Supporting a Landmark Flight
In April 2019, our sister company in the UK, HFS, completed the import of a light aircraft that had flown from the UK to New Zealand in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the RAF. The 17,000-mile expedition – led by RAF Wing Commander Christopher Pote – saw the Eurofox LSA Microlight aircraft stop at 27 different locations, 25 of which had significant RAF connections.
Following the plane’s arrival in New Zealand in December 2018, Wing Cmdr. Pote contacted us to arrange its shipment back to the UK. Our NZ operation, liaised with our UK team to oversee the aircraft’s safe delivery to a small airfield near Maidstone, Kent.
"This was an unusual shipment in that the cargo was returning to the UK via a different mode of transport to which it first left. However, it was good to know we played a small part in a project marking the centenary of the RAF."
The Right Shipping Solution
The aircraft’s folding wing system allowed it to be shipped in a 20ft container, but it needed to be loaded and unloaded at ground level to minimise any risk of damage. Both the collection and delivery sites were small airfields, neither of which had facilities to load and unload at normal container loading bay height. Specialised container-lift vehicles were therefore required to safely lift and lower the container.
Because container-lift drivers don’t carry bolt croppers, we had to ensure the aircraft’s owner had suitable equipment on hand when the container was eventually delivered to the unloading site in the UK. The vehicle also had a one-hour time limit for unloading; we gave the importer advance notice of this so they had an angle grinder to hand when the container arrived, saving them a potentially costly trip to the local DIY store.
As the plane was originally flown out to New Zealand, it would normally be exempt from customs duties and taxes on its return. In order to claim relief from customs charges we would need appropriate export evidence, but since the aircraft was effectively ‘shipped’ under its own steam, this was not easily available.
We sought advice from HMRC and obtained secondary export evidence in the form of the original purchase invoice for the aircraft in the UK and the pilot’s flight log from Wing Cmdr. Pote. The flight was also documented and recorded online via the GBNZ website, giving us sufficient evidence to present to HMRC.
Wing Cmdr. Pote had also brought back a grandfather clock, which he inherited from family in New Zealand. This was liable for duty charges and declared alongside the aircraft.
A Smooth Return to Sender
Due to port congestion at London Gateway, the vessel carrying the container was diverted to Tilbury. However, with the ports being less than ten miles apart, it didn’t affect onward delivery of the aircraft, which was made within five days of arrival in the UK.
“The team at HGL could not have been more helpful,” said Wing Cmdr. Pote. “As a first time shipper with an unusual consignment, the initial deluge of paperwork was a little overwhelming, but they guided me through the whole process and made the whole experience very smooth.”
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