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Waft of rum draws pilots

Last updated 05:00 19/02/2014
Light Aircraft

SPECTACULAR PLAYTHINGS: Around 20 light aircraft fly into Waiheke every year by their farmer owners. ‘‘There’s no reason why we couldn’t combine our display with the Show and Shine,’’ organiser Mike Henton says.

Russell Duurloo
Diana Worthy
BIG WELCOME: Russell Duurloo shows the rum-loving pilots a good time on the island when they fly in every year. 

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When Russell Duurloo started making rum he had no idea it would be such a hit with microlight enthusiasts.

But a group of between 11 and 20 pilots have been making an annual trip for a tot or two and a night's camping at Whakanewha for nearly four years.

They park their eclectic range of light aircraft at Carsons Rd airfield and the visit has become a public fixture on the island's calendar, thanks to Russell.

People are invited to wander around the airfield looking at the microlights, gyrocopters and planes and talking to the pilots.

"We thought it had been a shame no-one had seen them when they first came so, the following year, I advertised the visit and provided a sausage sizzle.

"Now we do it every year, collecting koha for Friends of the Street, which gets young people home safely on weekends."

The pilots are all members of the Gordonton Microflight Club based near Hamilton in the Waikato but come from far and wide, from places like the Coromandel and North Shore.

They all receive a monthly newsletter and regularly fly as a group all over the North Island.

Many of them are farmers.

"Whoever's got a farm can have their own airfield," Russell says.

"I think you're allowed to put in your own airfield track.

"Then when you've done that, everyone flies in and has a barbie," he says.

Gordonton dairy farmer Martin Heston says he has his own airfield but not everyone does.

The enthusiast says taking to the air has taken him a long time.

"I always wanted to fly as a kid at primary school. Somehow I ended up farming but remained interested in flying so started learning when I was 38.

"I had to wait but now I've got a micro aviation Bantam B22F."

A microlight has to be less than 600 kilograms and use ordinary petrol or 100 octane aviation gas.

Martin says some members build their own but there's a wide range on sale, from low-budget up to high-end technical aircraft.

He says he is looking forward to the next Waiheke fixture between 2pm and 4pm on February 22, as are the others.

"We love talking to people about flying."



Where: Carson's Rd airfield

When: This Saturday, 2pm-4pm

Cost: Koha entry for Friends of the Street 

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