In its heyday, the World War II fighter jet could have flown from Christchurch to Mandeville in about 30 minutes.
With de Havilland DH100 Vampire NZ5765 decommissioned, it took over 10 hours to be transported to its new home at the Croydon Aviation Heritage Center yesterday.
Colin Smith, trustee of the Croydon Aviation Heritage Trust, said the organization was “grateful and delighted” that the Royal New Zealand Air Force donated the 1940s aircraft.
“We are very, very grateful because we have spent several years trying to acquire this type of aircraft.
“We explored the possibility of getting a vampire from Australia or the UK, but it was always at all costs.”
The Southland Aviation Center had a series of early de Havilland aircraft in its collection.
The vampire was unique, he said.
It was built during the shift from the traditional method of building airplanes from wood to building them from metal.
“It’s half wood and half metal.
“Historically, it’s important to us because our de Havilland collection consists of light, early aircraft, which were pretty much all made of wood and cloth.”
The Vampire was also the second jet aircraft to be used by the Royal Air Force, entering service in 1946.
The aircraft had flown in combat in the UK before being delivered to the RNZAF in 1956.
It was used as a training aircraft and then as a training aircraft for aircraft engineers, Mr Smith said.
More recently, it was on loan to the Warbirds and Wheels museum in Wanaka, before returning to the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Wigram last year.
Unlike some of the center’s other aircraft, the Vampire could not be flown because it lacked an engine and other components.
A restoration facility owned by Mr. Smith was working on aircraft purchased by the center, and an attempt would be made to complete the aircraft.
As a single-seater, however, it would never be one of the trust’s planes that took passengers for forays into the skies over Mandeville.