Kiwi ready for take-off

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By LAURA MCLEAY

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.