Two Wanaka pilots have their feet back on terra firma after winning national titles at the New Zealand aerobatic championships.
Ivan Krippner and Kylie Wakelin, both of Luggate, were two of 25 competitors from throughout the country at last month's event held at Waipukerau, near Hastings.
Krippner successfully defended his intermediate title won last year and was also named New Zealand Champion of Champions after gaining the highest aggregate score for the event.
Wakelin won the championship title for the primary category.
The wins were cause for a double celebration as Wakelin had learned aerobatics from her co-competitor and partner, an instructor at Wanaka Flight Training.
"It's not often you see an instructor and their student become national champions," Krippner said.
To secure the titles he had performed three sequences in a 1972 Pitt Special S2A aircraft.
"One (sequence) we had known a year in advance so there was time to practice and perfect components, one free form which we designed ourselves and one `unknown', which was revealed just 12 hours before execution," he said.
The 39-year-old said he had developed a lifelong love of flying from his pilot mother Christine.
He gained his pilot's licence at the age of 19 and a year later had bought his first plane.
"I first started competing in aerobatics when I was 21. To me the attraction of the sport is about the accuracy and the discipline required.
"It is a delicate balance between aggression and finesse," Krippner said.
Wakelin said she hoped her success would encourage more people to take up aerobatic flying.
"It has the persona of being reckless and thrill seeking sport but it's all about precision flying by skilful pilots," she said.
The 37-year-old, who gained her commercial pilot's licence in 2009, was no stranger to pushing personal limits.
Last year, as a member of the Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition, she became the first New Zealand woman to ski to the South Pole.
Together with six other women she undertook the 50- day, 900km trek to mark the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth. The venture into aerobatics began in January when she started lessons with Krippner, an Otago Sportsperson of the Year nomi-nee.
"I have been flying since 2003.
"But this is about becoming better at a skill. Learning to be able to make adjustments and to string manoeuvres all together to complete a challenging task."
Wanaka Flight Training owner Peter Hendriks said he was delighted with the results.
"It's great to see staff doing so well," Mr Hendriks said.
- The Southland Times