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The last Super Beaver

written by WOFA | October 14, 2009

WOZ Loading-10001October 6 witnessed the passing of an era with the undertaking of the last spreading of superphosphate by a DHC-2 Beaver in Australia, writes Lenn Bayliss.

For some years the only Beaver that has carried out superphosphate spreading in Australia has been the Beaver VH-WOZ of Walcha Aerial Service. Owned by Barry Christie of Walcha, New South Wales, VH-WOZ operated from the birthplace of aerial superphosphate in Australia. It was here in 1950 that Tom Watson of Aerial Agriculture organised the first aerial spreading of superphosphate, carried out by a Tiger Moth VH-PCB. To this day Tiger Moth VH-PCB can be seen at the Walcha Historical Society Museum, a kind donation by Tom Watson and Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd.

The advent of aerial spreading of superphosphate lead to significant increases in the number of sheep that could be carried per acre in the New England Tableland and increased wool yields. The disadvantage for the Tiger Moth was that it was operating at a comparatively high density altitude which limited its carrying capacity and performance.

Tom Watson identified the DHC-2 Beaver as the answer to the shortcomings of the Tiger Moth and eventually would be responsible for importing 69 Beavers into Australia, the second highest operator of Beavers in the World after the United States armed forces.

In October 1957 the first ‘Super’ Beaver, VH-AAI owned by Aerial Agriculture, demonstrated its capacity at the Walcha Field Day. A mechanical loader capable of picking up one tonne discharged the superphosphate into the hopper of the aircraft and the aircraft delivered 12 tonnes in one hour and 10 minutes. The era of the Beaver had arrived!

In New Zealand the Kiwis had stolen the march. Importing Beaver number 156 (1951 build) off the production line, ZK-AZB would become the first Fieldair Beaver (and the fourth New Zealand Beaver) to spread superphosphate in New Zealand.  AZB’s first operational job was performed off Gisborne Aerodrome by Gerry Oman in March 1952. By chance and fate this Beaver would become the last to conduct aerial spreading in Australia.

Owned by Hallett Griffin of Griffin Ag-Air Ltd at Palmerston North, the historic AZB would be sold to Barry Christie of Walcha in 1998 and re-registered as VH-WOZ. Operated by Barry as Walcha Aerial Services, the aircraft had by 2009 become the sole operating Beaver in Australia with a hopper for the spreading of superphosphate.


By 2009 Barry had found increased efficiency in operations by flying a PAC Cresco capable of delivering 1.8 to 1.9 tonne per load, almost halving the time to complete a task by comparison with the Beaver.

After 52 years of super spreading operations in Australia, the last of the Super Beavers has been sold back to New Zealand. By no small chance it has been re-purchased by Hallett Griffin who will re-register it as ZK-AZB and operate it as a tribute to all the men and women of the New Zealand aerial ag industry. AZB will be repainted in its 1960s blue Fieldair colours and will grace the air show and re-union circuit.  She is already booked to appear at the 60th anniversary reunion of Fieldair, scheduled for Gisborne NZ, on October 23-25 2010.

On Tuesday October 6, Barry Christie and Hallett Griffin met at Armidale, New South Wales. In Beaver VH-WOZ and Cresco VH-UFI they flew to Ian Lupton’s Clifton property near Guyra and in the New England birthplace region of aerial supering, where VH-WOZ delivered its last 20 tonnes of superphosphate.


  • K.McCarty


    To the past owner of VH-WOS, a thank you for keeping it intact, and to the new owner, please keep it in one piece and in NZ.
    Regards Tigermothpilot

  • G J Lupton


    Superphosphate was spread at Maida Vale using Tiger moth in the early 50s where Ian Lupton and family farmed. The Lupton family had come from NZ to introduce New Zealand farming methods in the New England tablelands. The Tiger Moth plane was flown by a German pilot who was an iron cross winner in world war two.
    This was probably the very first use of aircraft in this district to spread fertiliser.
    It is fitting that this present aeroplane and a family involved in the very early topdressing was the same family sixty years latter for this plane to spread its last load.
    In those days calcium phospate, Gypsum was used on the Ebor country.
    Congratulations to Hallett Griffin for keeping part of our Australasian farming history alive.

  • G J Lupton


    Sorry Calcium Sulphate.Hilliers were the carriers from Dorrigo.

  • Brett Solvander


    Hi there
    What an interesting read. I write because my mother, June Morley of Gisborne New Zealand is the cousin of Gerry Oman – Gerry was killed at Armadale NSW flying a Beaver – mum’s mother was an Oman, hence the link.
    As a kid growing up on farms on the East Coast of the North Island, I remember Gerry although I never got to fly with him. As a kid, I’ve scrounged many an hour in Beaver’s flying off strips in Hawkes Bay where Dad farmed and have photos of these beautiful aeroplanes. The sound of a Pratt and Whitney Radial eight cylinder still turns my head. Mum has a collection of photos of Gerry flying Tiger Moths on the Coast before he moved onto Beavers. I agree that Hallett is a cool guy – I best remember him with a bunch of Ag pilots buzzing the New Zealand Parliament in protest. This is a bit of an unstructured rant but my sincere thanks to people like those correspondents above who add to the colour of a glorious past in agricultural topdressing, here in NZ and in Australia.

  • Carole West


    While in Walcha recently, I observed large military style aicraft taking off and landing at Walcha airstrip. I’m curious as to what they were and why they were there. Any thoughts?

  • Peter Brown


    For a complete days topdressing in WOZ, visit my YouTube site where you’ll find a 5 part video of Barry & WOZ topdressing at Legume, NSW (just over the QLD from Killarney, QLD) in May, 2005. Also video made in 1961 entitles Aircraft in Agriculture. Film made for the Australian Ag Aircraft Operators Assn, of which my father, Basil Brown was its 1st President (1958). At that time our family business, Airfarm Associates (based in Tamworh, NSW) was then the largest operator in Australia & was a pioneer in Australian Aerial Agriculture. Dad was a “Kiwi”import, sadly he died in 1975, so he & the business are no more. However, his pioneering legacy remains.
    Log into YouTube & search under “Beaver”or “WOZ”if interested.

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