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94-year-old takes to the skies again

Rhona Fraser, centre, with Jennifer Armstrong and Gary Yardley. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

KAREN COLTMAN
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Former pilot Rhona Fraser took off in a Tiger Moth aeroplane on Sunday and proclaimed it was “bloody marvellous”.

The 94-year-old Greytown woman had been waiting all year to get lift-off, but covid-19 had kept her grounded.

Tiger Moth NZ ANL NZ 861 went down the runway with Fraser just after 9.30am on Sunday and she once again was up in the air – her favourite place.

Her friend, she met in her horseriding days, Jennifer Armstrong, had her booked in for the flight in March and again in October but at covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown, the rest home she lived at had shut to the public and Fraser had to stay grounded until now.

Sunday was a perfect flying day.

It was a warm morning with only a light breeze and a few clouds.

Fraser was dressed up in a thick leather jacket, hat, and earmuffs for the flight with no hood.

Fraser uses a walker, and her legs are no longer strong, so she was lifted into the plane by a supporter from the Wairarapa Flying Tigers and Armstrong.

Topdressing pilot Gary Yardley took Fraser over to Greytown and back over Masterton for her half-hour flight.

“She was clear-headed and took it all in,” Yardley said.

“Rhona is definitely the oldest person I have taken for a flight.”

When they landed, Fraser asked him why he didn’t come in on a “side slip”.

He explained that in her time of flying, the descent was more of a square pattern to get down and the side slip was more common, but he now uses an oval shape flight decent pattern and didn’t need to involve a side slip.

Fraser suggested he might like to engage it next time.

“I’d like to go up again in the new year if they are still operating over that period,” Fraser said.

She said she used to come to Masterton from Wellington just to fly a Turbulent plane.

“I loved flying Turbulents because it was like you were part of the plane, like you were flying it, yes it was like being a bird,” Fraser said.

She said she saw “everything today – the whole countryside”.

“The pilot was marvellous.”

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