Pilot and farmer Hamish Armstrong took off from the small coastal town of Akitio in the Tararua district about 9.45am on July 21, 1935 and was never seen again.
One of the first owners of a private plane in New Zealand, he was considered an experienced pilot and was flying his silver and green de Havilland Gipsy Moth, which he had done many times before.
Armstrong was a beef and sheep farmer. His family had lived and worked the land at Akitio for years. He had bought the Moth in Britain where he learned to fly in 1929. Back in New Zealand he flew frequently and was known to transport farm supplies. It would have been efficient at a time when vehicles would have taken many hours.
Armstrong was headed for Hastings. It was a trip he had made many times before. But that day he had been advised to put the trip off as the weather wasn’t good.
Armstrong, however, had not told the Hastings aerodrome he was coming and it was not until dark that his mother raised the alarm.
Search parties were put up, both in planes and on foot.
Searchers in 20 planes took to the air over the next 15 days and trampers went over land from Woodville to Waikaremoana, looking through the Ruahines as well as the Kawekas and Urewas and along the coast - thousands of miles.
Ongaonga residents heard a plane pass overhead about 11am then shortly after a plane was heard over a timber mill near a river. But both times it was above the clouds and could not be seen.
A young man hunting near Ongaonga came forward to say he had seen a plane circling. He lost sight of it then heard an odd sound. Then silence.
On August 5, three trampers found the plane in the Ruahine Range near Wakarara. The plane was under snow and about 100 ft below a ridge.
One end of the propeller was bent and one wing badly crumpled.
And there was no sign of Armstrong.
His suitcase with his clothes - including a shirt with the brand name Triple X - and shoes in it was taken from the wreckage along with his glasses that he needed to see.
It appeared Armstrong managed to land the plane relatively intact and could have walked away.
At the inquest a flying officer from the RAF said the plane had been kept in good order, It was thought Armstrong had made a forced stall landing, likely without any fuel. On landing the plane had nose dived into the hillside.
It was noted that at the time there were no regulations requiring a pilot to carry any form of signalling, like a flare.
The plane was recovered and donated by the family to the Wairarapa and Ruahine aero club.
Of course there is no grave for Armstrong - but his name lives on with the Triplex Hut named after the shirt and Armstrong Saddle near where the plane was found.
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