Kiwi ready for take-off
Cliff Tait checks that everything in the cockpit of his Airtourer is ready before taking off towards the picturesque blue sky.
The only difference from 1969, when he became the first New Zealander to fly solo around the world, is that he is now sitting at his computer using flight simulation instead of an aeroplane.
The programme has an exact digital replica of Mr Tait’s yellow two-man plane, Miss Jacy.
Mr Tait left New Zealand on May 12, 1969 in Miss Jacy and headed around the world to set a record and ‘‘promote New Zealand’’. He put New Zealand aviation on the map and arrived home on August 1.
Next month he will be celebrating his 42nd anniversary of the trip.
‘‘The flight was a big challenge. Flying is a challenge any time but it is so worthwhile,’’ he said.
‘‘Miss Jacy still goes but she is currently being displayed at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland.’’
Mr Tait moved to Matamata three years ago with his wife Joyce and said a huge asset to this town was the Waharoa Airfield which he believed could have huge potential if used more often.
Mr Tait was born in Taranaki and moved to Auckland when he was 12-years-old. In 1947 he joined the air force as a radio mechanic and married Joyce on August 2, 1952.
The couple, along with their four children, later lived in Hamilton which was where Mr Tait learnt to fly.
‘‘Flying was very easy and interesting,’’ he said.
‘‘So I got my licence and then I wanted to fly around the world to promote New Zealand. I was the first amateur to do it.’’
However, that wasn’t the end of his record breaking streak.
In 1982, he flew from London to Auckland in 100 hours, which knocked 55 hours off the previous record.
‘‘ During my 100 hours flight, I only had about five hours sleep,’’ he laughed. ‘‘It wasn’t easy but I just kept flying.
‘‘ A lot of people said so many of these things were impossible to do but if people say it is impossible, I go ahead and do it.’’
He has written two books about his life as a pilot.
Flight of the Kiwi, which details his flight around the world and Water Under My Wings.
Out of his four children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren, one of them has followed in his footsteps and trained as a commercial pilot. Mr Tait and his wife Joyce, will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next year.