Famous Freemasons - Max Clear (1940-2011)
Max Clear - Aviator and Microlight constructor
Food For Thought
Freemason Max Clear was a member of the Hillcrest Lodge No. 363 in Hamilton.
Max Clear was an inspiration to people in the field of New Zealand aviation industry. He was passionate about flying. Max fell in love with flying when as a child he saw a crop duster, who, when he waved, wiggled his wings at him. From that moment he was hooked.
He was, and will remain, a hero to hundreds of thousands of people, young and old alike, in every far-flung corner of the world. He inspired generations of young Irishmen to take up motorcycle road racing, and can almost single-handedly take the credit for the strength of the road racing scene today.
But Joey wouldn’t dream of it. In fact he would be embarrassed beyond belief at the very mention of such a notion. The man was modest almost to the point of self-denial. He never wanted the limelight, the fame or the attention. Joey was a reluctant hero. He just wanted to race bikes and to win."
Max was a farmer born and bred, one of four children His father and mother, Eric and Huia Clear, lived in Te Kowhai, an area north of Hamilton. Max was the fifth generation of the family in the district. He attended Te Kowhai Primary School the Hamilton Technical High School. He was good at rugby playing for both, and was also an athlete, a cyclist and a keen kayaker. The primary school honoured him with a rugby cup in his name. A keen community man he also became a member of the Parent Teacher association. Whilst at school he was encouraged by a teacher to develop his passion and was given the plan to make his own plane. Max didn’t get a chance to build this plane.
After leaving school his first job was on the family dairy farm, where he excelled in the workshop. He was a natural. Although most workshop time was spent building equipment for the farm, he first diversified first by building boats. However, this was just to lead him on to more aerial projects. He learned to fly Tiger Moths and Piper Cubs while still a teenager,
In 1961 he married Kathleen Sullivan, and they had five children, and at the time in of his death in 2011 there were 14 grandchildren.
It was in his 20s that he built a French-designed open cockpit monoplane, a Turbulent no. ZK-CWI which he completed in 1968 in a farm garage. He is reputed to have flown it under the Horotiu Bridge.
Some years later he built a Pitts Special Bi Plane, ZK-EES. The Pitts is renowned as being one of the world's best stunt planes. It took him six years to build, and it is still flying in New Zealand today. In this plane he became a very accomplished pilot, wining many trophies and awards at shows in the 1980’s, including ‘Cutting a ribbon’ an incredible 7 times. He appears to have flown it in similar manner locally with many reports of heart-in-mouth stunts.
Nobody "potted" Max Clear, even when his light aircraft skimmed over a car minding its own business on a Te Kowhai road, touched down, then powered up and away again. Another time, a tractor was buzzed when turning hay in a field. The car driver and the tractor operator both knew it was Max up to his tricks - he was known for his sense of fun and his flying skill.
He became a legend for much more than just being an exceptional pilot, for Max gave birth to New Zealand's microlight industry, designing, building and marketing the famous Bantam aircraft. It was around 1983, that Max decided to set a new course in his life. He made his hobby his career. He was an ardent fan of open cockpit flying and saw the need for a fun, stable, affordable aircraft, which could be mostly maintained by the owner. He had been to the USA to buy an aircraft to fly, but could not find anything to suit his needs. He returned home and formed a group of ten like minded Kiwi's to build a completely new aircraft which turned out to be the single seat Bantam, numbered B 10 ZK-FGI, and which first flew in 1983. It was called B10 as the group only intend to build ten and then enjoy flying them.
Max Clear with one of his Bantam Microlights flying in South Africa
The plane became incredibly popular with the initial ten owners, and their friends, that more had to be made and so he founded Micro Aviation. The dairy herd was sold and much of the farm leased. They went on to develop the two seater Bantam B 20 which had pull-on sailcloth wings, conventional 3 axis controls, and some structural improvements. In 1986 production switched to the B22, which had a Rotax 582 engine. Although the B-22 name has been retained, further large redesigns have seen a new wing with Clark Y section aerofoil, wider chord and shorter span adopted, and additional bracing added to the tail.
In October 2007 the first flight of the B22UL model took place. This version is powered by a ULPower UL260i. This engine features a FADEC system and produces 71 kW (95hp). The first Bantam to fly with this new powerplant was airframe number 300.
Current production models are the B22S with the new wing and the B22J (with an Australian Jabiru 85 hp 4-stroke engine). Variants have been made with amphibious float undercarriage, crop-spraying equipment, for coastal and game park patrol and with controls adapted for use by paraplegic pilots. As with many New Zealand aircraft, the Bantam is effectively a STOL type (stated ground roll is 30 metres), although the short undercarriage travel limits rough field capabilities.
A Bantam taking off at Te Kowhai, A bantam float plane, and an army spotter in South Africa
Variants have been made with amphibious float undercarriage, crop-spraying equipment, for coastal and game park patrol and with controls adapted for use by paraplegic pilots. As with many New Zealand aircraft, the Bantam is effectively a STOL type (stated ground roll is 30 metres), although the short undercarriage travel limits rough field capabilities. They can be found throughout the world, but are most common in Australasia and Africa.
Micro Aviation is now New Zealand's most prolific aircraft manufacturer, and the most successful microlight aircraft manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere. Production in 2009 was one Bantam made every 2 weeks.
The Bantam is winning many awards and accolades along the way. Almost half the production is exported to seven countries. Bantams are used for shark patrols over Sydney beaches, and a fleet has cleaned out game poachers in South Africa's Kruger National Park. Elsewhere, they have been used for crowd control and police surveillance work. There is even a version for disabled people.
“The idea of making the Bantam aircraft accessible for disabled people was born in New Zealand when Tiffany Perry of Hamilton New Zealand wanted to fly. She broke her spinal cord in a skiing accident leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. It was her dream to fly and the inventor of the Bantam Max Clear from New Zealand made her dream come true by inventing the adapted controls so that the aircraft could be flown by using hands only.”
Over the years the reputation of the Bantam of being a safe, easy to fly aircraft has spread and now as New Zealand’s largest aircraft maker. It has justified Max's description
Max described them as "a delightful little plane to fly. They've got no vices". He said their ability to fly low and slow added special appeal.
Max Clear was one of the first New Zealanders to attend the big United States aviation show OshKosh and was held in high regard by the founders of the US Experimental Aircraft Association, who had visited his Te Kowhai operation.
The aviation industry presented him with a lifetime achievement award, commenting that it was "after terrorising the locals for many years with the Pitt Special" that Mr Clear saw the opportunity for microlights.
In 1967 Max established the Te Kowhai airfield near Hamilton and he steadily added to the airfield over the years. The 34.8 hectare property hosted New Zealand's first aviation trade show shortly before Max died in 2011. Mr Clear had been ill for some time but he was determined to see the realisation of Flair, his dream for an aviation showcase event in the Waikato.
For 28 years on his Limmer Rd farm, his company, Micro Aviation NZ, had been designing, building and exporting sophisticated microlight aircraft, with 354 manufactured at the time of his death.
He was always generous with his time, aviation knowledge and airfield and in an interview told the press "If you can't share what you have in life, you're not worth anything".
A quote from the local press is apt -
“Max's flying and plane-building days ended on November 12. Cancer stole him at the age of 71. Determined to live large till the last, he didn't talk about the illness. He was significantly involved in Hamilton's aviation trade showcase, Flair, hosted at his Te Kowhai airfield in October. Early this month, he was an honoured guest at the relaunch of the Kingston Flyer service at Lake Wakatipu.
His link with the Flyer dates back 27 years. He had attended an airshow with his fully aerobatic homebuilt Pitts Special, and noticed the Kingston Flyer below. "I went right down and rolled over, out and around - and the train stopped! They all got out and started taking photographs, and I let loose - I couldn't help myself." Headlines in South Island newspapers proclaimed, 'Flyer stops Flyer'.”
VIDEOS OF BANTAMS FLYING
WATCH crop sprayer
WATCH several flying at Te Kowhai airfield at FLAIR
WATCH an 8 Minute Circuit & Bump in the UK - with instrument readings
A Bantam coming in to land, A line up of Bantams at an airshow in South Africa