Reporter has right stuff for stunts

17:15, Feb 08 2013
Red Checkers
SMOKE SCREEN: The RNZAF Red Checkers with smoke on over the city’s old AMI Stadium.

Life is often not like the movies.

This was definitely the case when the New Zealand Air Force's Red Checkers aeronautical display team invited a group of civilians on a fly-along ahead of their performance at tomorrow's finish of the Coast to Coast multisport event at Sumner.

A reporter (me), photographer (John Kirk-Anderson) and four deserving champions of Christchurch's earthquake response - Julian Price, Roger McClelland, Caitlin Pugh and Delwyn Rattray - were asked if they had the right stuff, and a strong stomach.

Loops, barrel-rolls and plenty of gravity-defying stunts awaited.

Unlike in 1980s fly-boy movie Top Gun, the six pilots led by Air Force veteran Oliver Bint spend more time meticulously planning the route and formation than playing volleyball shirtless.

First, we must suit up.


Parachute. Check. Life jacket. Check. Sick bag. Check.

Ah, the helmet. Top Gun anthem Highway to the Danger Zone immediately pops into the head.

Hoping to find a super-cool nickname emblazoned on the back, in the vein of Maverick or Iceman, disappointingly, it simply reads CIV 9M.

Time to fly.

The squadron takes off flying in close formation over the central city, rolling left and right over New Brighton and the eastern suburbs.

"Smoke on . . . smoke off," Bint orders, as white streams pour out the back.

Bint speeds over the Port Hills towards Lyttelton. Time to test the co-pilot's mettle with some stunts.

Loop? Fine. Roll upside down? Fine. Falling backwards at zero-gravity? Not so fine, but at least the sick bag is not required.

It certainly did . . . take my breath away.

The Press