Nelson Residents Association


TC - Voices Aeroplane

(Published in Nelson Mail Voices Column – Saturday 17 May 2014)


This is a story about a fictitious aeroplane that by pure

coincidence happens to be called “Trafalgar.”


There was a town on an island that for 40 years had faithfully relied on an aircraft to carry people back and forth.

After a couple of seriously bad storms, the Government decreed that all aircraft throughout the country must undergo an additional safety check, so the Airlines’ Board Of Directors asked their Companies’ Chief Engineer to undertake this task.

After some months he came back and said that the aircrafts engines were only 500 horsepower, (only half the power required) and if it encountered a storm with a full load of passengers it could fall out of the sky, and people would most likely be killed.

Although the Board had faith in its Engineer, it engaged other Engineers to check out his findings. When their reports came back detailing the same undersized engine problems, in the interest of passenger safety the Board in good faith, immediately grounded the aircraft.

However a small group of Resident Shareholders thought “THIS IS CRAZY!” and started to look into it all.

This plane had flown with full loads in all sorts of conditions without incident for 40 years. It was designed by reputable Engineers, constructed by Certified

Tradesmen and had been inspected during its assembly to ensure it complied with all the plans to meet stringent airworthiness standards, and anyone with any practical sense at all, would know that its engines would need to be the full 1000 horsepower to make it fly!

It had always had its Annual Air Worthiness Inspections done without problems, showed no signs of metal fatigue or air frame cracking, and had been upgraded as and when required.

But the Airline Company Engineer didn’t read the aircraft plans or specification manuals, and wouldn’t even talk to the Designer, Certifier or Pilots.

He just became more arrogantly entrenched in his stand that the engines were only half the horsepower required, and that the plane was unsafe to fly as a result.

This was also confirmed by the other Engineers he engaged to check his findings. They advised that it would cost up to $27 million dollars to fit new 1000 horsepower engines to make it safe and able to fly again.

Then the Chairwoman of the Board of the Airline Company wisely insisted that he again check the engine horsepower. This really was quite easy to do.- He unclipped the engine cowlings and read the engine specification plate.

Surprise, surprise…the engines were in fact 1000 horsepower as per the design specifications.


In order to save face, the Board Of Directors were faced with the dilemma of how to handle such a serious error of judgement they had acted upon by grounding the plane, so the Engineer was asked to go and find anything else that may have been wrong with the aircraft, to justify the Board’s decision to ground it.

He came up with the idea that one of its emergency exit doors were suspect, and this could be a ”major” to fix, and that this alone was reason enough to ground the aircraft.

Then the Board was addressed by a highly qualified American Aircraft Engineer from Christchurch, who had had a lot of overseas experience with such aircraft. He called the suggested spending of $27 million dollars to be “scary and silly” and he advised the Board to “bring in different Engineers to sort it all out”.

But the sneaky Aircraft Engineers had not finished yet. They suggested that because the plane was parked at night on the tarmac near the sea, it was likely that the undercarriage would be corroded and weakened by the salt atmosphere. So they stripped away all the covers and chipped away some metal near two of the wheels looking for any weakness.

But alas, it was all in pristine condition!

They were also going to send engine oil samples away for analysis to prove the engines were worn out, but the official results of this is unknown at this stage.

Lets also not forget the existing airline passengers, who are meanwhile having to use a less than ideal, converted cargo plane (named “Saxton”), that has had to have seats ex “Trafalgar”, and extra Emergency Exits fitted, at a cost to Shareholders of over $600,000 dollars.

While it would still be a “nice-to-have” addition to the fleet, the Shareholders just cannot afford to replace the perfectly good existing aircraft named “Trafalgar” with a larger Dreamliner that a group of arts people have been proposing for the last 14 years. They also have a name for their new $40 million dollar aircraft - they would call it “Millennium”.


So the above parallel scenario is exactly where we are at present with the Trafalgar Centre.





Stuart Walker is one of a group of concerned citizens campaigning to the get the Trafalgar Centre re-opened while a new Earthquake Assessment takes place.

7th May 2014

Stuart Walker- 36 Enner Glynn Road – Stoke - phone: 547-6305