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Too old to learn to fly at 70?

I spent all of my working life in the UK involved with racing motor bikes and cars, latterly vintage and classic. Emigrated and retired to NZ 8 years ago bringing 12 motor bikes and 5 cars (plus bought a couple since) Most prised one being a 1925 Vintage Bentley, one of only 12 produced and called a 100mph car. We call her Amy as she is a flier, after Amy Johnson


Amy Bently

We met up with another Kiwi Bentley owner who had a similar car, and when I asked him her name? he said Mrs Bruce, what sort of a name is that I said?

Well it turns out Mrs Bruce was also an aviator and much more, in the 1920’s and 30’s, a period that fascinates me. Apparently she had written an autobiography called “Nine Lives Plus” which is rare and out of print. I tracked down a copy and find she started by racing a motorbike and side car with a sheep dog as the passenger. Then she won the Monte-Carlo Rally, set several Endurance World Records in a Vintage Bentley, and the record for a speed boat crossing the English Channel there and back.

Walking through London one day she sees a plane for sale in a shop, buys it learns to fly, and 8 weeks later set off round the world, a most incredible tale and amazing life. More incredible though is no one seems to have heard of her, not my vintage car friends, or any of my new aviation friends.

After reading the book I had to learn to fly, and it was to be a Tiger Moth. After a false start elsewhere, I joined the Kerikeri Flying Club to learn in a brand new Tecnam, glass cockpit, tricycle gear, far removed from my objective! It was a bit of a challenge but I made it with a Microlight licence. (Microlights are real planes now, not a kite with a lawnmower engine!)

Flying licences come in stages; most important thing is to find a good and compatible instructor. First I tried a so called professional training school in Whangarei, they were very nice but the instructors were 50 years my junior and had only just qualified themselves, and were building up hours to become commercial pilots, so the least experience instructor teaches the no experience student!


Kerikeri Flying School (Chief Flying Instructor John Nicholls) has instructors with a huge amount of experience, and an even bigger amount of patience, as well as friendly easy going style that comes with confidence, age and experience


Steve & MBN


Tecnam MBN




















Once you have your initial training done and you have gone solo, you can progress to a passenger rating, for me this was very important as my daughter was coming over from the UK for a holiday, unfortunately she has terminal cancer but I wanted her to be my first passenger. I managed this and it was a huge thrill for both of us.

Steve & Sue



The Flying Club plane MBN, is an Italian built machine and just like a new Alpha Romeo sports car, very up-to-date, safe and easy to fly. Kerikeri is not a controlled air space and not too much traffic, so plenty of clear sky and incredible views everywhere over the Bay of Islands

Steve in Tiger


Tiger Moth
A real Moth seemed too hard to qualify for, run and maintain, given that I am not allowed to do it myself. Life is full of compromises so decide to go for a kit build Fisher Replica Tiger Moth, as imported from Canada by Ivan Campbell in Christchurch.



















Amelia (you know who) is well on the way and should have been ready by Christmas, but friends at Kerikeri Club said you’ll never be able to fly it after learning on a tricycle!! So what to do now?






Enter Superman, disguised as Bill Henman, an Air NZ pilot, who runs Classic Cubs & Tail Dragger Training in Hamilton. Drove down in Amy Bentley to the Tiger Club Fly-In, and spent the next two days at Bill’s base at Kripners Air Strip.





Kripner Airstrip



Wow, after the ease of flying the Kerikeri Club plane, that’s difficult keeping it straight down the runway, decide I was born out of my time and should have been a Spitfire Pilot as all that swerving about would have made it hard for the Luftwaffe to shoot me down*****!! Another session up at Kerikeri and I have gone from feeling it is impossible, to feeling it may just be possible to fly one of these Tail things. Bill has promised me he will get me up in the sky with Amy, Mrs Bruce and Amelia, if it’s the last thing he does (I hope it’s not!) one way or another (I hope it’s not the other!)












Part built Tiger in Steve's workshop




I was hoping the training and plane be finish by Christmas? Well I missed Christmas but in April I finally got it to the hangar at Kerikeri Airport



















Tiger in hangar





Don’t die wondering, come fly like me.


Steve Wynne

















Want to talk?  John Nicholls   flyitnz@gmail.com or telephone Land line: +64 (0) 9 406 1974  mobile +64 (0) 27-359 4869 Skype:Flyitnz