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Where else in the world are you able to dress up in a leather flying jacket, put on a classic flying helmet, pull down your flying goggles, adjust your white flying scarf and head off on an adventurous flight in an open-cockpit biplane over spectacular glaciers and 10,000 foot high mountains? This unique activity is only available from Pukaki Airport near New Zealand’s highest mountain – Aoraki/Mt Cook.
When Chris Rudge set up Aviation Adventures and Red Cat Biplane Flights in the Mackenzie Basin alpine area during 2009, he saw a demand for people wanting to share an aviation adventure. This wasn’t possible in a two-seat glider or on a hang glider as there was only room for the instructor and one passenger. People also wanted to do a flight that took them past scenery of their choice – something a hot-air balloon cannot achieve. Although dozens of companies operate scenic flights in light aircraft throughout New Zealand, passengers are enclosed in an aluminium and Perspex cabin – hardly an adventure and not ideal for photography. The solution? Operate a three-seat open-cockpit biplane!
The Grumman Ag-Cat aircraft operated by Aviation Adventures is the only one of its type in the country. Two passengers can sit up the front (a Tiger Moth can only carry one passenger plus pilot) and the pilot flies from the back seat. The bright red colour and large radial engine make it superb for photographs, particular with clients posing in front of the machine after their adventure!
Rudge gets a huge amount of satisfaction from meeting new clients, explaining the history of the aircraft and ensuring they have a safe flight. “As far as experiencing the fun and romance of aviation, it simply doesn’t get any better than this. We give you the best view of the best scenery in the country!”