Monday, January 13, 2014

Plane takes flight despite the red tape

The pain of dealing with glacial-paced bureaucracy when buying an airplane in Greece was matched by many beautiful sights when flying it back to Queenstown, co-pilot Antony Sproull says.

After flying 20,000 kilometres in 10 days Mr Sproull and 84-year-old Australian ferry pilot Jim Hazelton touched down in the $2 million Cessna Caravan at about 8pm on Friday. They were joined for the final leg of the journey by aviator friends, and other Milford Air planes.

After sleeping till noon yesterday Mr Sproull kicked straight back into operations manager mode of Milford Air, explaining that no time would be wasted on getting the new plane certified for New Zealand, and in the air.

"We're in the peak of our tourist season, and Dad [Air Milford owner and aircraft engineer Hank Sproull] will be heading up getting everything up to New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority standards, starting straight away," he said.

"Hopefully we'll have the CAA inspection on Wednesday, get certified by Friday, and have the plane in the air by Saturday. We were initially going to do the ferry flight in 15 days, but cut that down to 10 because it is so important to get this plane working - so we won't be wasting any time now that it's arrived."

Flying over the Nile River delta at 10,000 feet and seeing the sun set over Abu Dhabi at 5000 feet were breathtaking experiences, even for a veteran pilot, and were two highlights of too many to count, Mr Sproull said.

"There were just so many high points in getting the plane here, but it was also a huge honor to fly a 20,000km journey with Jim. He's been doing these long-haul ferry flights for 50 years now and has so much experience."

Buying the plane in Greece was a "sale of the century" situation, after a group of American investors walked away from previous negotiations because of the amount of bureaucracy slowing the deal, but getting through the same bureaucracy took extreme patience, Mr Sproull said.

"This plane was the only one available in the world in 2013 with its spec range. A lot of the newer Caravans have added technology, but that adds weight and slows flying speed, so what we got was perfect for us, but took a lot of time and a huge amount of patience."


Air Milford owner Hank Sproull, right, and his operations manager son Antony in front of the new $2 million Cessna Caravan Antony co-piloted 20,000km back from Greece. The plane touched down about 8pm on Friday after 10 days of flying.

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