Confession time. I’m an airplane nerd and not just a little one. I have alluded to this over the years with posts on visiting a warbirds Museum in Everett and taking an aircraft obsessed trip down the Oregon coast with my father. Truth be told, this obsession runs a lot deeper. I have gone to air races in Reno and Phoenix, I have flown to Tofino just for tacos and across the country in a Cessna because the opportunity came up. Embarrassingly, or awesomely depending which side of the nerd spectrum you fall on, I have a picture of my 13-year-old self with Lefty Gardner – former stunt pilot of my favourite plane, the P-38 Lightning. Oh, and it’s signed.
Yup. While others my age had posters of swimsuit models on their walls I had airplanes.
With so much aircraft nerdery in me, you can imagine the excitement when the opportunity to fly in a 70-year-old biplane with Classic Flights came up. This quickly became the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time… and it almost didn’t get off the ground.
With snow falling over Queenstown the 3 days I was there, my Classic Flights biplane ride was in jeopardy. Unfortunately, the 70-year-old bird requires better than good conditions to fly. Each day I called for an update and each day the 13-year-old me died a little. With my short window now closed I left Queenstown dejected.
With all hope lost and my 13-year-old self sulking in the corner, something amazing happened. As we got out of Queenstown and minutes from Wanaka, Classic Flights home base, the skies parted and the sun came out. Much like my trip to Milford Sound with Real Journeys, it looked like it was meant to be. I gave Classic Flights one last call. Cheer up buddy, you’re going for a bi-plane ride.
The Classic Flights hanger is located at the Wanaka airport, a short 1hr drive from Queenstown. Inside you will find A mishmash of wartime memorabilia and an atmosphere that instantly takes you back to this warbird era.
This vintage theme continues as Classic Flights suits you up in the most awesome way possible. From leather jackets to aviator goggles and full on flight suits, Classic Flights is the real deal…and it’s kinda bad ass.
About the time I pulled on my leather gloves something odd happened – I became so excited I completely shut up. I was reduced to one-word answers as my pilot went over the details. Devon, a Zimbabwean expat with a ton of flying time under his vintage cap, must’ve thought I was simple. In that instant, I reverted to that 13-year-old kid shyly shaking hands with Lefty Gardner. It might sound odd but I was just so excited that I clammed up. Trying to play it off I let out a giggle as Devon hand-started the Tiger moth. Then we were off.
As we taxied down the runway and slowly lifted off the ground the realization of just how cool this Classic Flights biplane ride is truly sunk in. Then I saw Lake Wanaka and the snowcapped mountains surrounding it.
Seriously, New Zealand is shockingly beautiful. Seeing it from above in an open-air cockpit of a 1940’s Tiger Moth elevated this beauty to new heights.
Loops and spins?
Prior to take off Devon asked if we were going to do some loops and spins. ”Absolutely!” I blurted without thinking it through. Truthfully, doing a loop in an open air cockpit on this Classic Flights biplane excited me. When would I ever get a chance to do that again? The spin, though, not-so-much. The idea of cutting the engine and spinning towards the earth in what look like a plane made of balsa wood was less appealing. I had broken my share of wooden model planes as a kid so maybe that had something to do with it. I had committed though and this was happening.With nothing more than a hairpin and gravity holding me in place we went up and over.
It. Was. Awesome.
I not so quietly squealed like a little girl…or 13-year old boy. Then the engine quit and the right wing dipped to the earth below.
This adrenaline rush was so freaking cool. I’m so glad I didn’t chicken out when given the chance. This energy rush stayed with me for the long drive to Christchurch and I can feel it again as I write this now.
Coolest day ever.
Nerd or not
Following a textbook landing on the grass next to the airstrip, Devon asked me what I thought. All I could muster was an “I don’t know.” If I was speechless with excitement before the flight, I was downright brain-dead afterwards. It was that great. The words are only returning now and with them comes this: Classic Flights is the coolest thing I have done in a long time. It provided this airplane nerd with enough excitement to stop his neurons from firing and it will do the same for you – lover of vintage or not. Seeing Wanaka and New Zealand’s incredible scenery from an open cockpit is unlike anything else. Loops spins, or just a fresh air ride in one of the wold’s most beautiful corners.
Classic Flights Good to Know
Cost: Flights start at $249 NZD. See full menu!
Includes: Aviation gear, flight certificate, and adrenaline rush!
Don’t Miss: The view, loops, and spins!
What say you?
Thoughts on my time with Classic Flights in Wanaka?
Let’s hear it!
Although I was provided a complimentary Tiger Moth flight with Classic Flights,
the experience, opinions, and childhood excitement was my own.