After attending the Mandeville Fly-In for many years in a hired aeroplane, Craig Dowden says it is satisfying to be able to fly his own aircraft in.

The Waikoikoi farmer has been restoring a Cropmaster aeroplane for the past 10 years with the help of Phoenix Aviation staff at the Gore airfield.

The plane was in a ‘‘derelict state’’ when he bought it in 2012, he said.

‘‘It hadn’t been flown for 52 years so it was basically parts.’’

Originally the aircraft was an Australian World War 2 training plane but was modified to become a topdressing plane.

Southern Aviation owned four of the Cropmasters at different times and his father Bill, a former topdressing pilot, worked for the company and had flown the aircraft.

‘‘He was probably the last person to fly it in 1971.

‘‘That was the attraction to me,’’ Mr Dowden said.

When more advanced aeroplanes were built the plane was retired.

Work of love . . . Waikoikoi farmer Craig Dowden (left) has spent the past 10 years restoring this Cropmaster topdressing aeroplane that his father Bill, a pilot, flew until about 1971. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

This was one of two Cropmasters left flying in the world.

Where the fertiliser hopper had been there was now a seat for his wife Joanne.

He initially budgeted about $10,000 a year for 10 years to complete the work.

‘‘My justification for that is I don’t smoke and I don’t drink and I don’t gamble, so those three things would easily come to $10,000 a year.’’

However, it had cost more than that.

The restoration had recently been completed and he took the plane for a test flight about a week ago.

‘‘It was exciting.’’

His father Bill said he was proud of the work his son had done on the plane.

‘‘I never ever thought he would ever finish it, the state it was in when he acquired it.’’

The plane was now in better condition than when he flew it in the ’70s.

Lots to look at . . . Admiring an Alpi Aviation Pioneer 300 on display at the Mandeville Fly-In on Saturday are (from left) Leah Smith (14), of Waikaka, and siblings Zac (7) and Shae MacIntosh (5), of Gore. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

About 30 aeroplanes flew in to the annual event at the Mandeville airfield which was also attended by the Southland Steam Engine Club.

People could also ride in a carriage pulled by the Waimea Plains Railway Trust’s Rogers K92 locomotive.

Fly-In organiser Maeva Smith said about 500 people enjoyed the ‘‘fabulous’’ sunny Saturday of the fly-in.

‘‘We probably had a good a day as we ever have had so we were really happy.’’

Sunday’s attendance was lower but still good, she said.