The day I spread my wings across the breadth of New Zealand.
After months of preparation I have completed the longest unassisted flight from coast to coast of New Zealand.
With the aid of a special ‘wing suit’ I made the flight between Cape Maria Van Diemen and Tapotupotu Bay, a narrow isthmus of 6.5km coast to of coast..
My wing suit cameraman Sol Vallis and I exited a Cessna fixed wing plane at 15,000 feet at a height of 20,000 from the West Coast near Cape Maria Van Diemen at the tip of New Zealand. Below the sweeping capes of New Zealand’s longest beach - 90 Mile Beach – provided a backdrop to this ultimate challenge. Gliding across the breadth of the Island I deployed a parachute to land at Tapotupotu Bay on the East Coast.
The flight was made possible thanks to a special wing suit – developed by a French man who studied the Madagascan flying squirrel. The suit I wore for the flight was a custom-made Italian suit with wings under the arms and legs.
“The wing suit takes flying to another level. Instead of a vertical fall there is a horizontal glide ratio of 2.5:1 allowing me to fly further through the air than fall. It’s a total body flight with your whole body in freefall,”
That’s not to say the task is an easy one. Although the wing suit does allow horizontal flight it can create complications.
“Because your whole body is contained within the suit you have to use your arms or move your shoulders to change how you fly. Add to this a parachute and you’re having to coordinate two systems together. It’s not just a parachute but a parachute with wings.”
Flying across the breadth of New Zealand was an ultimate challenge.
“No one has done this before so it makes sense that I would do it! The fact that I am flying in a wing suit makes a whole new level of skydiving possible. You have the theory but what I love is being able to turn that theory into reality!”
Our team based themselves at Ahipara Houhora near Ahipara, Northland – one of the furthest points of the North Island of New Zealand.
“We were lucky with the weather conditions - early morning clear skies and light to moderate winds. It was perfect!”
I live by the aviation philosophy that in doing anything, you must do it 100 percent correct, first time, and it must never fail. I combine a background in aviation; having a career as an aircraft engineer for Air New Zealand, with years of experience in skydiving.
“Everything I’ve done has been like cross training for this flight. The ‘wing suit’ lets me bring a number of these skills together in one act.”
So what is it like to fly in a wing suit?
“Imagine a dream where you’re flying. It’s just like that! Your arms and your hands are your wings and that’s what you’re flying with. Just imagine what you’d do if you wanted to fly. You are the wing, you are the flying machine.”