A nearly 90-year-old vintage aircraft seen by scores of New Zealanders on the small screen will breeze into Omarama next month with its proud owner in the cockpit.
Hastings-based pilot Jan Chisum will be part of the Tiger Moth Club of New Zealand’s summer safari, which leaves Auckland in March and eventually wings its way to Omarama, the first time the club will have visited the small North Otago township.
Mrs Chisum will be piloting her 1929 Gipsy Moth, the oldest plane making the trip, alongside about 30 other aircraft.
The plane, and Mrs Chisum herself, featured in the feature-length television special Jean, which chronicled the feats of aviator Jean Batten, the first person to fly from Sydney to London, in 1934.
Three months after the aviatrix’s heroics, Mrs Chisum’s father, Stan White, flew the Gipsy Moth from London to Sydney.
Because Mrs Chisum’s plane, constructed of wood and fabric, was virtually identical to the one flown by Miss Batten, it was called on to be used as part of the feature.
She was a double for actress Kate Elliott, who played Miss Batten, and flew the aircraft and also appeared in a handful of scenes.
Mrs Chisum looked forward to flying to Omarama, where she has not spent a lot of time.
“We’re very excited. It’s a long time since I’ve landed in Omarama so I’m really looking forward to it because it’s a beautiful part of the world.”
She said flying conditions in North Otago were some of the finest in the country, so long as the weather played its part.
“It’s absolutely spectacular. It’s hard to beat those sort of conditions you have down there. The conditions can be pretty bullying at times, but on nice days it’s lovely, really.”
Mrs Chisum thoroughly enjoyed her time working on the set of Jean, and especially admired the lengths the film’s producers went to to ensure it was as authentic as possible.
“It was wonderful. I think the main thing I really loved about it was the producers really wanted authenticity. My Gipsy Moth is the only working one of its kind in the country at the moment .. there’s a couple in the rebuild stage, but that’s still going on.
“The crew was fantastic. They were just superb. Kate did a fantastic job .. they wanted to get it as authentic as possible and I think they did that.”
Mrs Chisum first had flying lessons in 1977, despite objections from her father, also a pilot, and piloted an aircraft, a Tiger Moth, for the first time in 1984.
“That started the disease,” she said. “You have to be a little bit odd in the head to start flying these things. It’s the thrill of it, I guess. You have to work a little bit harder with these planes – they are about as basic as you can get. They’ll put you in your place if you get ahead of yourself.”