Do me a favour, son . . . fly my plane 20,000km

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013
Antony Sproull
SUPPLIED

Air Milford operations manager Antony Sproull in front of the company's existing 1995 model Cessna 208 Caravan at the Frankton hangar.

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Usually, doing a favour for dad means mowing the lawn, picking up a box of beer or buying mum's birthday present.

For Queenstown pilot Antony Sproull, the favour is a little more extreme.

Mr Sproull is scheduled to embark on a 20,000km flight in a Cessna Caravan today, flying through Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia to bring the aircraft back to his father, the owner of Air Milford.

Flying 20,000km is roughly equivalent to flying the length of New Zealand 12.5 times, or flying around the Moon's equator twice.

Mr Sproull left for Greece, where the big trip will begin, on Friday and is expected to set off in the Cessna today, accompanied by veteran Australian pilots Jim Hazelton and Richard Purdy.

The trio will stop in Egypt, Oman, and even Alice Springs before touching down in New Zealand in mid January, so the Cessna can be used as part of the Air Milford fleet.

Mr Sproull and his father, Hank, travelled to Greece in October, intending to collect the aircraft from its previous owners in time for summer, but purchase complications meant the flight was delayed for a few months, Hank Sproull said.

This time around, during the busy festive period, the senior Mr Sproull was unable to leave his Air Milford business, so has entrusted the trip to his son.

He would meet the trio in Coolangatta to fly the last few legs home, he said.

The $2 million, 14-seater Cessna Caravan was nearly new, operating with 675 horsepower and state-of-the-art cockpit technology.

Known as a "glass cockpit", the technology meant pilots were using "mini computers" to fly the plane, Mr Sproull said.

Innovative GPS instuments would also enable more flights out of Milford Sound in bad weather, which, on average, restricted air access to 250 days a year.

The Sproulls believe the Cessna Caravan could potentially increase access to 300 days a year.

The aircraft would be a welcome addition to the company's fleet, as Air Milford had already had to hire an extra plane to keep up with the summer tourist season, Mr Sproull said.

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- The Southland Times

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