Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

NZ pilot planning trip across US in wooden-frame plane

The two-seater plane has been sent to Los Angeles in a container. Photo / Supplied
The two-seater plane has been sent to Los Angeles in a container. Photo / Supplied

Flying over the Rocky Mountains in a wooden plane may not be everyone's idea of joy, but an Air New Zealand pilot who has built his own aircraft from scratch is preparing for his flight of a lifetime across the United States.

Aucklander George Richards intends to fly his wooden Falco aeroplane 3000km from Los Angeles to Wisconsin in July.

He will be joined by his friend and fellow Air New Zealand pilot Darryn Morgan.

"We're splitting it up into about a week ... and will fly about three to four hours a day."

The pair are set to see some amazing sights on their voyage, especially as the Falco aircraft is limited to flying below 10,000ft.

"Basically we keep below 10,000ft because any higher than that you require oxygen."

Mr Richards said one of the places they would be navigating through was the Rocky Mountain Ranges in Colorado, with peaks reaching more than 3000m.

The 49-year-old, who lives in Auckland with his wife, Vicki, started building the two-seater aircraft in 1994.

"It all started in a garage out in West Auckland ... and I just enjoy making things."

The plane's wooden airframe was imported from Canada for the project.

"It [the Falco aircraft] was designed in 1955 in Italy ... but because wood is so labour intensive to build they stopped making them," Mr Richards said.

The yellow plane made its maiden flight in 2002 in Auckland.

Since then, it has been flown throughout New Zealand, but has yet to soar above foreign shores.

Mr Richards has already shipped his aeroplane to America, and will soon travel over to prepare it for the trip.

"At the moment it's sitting in a container in Los Angeles," he said. "I've had to pull it apart, measure it and put it in a container."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 28 Dec 2014 15:04:14 Processing Time: 600ms