Auster_Place.jpg Auster Place sign. Mike Gooch. Word on the Street image collection.

This is another street named because of its proximity to the old New Plymouth airport and celebrates an aircraft manufacturing company known as Auster.

The company started life as Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Ltd at Thurmaston near Leicester in 1938. They a made a light observation aircraft designed by Taylorcraft in the USA.

Released as the Taylorcraft Auster, they made over 1600 of the wing-over monoplanes during World War Two for the UK and Canadian military. They were mainly used as OAP (Air Observation Post) aircraft.

Coming out of the war, the company became known as Auster in 1946 when the license with Taylorcraft expired and they continued to develop their trademark aircraft in both military and civil versions. They also shifted their whole operation to Rearsby aerodrome which had just been used for final assembly up until then. The RNZAF operated seven Austers from 1947 until 1969. The last purchased in 1956 for use in the trans-Antarctic expedition and stayed in service on the ice until 1959.

New Zealand had a soft spot for the Auster and it was used for passengers, freight, top dressing, tourist flights and aerial photography, amongst other things.  Their ability to take off from very short airstrips made them very popular, particularly in the South Island.

In 1960, Auster was bought out by the Pressed Steel Company and formed into the British Executive and General Aircraft Ltd. (BEAGLE) in 1961. This company was in turn bought out in 1966 and the rights to Auster sold to Hampshire and Sussex Aviation. The name Auster was finally dropped in 1968.

Nevertheless, many examples still fly from private airstrips and aero-clubs around New Zealand today, a testament to a popular and reliable workhorse of New Zealand aviation.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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