Daredevil’s flight of fancy

A Walrus amphibian biplane. Photo: Supplied.

Pilot, entrepreneur and risk taker, Jack Gould flew across the Cook Strait in an amphibious plane. Here, Marlborough Weekly reader and amateur historian Nigel Perry recounts some of Jack’s daring adventures.

John (Jack) Mervyn Gould was born near Wakefield in late 1927.

History has it that Jack was constantly getting up to mischief. Jack was obsessed with making money and was always on the look out for the next big thing.

Near the end of the Second World War, Jack changed his birth name from Goul to Gould. He told people he had been a fighter pilot in the Pacific and although he had been in the air force, he was ground based.

Jack was instrumental in setting up the Paraparaumu Flying School, with himself as the first pupil. He purchased a Tiger Moth and proudly painted it orange before embarking on a programme of buying surplus war aircraft, including more than a 100 Airspeed Oxfords, several Tiger Moths and two Walrus amphibian biplanes stored at Woodbourne.

The Oxfords cost him ten pounds ($20) each and he sold them on for 32 pounds and ten shillings ($65) each. Jack then talked air force bosses into restoring two of the Oxfords and painting them in the chosen livery colours of Gould Air Service, orange. He intended to use the two Oxfords for freight work and the Walrus amphibians for port work.

As sales of the Oxfords got underway, Jack became a familiar sight in and around Blenheim in his orange painted Ford Mercury car. He would also often visit in his Tiger Moth, loading it for the return flight with items for resale. He would sometimes arrive at Paraparaumu with less than he’d stashed in the rear cockpit as turbulence cost him some of his cargo.

To get Gould Air Services up and running, he needed to get his Walrus aircrafts to Paraparaumu. Both had stood in the open at Woodbourne since decommission in 1945. On 11 June 1947, Jack flew the unregistered plane across Cook Strait and landed on the beach. According to notes in the press at the time he was allegedly warned by the station commanding officer that the plane was not even to be taxied on the aerodrome, let alone flown.

But undaunted, Jack climbed into the cockpit, opened the throttle and sent the ponderous Walrus roaring across the runway for a good cross wind take-off.

To astonished witnesses, he appeared to have the aircraft fully under control. He landed at Paraparaumu Beach an hour later to be given a 20 pound ($40) and a stern rebuke from air department staff. He was warned not to fly the Walrus planes again until they were air worthy and registered for civilian use.

But later, again ignoring officials, he taxied from the Wairau Bar in July 1947, taking his wife on a seven-hour trip which she later recalled as being as much under the water as above it. The two Walrus aircraft never flew again.

Gould Air Services never amounted to very much. The final straw came when he offered a group of eight men a cheap flight to Christchurch from Wellington. Sitting on bench seats and made to link arms on take off and landing, the men faced an expensive return trip, forcing them to make their own way home after Jack was grounded.

His candle burned brightly but briefly: on 24 December 1947 he gave one of his friends a Christmas Eve surprise and went roaring over the house at low level before he struck a power pole and was killed after his plane burst into flames.

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