Malcolm Charles ‘Mad Mac’ McGregor, DFC and Bar

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 Born 4th March, 1896, in Manga-mako, near Hunterville, New Zealand; youngest of 3 children. 6ft 3in tall,' lean, with a prominent jaw and pale blue eyes'.

54 Squadron during WWI, flying Sopwith Pups. Forced landing on June 29th, 1917 when he 'suffered a fractured jaw, loss of his teeth, and severe lacerations to his face and head'. Returned to France in May 1918 with Bishop's 85 Squadron, flying SE5s, ending the War with 15 victories.

Returned to farming, then worked with various start-up airlines in New Zealand, amassing thousands of flights. Crashed in 1923 and fractured his jaw. From 1932, instructor to the Manawatu Aero Club (crashed in December and - would you believe it - broke his jaw again, amongst other things).

After the Race, became Service Manager of Union Airways and toured the US (meeting up with Roscoe Turner) and the UK looking for suitable aeroplanes.

Killed in an accident (striking an anemometer mast) whilst landing a Miles Falcon at Rongotai, Wellington on the 19th February, 1936, aged 39.

 

"Sqd. Ldr. Malcolm Charles McGregor, D.F.C. and bar, is a picturesque character frequently mentioned in War Birds. He commanded the Flight (in No. 85 Sqd.) in which both Elliott White Springs and the anonymous diarist served. The "Diary of an Unknown Aviator" is eloquent of exploits shared by " Bish and Mac," the former being Lt. Col. (then Major) W. A. Bishop, V.C. The laconic entry: "Bish and Mac got one each " becomes almost monotonous. But McGregor, who arrived in London (via Auckland, Sydney and Vancouver) on September 21, refuses to discuss these wartime encounters. Rapidly blinking a pair of bright blue eyes above a small brown moustache and pugnacious chin, he pleads lapse of memory : says he cannot even recall the name of the New Zealand town in which he was born ; but he knows the date—March 3, 1896.

Transferred from A.I.F. to R.F.C. early in 1916, and trained at Oxford, Netheravon and Upavon, McGregor served six months in France with No. 54 Sqd. (Sopwith Pups) before joining the redoubtable No. 85 (S.E.5A) on its formation at Hounslow uuder Major Bishop. He remained with the latter until demobbed in 1919. He then returned to New Zealand.

A member of the N.Z.A.F. since its formation in 1921, McGregor has also engaged in various civil activities. He was a partner in the now-delunct joyriding venture, Hamilton Airways. With a DH50 borrowed from the N.Z. Government, he operated a passenger service between Dunedin and Christchurch. With a Spartan he made a series of First Official Mail Flights throughout the Dominion. These and many other enterprises ended in 1932 with his appointment as chief instructor to the Manawatu Aero Club. He has flown 3,300 hr.

Major McGregor arrived in 1his country on the s.s. Aorangi on September 19, and was subsequently supplied with his machine at Reading.

 

A Loss to New Zealand

Flight regrets to record that Sqn.- Leader M. C. McGregor, the oldest competitor in the MacRobertson England- Australia race, in which he did so well, has died from injuries received in an air crash at Wellington airport. Frequently mentioned in War Birds (he commanded a flight of No. 85 Squadron), Squadron- Leader McGregor has been closely associated with civil and commercial flying in New Zealand in post-war years.

FEBRUARY 27, 1936

A "Falcon" for New Zealand

SQN. LDR. McGREGOR, who, since flying so well in the England-Australia race, has become a director of Union Airways of New Zealand, has recently placed an order for a Miles "Falcon" (" Gipsy " VI engine). This machine, which te identical with that entered by Viscountess Wakefield in the King's Cup, is* for use by the company. Incidentally, Standard Telephones and Cables are to install their ATR 4 radio sets in the- three D.H. 86s, ordered by this company and in the two D.H. 89s ordered by Cook Strait Airways, its associate. These five machines are to be delivered in October and the Palmerston-Dunedin and the Wellington- Blenheim-Nelson services should be in full swing before the end of the year.

AUGUST 29, 1935.

Malcolm Charles (Mac) McGregor, who was to achieve fame as a First World War air ace and later helped to establish civil aviation in New Zealand, was born on 4 March 1896 at Mangamako, near Hunterville. He was the youngest of three children of sheepfarmer Ewen McGregor and his wife, Matilda Chubbin. Little is known of his early life and education. Refused parental permission to enlist in the army during the First World War, he was allowed to train as a pilot instead. In March 1916 he entered Leo and Vivian Walsh's New Zealand Flying School at Mission Bay, Auckland, qualifying on 9 September.

In October 1916 McGregor sailed for England aboard the Willochra. After three months of advanced training with the Royal Flying Corps, he was posted as a fighter pilot to No 54 Squadron in France. On 29 June 1917, however, his operational flying was interrupted by injuries sustained in an emergency crash landing. After recovering in England, he served as a flying instructor. He found these duties frustrating, however, and in March 1918 he was reprimanded for allegedly performing stunts.

He returned to France in May that year, now with No 85 Squadron of the recently established Royal Air Force. Flying SE5a fighters throughout the final offensives of the war, McGregor was promoted to captain in June, and given command of his own flight. A recommendation for the Distinguished Flying Cross in August 1918 described him as 'a pilot of exceptional, even extraordinary skill' and 'a clever leader, full of resource and dash'. He was awarded the DFC and bar, and was credited with downing 10 enemy aircraft and an observation balloon. McGregor featured prominently in the celebrated American memoir War birds (1926).

The war over, McGregor returned to New Zealand in August 1919 aboard the Bremen. He worked initially on his parents' Waikato property, before purchasing a dairy farm at Taupiri. It proved difficult to sustain in the harsh economic conditions of the early 1920s, however, and he reluctantly disposed of it in 1925. He then managed his father's new farm at Rukuhia, near Hamilton. While there, McGregor married Isabel Dora Postgate, a law clerk, on 29 July 1925 at Frankton Junction; they were to have two sons and two daughters. The farm was sold in 1927 and he worked as a drover for the next two years.

Flying, however, remained McGregor's passion. He was a founding member of the New Zealand Air Force (Territorial) in 1923 and regularly attended its refresher courses over the following years. In September 1930 he was promoted to squadron leader and appointed commanding officer of No 2 (Bomber) Squadron. He was granted a commercial pilot's licence in April 1929, and formed Hamilton Airways with one de Havilland Gipsy Moth, which toured the country the following year; two other Moths were acquired later. Many New Zealanders gained their first experience of flying through a joyride with the company.

During the difficult years of the depression McGregor was involved in several false starts in the commercial sphere. In 1930 alone he was technical director of the short-lived National Airways (NZ), operated the 'Chocolate Plane' (a brown-painted Gipsy Moth) for Cadbury Fry Hudson Limited and, in partnership with F. Maurice Clarke, formed Air Travel. This company briefly operated a regular Christchurch--Dunedin service, but its survival, until mid 1932, was achieved chiefly through a combination of joyriding, carrying aloft well-known parachutists (such as Haakon Qviller and 'Scotty' Fraser) and undertaking experimental airmail flights.

In late 1932 McGregor secured regular employment as chief flying instructor to the Manawatu Aero Club. This was interrupted, however, by lengthy hospitalisation following a flying accident in December that year; he crashed during a competition in which pilots had to burst hydrogen balloons with their propellers. After his recovery he participated in the 1934 London--Melbourne centenary air race. With navigator H. C. Walker, McGregor flew a standard, single-engined Miles Hawk Major, named Manawatu , into a creditable fifth place and in the process broke two light-plane records.

Shortly afterwards McGregor became service manager with the newly formed Union Airways of New Zealand. He travelled to the United States and Britain in 1935 to investigate airline operations and equipment, and recommended that the company order de Havilland DH86 airliners. Union Airways commenced services from its Palmerston North base in January 1936, but McGregor was destined to enjoy little of its subsequent success.

On the afternoon of 19 February that year, while approaching Wellington's Rongotai aerodrome in wretched weather conditions, McGregor's Miles Falcon Major monoplane collided with the anemometer mast and crashed. He died of his injuries at Wellington Hospital two hours later. His sole passenger, C. W. F. (Bill) Hamilton (who later achieved international recognition for developing the jet boat), survived with minor abrasions.

Six feet three inches tall, of lean build, with fair hair and blue eyes, Mac McGregor was perhaps the best-known display pilot of his time; he also possessed an exceptional technical knowledge of aviation. His popularity was demonstrated by the extraordinary response to a national appeal launched immediately after his death, which raised over £5,000 to support his widow and their four young children.

MacRobertson—the Last Chapter

The news of the " better late than never " arrival at Darwin recently of R. Parer and G. Hemsworth in their Fairey " Fox," t i t e r various mechanical and other troubles, closes the last chapter of the Melbourne Race. Parer and Hemsworth are going on to Melbourne, and, it is said, the " Fox " will then be flown to New Guinea, for use by a mining company. A short time ago Philips and Powis (Aircraft), Ltd., of Reading, received a most entertaining account of the adventures of Sqn. Ldr. M. C. McGregor and H. C. ("Johnnie") Walker, who, with their Miles " Hawk Major," gained fifth place in the handicap, with an average speed of 105 m.p.n. Here are some extracts from their letter:—

"At the various aerodromes at which we arrived in daylight, we used to do what we later termed the ' Roscoe Turner stunt.' That was to put the nose down some distance away, and, quietly gathering speed, to end up over the aerodrome with the Pitot showing fifty the second time round. One of the officials at Allahabad said: 'Good heavens! What the h— is this you've got ? We thought the Comet was fast, but—!'

" I t was dark, again at Rangoon, and we found wireless mast? in the air everywhere at 2,000 feet, but no aerodrome After dodging these lights, and tearing around the skv for well over half an hour, both firmly of the opinion that we had done too much flying, we came in low down very cautiously from another direction. Some bright lad fired a very pistol, and we landed to find that we had struck one night in the year when the natives have a ' carnival of lights.' ' ie wireless masts were lanterns tied to balloons, and not Ruguv on a bigger scale !

" The trip to Alor Star was quite peaceful above the clouds, with us both trying to forget that machines with spats we warned not to land there. After re-fuelling, we managed with the help of numerous people to taxi to the end of the be They pointed out the best runway. It wasn't, and we end up in a mudhole at forty miles an hour. A number of the pulled us out, bent the spats straight, and this time, a taking the full 800 yards, we scrambled over a mudbank at the other end."

 

New Zealand's Air Services

IN the course of the past few months Flight has recorded piecemeal many ol the commercial aviation developments in .New Zealand. However, since service licences have now Ijeen issued it would be as well to detail the position as it appeared at the end of May. A few months ago Cook Strait Airways, Ltd., was registered with a capital of £50,000. A daily service was proposed connecting Nelson, Blenheim and Wellington—-a total distance of approximately 140 rnil«s. Capt, Bolt, the chk'i pilot of the company, is at present on a visit to America and this country, and is making an investigation of the types of machines likely to be suitable for the service. Union Airways of N.Z., Ltd., in which the Union Steamship Company is largely interested, was registered on May 1 with a nominal capital of ;£ 100,000, and is to start an air service between Palmerston North and Dunedin, in the southern portion of the South Island. The: distance from ix>int to point is a little less than 500 miles, and both Blenheim and Christchurch will also be served. Mr. N. S. Falla. the managing director of the U.S.S. Company and chairman of Union Airways, has also visiied England to purchase new machines which are to be entirely of British manufacture. Sqn. Ldr. M. C. McGregor has been appointed service manager •nd has already been to England. -.'

The projected and actual services in New Zealand.

Another company. Great Pacific Airways (N.Z.), Ltd., has 1M«II granted a licence to run a trunk service from Auckland to Dunedin, via New Plymouth, Wanganui, Palmerston North, Wellington. Blenheim, Christchurch and Tim.iru. The wdl at Wellington will be conditional on the provision of an emergency landing ground. Among the provisional directorate is Sir Charles Kingsiord Smith. Licences have also been granted to Air Travel (N.Z.), Ltd., for a West Coast service, and to East Coast Airways, Ltd.. for a ser%'iie linking Gisborne and Napier. The time is rapidly drawing near when New Zealand will need separate control and unified administration for civil aviation development. At present the Transport Co-ordination Board deals with applications for licences for air services, but it appears that this Board has no power to license machines, personnel or aerodromes. It can, in fact, only license air services, yet in spite of this the Board recently refused licences to certain concerns because they proposed using the Rongotai aerodrome at Wellington, although this is actually classed as suitable for all types of aeroplanes under

JULY 18, 1935.

'Flight'

 

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