Passenger Perspective

This isn’t just a great experience for pilots. There is so much for a non-pilot to enjoy as well.

As a non-pilot Flyinn™ guest you get to see so much more of New Zealand.

New Zealand is a small country with majestic scenery and a diverse range of geographical features making it a great country to see from the air. Visibility is often up to 70 km and paradoxical to the sensation of wide open spaces, there are airstrips at numerous towns, cities, farms, isolated cafes and beaches all along the way. Flying distances are short allowing adequate touring time at each destination.

From the moment we took off from Queenstown I felt part of everything, it was going to be my holiday too!  This was a surprise as I had low expectations,  I was a bit anxious, having rarely flown in a small plane before.  I forgot my nerves, and was awed by the scenery and within minutes was absorbed with taking as many photos as possible and writing a log which I kept going for the whole holiday – I’m so glad I did because we’ve now got an accurate recollection of what we did each day….. 

On that first day, we had coffee and scones in Geordie Hill’s amazing kitchen, then we were off to get up close and personal with Mount Cook, to have lunch there and meet some of the mountain rescue team who reminded us theirs can be a treacherous job, and by the evening we were enjoying a barbeque on Ruby Island, Lake Wanaka, having had a quick spin in Matt and Jo’s boat. I still can hardly believe we packed so much into one day.  But it didn’t feel rushed.

Part of Matt and Jo’s magic formula is that there’ll usually be two guest couples so I had another passenger to share my experiences with, which I really appreciated.  I loved seeing Eryl (my husband) so happy – he’d secretly dreamed about this trip for years and was in his element.  Listening to him and Matt or Nick or Kylie talking about the flight I began to appreciate why he loves flying so much.  And as a geographer he was also great at explaining what we were seeing, and making sense of the spectacular scenery.  There’s an immediacy about the job in hand that requires attention and concentration that paradoxically is relaxing because you can’t think about anything else so that was good too.  I realised how much I trusted Eryl as I sat in the back even when the mountains seemed too close, or the visibility too low.  A deep thought, which was actually a timely metaphor for our married life!

What I enjoyed too was that we not only flew over and among the most unimaginably beautiful places, but we also did a lot every day.  Landing on the beach at Big Bay stands out as a particular highlight, but that day we also went to Milford Sound and to Manapouri. The guide pilots knew everyone wherever we went and so we felt we got to know something about everyday life, rather than being tourists.

Jo and Matt really welcomed us into their home and their lives.  Reading other people’s comments it’s clear they have a happy knack of being able to make everyone’s time with them very special.  There are little touches everywhere, from the welcoming flowers in the cottage, to the sense of celebration every evening over a glass of wine and amazing food.  We exchanged lots of stories, and I joked that a day didn’t go by without a drama of some sort, but that’s all part of life on the farm and being dependent on the weather, and it meant that we were immersed too.

The combination of farm and flying is natural to Jo and Matt, but to us urbanites travelling to and from London most days, it was inspiring and months on continues to provide us with plenty to talk – and dream about.

In addition to being a pilot, my husband is a photographer and a botanist.  I enjoy hiking, waking and reading.  Our Fly-Inn adventure gave us an opportunity to enjoy all of our favorite things.  If you’re thinking of taking a Fly-Inn vacation, I thought you might like to know WIIFM (what’s in it for me).  Late night talk show host David Letterman typically has ten reasons for doing things.  It’s obvious that for the pilot, there are a variety of reasons that Fly-Inn is the perfect vacation. 

  • 20 hours of flying in another country
  • Highly experienced safety pilots who handle the radio in a language that often doesn’t sound like English
  • Safety pilots also have vast knowledge of the local terrain with an ability to point out every mountain, fjord, glacier and valley
  • The opportunity to land on grass strips, beaches and paved runways in amazing places

For the spouse/significant other/flying partner, there are additional reasons that you should schedule a Fly-Inn adventure.  (I thought about calling us s2ofp but FP (for flying partner) was a lot easier.

  1. 14 days in some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.  The mountains are high, the fjords crystal clear, and the spaces vast.
  2. 14 days of not having to cook a meal or help prepare the gourmet meals you’ll eat – unless you want to.  You’re free to sit on a stool in the kitchen at dinner time and watch Jo work her magic, enjoy a glass of great New Zealand wine and kibitz.  You can pick up cooking tips if that’s your thing and even help – but that’s not a requirement.
  3. Speaking of wine – New Zealand has wonderful whites and reds and they are in plentiful supply around Geordie Station.
  4. The local cuisine is remarkable.  There were lots of vegetarian choices for me but also delicious lamb and beef which were cooked to perfection.  Just when you think you can’t eat any more, Jo appears with a sumptuous dessert that you simply can’t pass up.
  5. Geordie Station is a working sheep and cattle ranch and guests are welcome to observe, take photographs and watch those amazing dogs work.
  6. Every day as you take your flying adventure, there are stops for “tea”, museums and shopping that will entice anyone.  We learned about the Merino wool which is the Geordie Station main product, the BAA code on each garment to find out where the wool was raised, and how to identify the best quality for these remarkable soft, comfortable and versatile clothes.
  7. The stars at night may be big and bright in Texas but the skies at Geordie Station are unencumbered by any nearby city, town or neighboring station.  The Milky Way is vast and the Southern Cross is easy to find.
  8. Another Geordie Station specialty is the quiet.  Not interested in seeing the dogs work the sheep or taking a relaxing walk, then sit on your porch with a good book until it’s time for dinner.  Enjoy that second cup of coffee or tea in the morning before you head to the air strip for your briefing and flight for the day.
  9. Can’t disconnect from work and family for 10 days?  Never fear, Geordie Station and the overnight hotels during the trip have reliable Wi-Fi.  Want to disconnect?  Remind the family and co-workers that there is no cell service!!
  10. Be ready to start planning your next adventure because you’ll want to come back.  It’s the best vacation you’ll ever take.  You friends may be talking about their safaris in Africa or walking the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain, but no one else will have flown up close to Mount Cook, landed at Doubtful Sound, landed on the beach at Back Bay, fished for white cod off Stewart Island and then had it for dinner, hiked in the Abel Tasman National Forest west of Nelson, and been nourished by Jo’s gourmet cooking.

The itinerary and other information provided to us by Jo and Matt was very helpful to our trip preparations, including how to plan the rest of our New Zealand trip and what to pack.

Matt and Jo could not have been more accomodating hosts, from the first, when we met at their home for a “smoko” to the last night for an amazing dinner at their home, cooked by Jo.

Our apartment was very comfortable and Jo took pains to buy a bag of groceries including snacks, wines, beers, fruit and breakfast foods, so we never has to go to the grocery store to replenish.

Our pilots, Nick and Sue were also great companions and Tom was thrilled to learn mountain flying under Nick’s guidance. While I am not a pilot, I thoroughly enjoyed riding in the very comfortable back and viewing the most spectacular scenery ever, certainly more beautiful than viewing from the ground.

I highly recommend adding a land itinerary as we did. We started with Auckland and ended with the Flyinn tour, which I think was the right way to do it, the New Zealand landscape was more and more spectacular as we travelled south.

I highly recommend this trip to couples, even if one is not a pilot. To share together in this fantastic experience, as words alone cannot truly describe the thrill and beauty of mountain flying in southern New Zealand. I’m glad I got to share this incredible experience with my husband.

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