Sky's the limit for flying duchess

00:00, Apr 12 2014
Bill Reid, left, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William sit in the cockpit of  Reid’s restored British Avro Anson Mark 1
AIR TO THE THRONE: Bill Reid, left, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William sit in the cockpit of Reid’s restored British Avro Anson Mark 1

Watch out for future royal flying visits - Kate is learning to fly planes and chopper pilot William is planning to do commercial pilot training.

While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's tour of the Omaka Aviation Centre in Marlborough reflected their aviation interest, it also revealed their flying aspirations.

Kate, whose father was a dispatcher for British Airways and mother was a flight attendant, divulged last year that she'd had a few lessons in fixed-wing aircraft.

So, when the couple were on board the world's only airworthy British Avro Anson Mark 1 aircraft that Bill Reid, of Nelson, had restored, he chatted with her about her flying.

"She's started and had a few lessons but you've got to devote a bit of time, it's not something you do one month and not the other. She wished she could have the time to get stuck in," he said.

Prince William's service as an RAF search and rescue pilot ended last September. "He said he is going to do commercial flying lessons," said Reid.


Reid and his wife Robyn spent five minutes in the Anson with Kate and William, showing them its intricacies including the pigeon carrier basket with instructions on how to launch a carrier pigeon in flight.

William was most interested in the aircraft's instruments.

"He commented the instruments looked familiar to those in the Sea King he flew in the air force. The Sea King is quite an old helicopter with 1960s technology so a lot of things are very similar," said Reid.

"He said ‘Can we start it up?' I'd have loved to but with 100 security people watching it wasn't a good idea."

It wasn't all aviation talk, the Reids who have a 14-month-old grandson, Oliver, sharing baby talk with the new parents of Prince George.

As they climbed out of the plane, Reid was worried about Kate slipping in the wet on the step. However, he had been impressed at how she had walked in high heels down the steps from the Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 in windy Wellington carrying Prince George.

"I said if you can manage that you will have no trouble, and she was laughing at that."

Afterwards Reid described their meeting as "pretty awesome, I'm still buzzing".

Now he is concentrating on getting the Anson ready for the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow at Easter where he will be doing a flying display on each of the three days, and formation flying with international photographers.

The Nelson Mail