Bob and I have not been to Oshkosh for quite sometime and decided the best way to go back was with Bonanzas to Oshkosh. That was definitely the right decision. Bob attended a formation flying clinic in Massachusetts, which is mandatory for safety.
We left from Connecticut and flew, after visiting my family in Chicago, to Rockford, Illinois to meet up with Elliott Schiffman, Wayne Collins and all the other pilots flying from Rockford to Oshkosh. The next morning after another briefing about safety and landing instructions, we boarded our Bonanzas, and flew in 23 elements of 3 in formation to Oshkosh. This was something I was apprehensive about at first, but as soon as they said “element 9 roll” the adrenalin and anticipation made this one of the most exciting and fun things we had ever done. It was awesome. Camping in tents under our plane wings with the other Bonanzas made this a more than memorable experience.
Bob and I are also sailors and knew we were going to New Zealand for the Americas Cup in 2003. We had been looking forward to this for three years, since the Cup was won again by New Zealand in 2000. However, since we only had two weeks there, we figured we would not be able to see as much of New Zealand as we would have liked, especially the South Island. We resigned ourselves to this fact and it was ok, because we were just happy to be going.
This is where going to Oshkosh in 2002 as part of the Bonanza formation group became twofold for us. One being the wonderful experience we had with the other bonanzas and spending time with wonderful people who have since become our friends (That is a story for another show!) The other was while Bob was checking out exciting engines, radios, etc, I found the booth entitled: “Flyinn New Zealand Adventure for Pilots”. That is as far as I got. There is where Bob and I met Matt and his wife Jo and this is where the second part of the story really begins.
New Zealand is the most beautiful place I have traveled. By car or bus it would take a long time to get from place to place and around the country. You would drive, then pull over at the “look out spots”, say “wow”, take some photos, get back in your vehicle, and travel some more. However, many of us fly so that we don’t have to do this. The New Zealand Adventure for Pilots allowed us to have our own plane and pilot guide for 9 days of vacation. The base of operations was at Geordie Hill Station (near Wanaka), in the south-central part of the South Island. Each morning we would get in our Cessna 206 and were able to fly around Mount Cook (not view it from a lookout), land on a beautiful beach, fly into Milford Sound, fly to Christchurch, Queenstown, Wanaka, Denedin, and through the mountain passes where you would see the fiords, waterfalls, glaciers and breathtaking scenery. Geordie Hill Station is where Matt and Jo and their two children live; a beautiful sheep farm where you can see the Southern Cross on a clear night. After flying, sightseeing and touring all day we would then go back to their home and share an evening of the best dinners that Jo would prepare, in the most wonderful atmosphere and have fun going over what we saw that day and what the plan was for the next day. (If my adjectives are in abundance, it is really hard to contain my enthusiasm for this experience.)
There were four of us in our group. Bob (pilot, we have an A36 Bonanza N777HG), me (wife, knowing enough to be dangerous), and our friends Pete and Ruth Connal (just along for the ride). We were not sure whether Pete and Ruth would be as receptive for this type of vacation. It turns out that they also thought it was the best way to see New Zealand and would do it again this way in a heartbeat.
The flying was truly spectacular, but the flying alone is not what makes New Zealand Adventure for Pilots so successful. It is the people, Matt, Jo, Heather, James, Kelvin, Janine and everyone involved with Geordie Hill Station.
So, if you go to Oshkosh and do not stop to see Matt in the Flyinn tours New Zealand Adventure for Pilots booth, you will risk missing out on an adventure of a lifetime. If you are not going to Oshkosh, his website is www.flyinn.co.nz.
Bob and I cannot wait for Oshkosh this year and the fun of flying in formation again and of course going back to the New Zealand Adventure for Pilots booth to see our now good friends, Matt and Jo.
Deep River, Connecticut