Guy Clapshaw: Tasman Echo Alpha

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Guy Clapshaw was a flyer during the halcyon days of aviation, or as he puts it: “when flying was dangerous and sex was safe".

His latest book Tasman Echo Alpha chronicles his days with TEAL, later Air New Zealand, from the mid 1960’s. The company had three aircraft, pilots were banned from fraternising with the hostesses and landing at night in Hong Kong was a buzz like no other.

“Sure it’s better, safer and faster now, but the excitement and the romance has gone,” Guy says from his 120-hectare farm at Pakiri. The airlines ban on fraternising with air-hostesses seems to have been a complete disaster. Guy delights in the fact that he not only broke the rule he married one!

Apparently the biggest cad in the airline was a Captain Bond. Bond thought he was James Bond and tried to bed all the hostesses, but they reckoned he lacked James Bond’s stamina and christened him ‘Oh Oh Six and Half!’ When Bond retired he omitted to tell his wife. For two years she would drop him off at the airport where one of his girlfriends picked him up and took him to Orewa for a few days of horizontal folk dancing. Inevitably he got caught out when Mrs Bond phoned the airline to enquire about his amended arrival time and was told he’d retired two years ago!”

Guy is still flying, although now aged ‘70 plus GST’ most recently piloting Jean Batten’s Percival Gull for the television movie Jean filmed at Kaipara Flats. He tells a yarn with more vigour than a man half his age and has an incredible memory and the wit to match. Fittingly his latest book sells more copies at the airport than anywhere else.

Guy’s love of aviation and story-telling began when a Messerschmitt 109 ‘belly-landed’ on the family farm during the Second World War.

“The German pilot joined us for tea, and stayed the night. Next day the local constable came over, arrested him and gave him a lift to the Police Station on the cross bar of his bicycle!”

Guy’s school friends believed his father led a squadron of aces in daring dog fights during the day, and ran night bombing runs over Germany at night. When the classmates were invited to a surprise birthday party Guy’s father was fawned over by the parents. It quickly became apparent that Guy hadn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. His father was a dairy farmer during the war years; a tough occupation that now occupies Guy.

“I’m sure cows have a set of wire cutters stashed away that they use to cut fences,” Guy says with a chuckle.

The Village Bookshop at Matakana has stocked Tasman Echo Alpha ahead of Father’s Day and it is a gripping insight into a bygone era. So after all these year’s what’s Guy’s favourite plane?

“Oh that would be like asking a man with eighteen wives, which is his favourite. You love them all, but they are all different…The Douglas DC-8, but don’t tell the others!”