RAF Tornado Pilot tackles Mountains In 172

A week after getting off the plane from London, New Zealand PPLs having arrived, I was flying three of my friends towards Queenstown in a Piper Cherokee.   Several timezones, a change in the weather but most notably, only a few flying hours separated me from my normal day job at the controls of a Tornado F3; the UK’s Air Defence Fighter.


With my experience, I had no problems getting to grips with the light aircraft for the benign flying on the way to Geordie Hill. The four pilots enjoyed themselves along with the rest of the group.

After a couple of days lost for weather, we arrived at Wanaka.   We parked our Cherokees and met up with Matt and Luke.   I climbed into Wax, a Cessna 172 and the others into the Cessna 206 and we departed for Dingle Burn, a sheep station North of Wanaka.

Some things in flying are a bit tricky and some are hard work.   Some are both and some require knowledge, experience and a cynical eye for the traps awaiting you.   Mountain strip flying is one of these, and for a pilot used to a mile-and-a-half of concrete to land on, ‘St Bathan International,’ Ryan’s Creek and Big Bay were quite an eye-opening experience. The hazards of localised turbulence, changing terrain and strong winds were all pointed out to us by Matt and Luke as they provided their invaluable guiding service around the beautiful scenery that surrounds Central Otago.

By the end of our trip with Flyinn, all four of our pilots had logged several hours in control of the three aircraft, but more importantly had learnt something new about light aircraft flying and also aviation in general.   The dangerous and challenging environment of New Zealand’s mountains was tamed by the experience passed on to us by our guides, allowing all of our group to enjoy a breathtaking and safe few days

Flight Lieutenant Nick de Candole
111 (Fighter) Squadron, Royal Air Force
Flyinn, November 2003


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