themselves although I couldn't relax with the return trip on my mind. On our return to the Oxford I reported to the control tower to give them my flight plan and was told that the aeroplane was grounded pending charges for contravention of air regulations. I explained that my passengers were largely dairy farmers and needed to return that day.. They said they were sorry but they could not give me permission to proceed. I felt I had no option but carry on despite the ban. No effort was made to prevent me and control co-operated in granting me permission to take off. The flight home filled me with foreboding and I fully expected to find the police on the airfield to arrest me on arrival. There was no such reception and I parked the plane and went home with my passengers. A few days later I was delivered a letter from the Air Department nullifying my licence pending court proceedings. 

The court proceedings were reported in the Christchurch Press of the 19th of June 1948. Apparently one of the Oxfords were flown from Paraparaumu to Christchurch flying passengers for a race meeting. Two convictions for breaches of the Air Navigation Regulations, 1933, were entered in the Magistrate’s Court against Thomas Arthur Empson, who faced four charges brought in connexion with the flight of an Oxford aircraft to Christchurch on November 22. The other charges were dismissed by Mr J. S. Hanna, S.M. Sub-Inspector W. J. K. Brown conducted the prosecution, and Mr R. E. Tripe appeared for Empson. The charges were: (1) that he flew an aircraft from Paraparaumu to Harewood and failed to ensure that ballast was safely distributed and secured; (2) that he failed to satisfy himself that the equipment and passengers’ seats were fit in every way for the proposed flight; (3) that he failed in the flight to observe the terms of the condition of the certificate of airworthiness that the number of persons to be carried in the aircraft, including the crew, was to be not more than two, and did carry eight; (4) that he failed to produce to a duly authorised officer the fitness of aircraft certificate required by the regulations. The Magistrate, after submissions by Mr Tripe, dismissed the second and fourth charges, and entered convictions on the. others. Fines totaling £40 were imposed. Tom Empson writes, I was grounded for six months and never bothered to reapply for my licence again being quite happy to stay on the ground in the meantime.

In December 1947 several consignments of cherries were brought to Auckland from Blenheim in a Gould’s Air Freight Oxford which newspaper reports indicated were piloted by Jack Gould. This was news to the Civil Aviation Branch of the Ministry of Transport. A Civil Aviation file note dated the 11th of December 1947 said, Arising out of an enquiry from Auckland regarding, the maintenance of an Oxford aircraft belonging to the above named it is understood that Mr. Gould is operating a freight service carrying fruit out of Auckland, and although no details of the service are known, there has not been any air service licence issued in respect of this service and the details as known are reported to you for your information. 

On the 22nd of December 1947 an application was made for an Air Service Certificate was made by J M Gould Ltd to operate charter air freight services to and from all aerodromes licensed by the Minister of Defence to accommodate twin engine aircraft of 3,000lbs or over. The Nelson Aero Club was nominated in the application as the maintenance provider with pilots listed as Tom Empson and Harold Newton.  The Operations and Personnel Manager  was listed as J S Brown and ground staff  J M Strapp, H G Fairlie, W Hough, C Gilmore.

The two Airspeed Oxfords... ZK-APX with Gould Air Freight titles

...ZK-APY, Margaret, named after Jack Gould's wife.

Gould’s Air Freight, however, was tragically short-lived. On Christmas Eve 1947 Jack Gould was killed instantly when the Tiger Moth he was flying, ZK-APL, hit a power pole in Paraparaumu crashing from the pole to the roof of a house and sliding in flames to the ground beside the house. The Tiger Moth was destroyed while the fire which followed the crash gutted the front bedroom, bathroom, and washhouse. A portion of the roof was destroyed and the kitchen was also damaged.


On the 11th of March 1948 the J M Gould Ltd's advised the Air Secretary of the Air Department that in the circumstances the above Company does not wish to apply for the issue of an Aircraft Service Licence. Accordingly would you please cancel original application of 22nd December last. As the Company is endeavouring to sell their Oxford Aircraft ZK-APX and ZK-APY any assistance from your Department in this connection would be greatly appreciated. Is there any possibility of these two aircraft being hired to the New Zealand National Airways Corporation in the meantime? Sadly there was no interest in the two Oxfords and they were withdrawn from use. The registrations were finally cancelled on the 11th of September 1950.


  1. Thanks Steve, I enjoyed that immensely. A real man of the Air! - JPM

  2. In early 1948 New Zealand National Airways Corporation (NAC) decided to employ ground hostesses at its major destinations namely Auckland (Whenuapai), Wellington (Paraparaumu) and Christchurch (Harewood). Newly widowed Margaret Gould applied for a hostess job soon after Jack's death and she became the first NAC Ground Hostess and was based at Paraparaumu.

  3. That was a really good read. Its a shame the Oxfords weren't taken up by NAC, although i guess with the surplus of DC3's, Lodestars, and DH89's the need for any more smaller aircraft was probably not that high

  4. Also note in the background of one of the photos is a C47 used by the US Air Attache in New Zealand. It continued with the USAF in the Asia-Pacific until 1972 when it was handed over to the South Vietnamese Air Force.

  5. An excellent read indeed! 110 Oxfords...I'd love just the one!!