Rags to Rivets: the Trevor Bland Story


All young people dream but few thrust forward and turn their dreams into reality. From the age of four Trevor Thomas Bland never thought of anything else but flying. He read all the books he could find on aviation and throughout his youthful years he never lost sight of his goal. One dream is big enough to accomplish but two in a lifetime is a grand achievement. Trevor had three distinct careers in aviation, from his early days in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) flying Vampires and then Venoms in Singapore in the late 1950s, to moving to the RAF and flying the joy of his life, the Hawker Hunter with the RAF’s Blue Diamonds aerobatic flight. He then re-joined the RNZAF and flew B(I)12 Canberras and then A-4K Skyhawks, finishing his air force career. He then flew civilian Douglas DC-8s followed by Boeing 747 ‘jumbos’ and it was during this time that he started one of New Zealand’s iconic aviation preservation societies, the New Zealand Warbirds Association.

Having spent nearly a quarter of a century flying a myriad of different aircraft, mainly jets, Trevor felt that many of the old aircraft that he and his contemporaries had learnt their skills in were also for the knackers yard, as many of the RNZAF’s fighter aircraft had been immediately after World War II. These thoughts came to him in the late 1970s, after many years flying commercial jets about the skies. He had felt quite differently in the early 1960s when he was training new pilots on Harvards.

If someone had said to me in 1963 that I’d buy a Harvard and be keen to fly it again I’d have said he was a bloody nut case. I couldn’t have cared less if I never saw another Harvard in my life; I’d spent nearly three thousand hours sitting in the back seat going through the same old drill with trainee pilots. It was much later that I had a desire to preserve the history of military aviation in New Zealand, which was to include all types of vintage aircraft.