Plane has long flight home

SARAH JARVIS
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2014
David Murray

BIG FEAT: Tekapo man David Murray stands with the 1959 Piper Pacer he flew across the Tasman Sea. The journey from Perth took 43 hours’ flying time, over nine days.

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There were no long airport queues or lengthy delays for Tekapo man David Murray, who flew his own plane from Australia to New Zealand, landing safely after nine days, and 43 hours flying time.

He landed his 1959 Piper Pacer at Lake Tekapo on Friday - believed to be one of the first people to cross the Tasman Sea in the two-seater fixed-wing plane.

"It was a bit frightening as it was a long time over water. You tended not to look down too much . . . but after a while you got used to it," Murray said.

The 34-year-old left Perth on July 9, with long-time friend and Wellington-based pilot Andrew Craig.

"I just wanted to come home with my plane and do some flying around here for about a year," Murray said.

The challenging trip took five months to plan.

The flight path saw the pair make four landings in Australia (Kalgoorlie, Port Augusta, Broken Hill and Port Macquarie), one on Lord Howe Island, one on Norfolk Island and then on to New Zealand, landing in Kerikeri, Paraparaumu, Scargill Valley, then finally Lake Tekapo.

The final fuel bill was about $5000.

The men also had a fuel bladder on board, which carried an extra 212 litres of fuel.

Murray said the stop-off at Scargill Valley was not planned.

"We landed in a paddock somewhere in Scargill Valley. We were flying over a friend's farm and decided to land and spend the night with him."

Murray has owned the plane, which he affectionately calls "Pacer", for a year.

"It's a good little plane. It performed very, very well and didn't miss a beat. It's a very hands-on plane - you have to control it, not just sit back on autopilot."

Murray said he has been flying for about 15 years "on and off" and Craig was a commercial pilot and aircraft engineer.

Working as a pilot or within the aviation industry is quite the norm in the Murray family, though there was one person who wasn't too thrilled about the risky trip.

"My mum wasn't too happy about it. She was worried. It was a massive relief having me back on dry land again."

Murray said he intended to return to Perth, where he works as a supervisor in the oil and gas sector.

"I'm not sure if I will ship it or fly it back."

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- The Timaru Herald

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