Businessman is just plane crazy

RHIANNON HORRELL
Last updated 05:00 12/09/2011

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A Russian fighter jet worth $59,000 is sitting on the rooftop of an Onehunga building.

The project to mount the 5.4 tonne jet on the Church St building was completed last week after three months of organisation by wealthy Onehunga businessman Manfred Bennett.

The MiG-21, a single seater, may eventually be joined by a second plane.

"It looks like it's moving," an ecstatic Bennett says.

"It looks awesome.

"The project to put the plane up cost more than the plane. There were the freight costs from Christchurch, the structure on the roof and the consents and things."

He says the plane was purchased for $59,000 and cost $60,000 to $65,000 to get it on the roof.

He hopes to mount a fan and some red cloth at the rear of the MiG to give the impression, once lit up, that it is really flying through the sky.

The MiG has been equipped with new silver and red missiles which Bennett had refurbished.

"A previous owner had the missiles.

"When I got these they were rusted so they have been sanded and painted."

Bennett was concerned he may cause a car accident on Church St during the move because interested drivers were slowing down for a look.

Crane operator Jim Adam says moving the jet fighter was an easy feat. "It's just another lift really. From time to time we lift $30 million jet engines at the airport."

He says staff at his work have also lifted zoo animals and transported them – like the shift of Jelani the giraffe from Auckland Zoo to the Ports of Auckland for his journey to Melbourne.

Plans are also under way to turn part of Bennett's Church St venue into a flight simulation centre – thought to be the first of its kind in Australasia.

Bennett hopes it will be open early next year.

"There will be six simulators. There'll be flight simulators that may include an F16, an F1-11 and Hornets. As you progress you'd go up to higher grades.

"It's just like dogfighting – the real thing."

He says the centre will cater to all age groups – children through to adults.

Bennett also bought a Polish jet trainer earlier this year – an Iskra TS-11 – which has added to his collection of luxury toys which include a Porsche, a Mercedes limousine, a Jaguar, a Ferrari and a $5 million Gold Coast penthouse.

The entrepreneurial businessman has also put in a bid on a Skyhawk owned by the New Zealand Defence Force but doesn't think his tender will be successful.

And with one project complete there is always another up his sleeve.

"We're also building a prototype helicopter. We hope to export these to Australia eventually," he says.

 

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