Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Hometown visit for Batten flight

The flight path taken by Rotorua's Jean Batten - the first person to fly from England to New Zealand - is being retraced and has made a stop in Rotorua.

Eagle-eyed Rotorua residents did not miss a silver DC3 landing at the Rotorua Airport at the weekend.

The aircraft, named the Jean Batten Clipper, touched down in Rotorua as part of a worldwide adventure retracing the flight path taken by one of Rotorua's most famous exports, Jean Batten, in 1936.

The adventure started on October 25, arrived in New Zealand on November 16 and came to Rotorua on Saturday.

At just 27 years of age, Batten became the first person to fly from England to New Zealand, arriving in Auckland 11 days after taking off from Lympne in Kent, England.

Her route took her to France, Cyprus, Syria, Pakistan, Singapore, Darwin, Sydney and eventually to Auckland.

What was even more remarkable was she did it by herself without modern navigational equipment and in later years, due to her good looks and outgoing personality, she was given the title the "Greta Garbo of the skies".

She was named Hine-o-te-Rangi - Daughter of the Skies - by Te Arawa kaumatua when she visited her home town after her record-breaking flight. She flew the journey in a Percival Gull Six aeroplane which is now on display at Auckland Airport.

According to the website the, 70-year-old DC3 took off from Lydd in England on October 25 and landed in Auckland on November 16 after flying from Norfolk Island.

Rotorua's Neville Worsley said he felt a touch of nostalgia when he went to see what had landed at Rotorua Airport.

"It was supposed to land here on Thursday but got delayed so I did not expect to see it.

"But I saw it come in about lunchtime so I went down to have a look and got there at the right time to view the aircraft."

Mr Worsley said he used to fly DC3s when he worked for Field Air as a topdressing pilot.

He said he had a lot of respect for Jean Batten in flying solo all the way from England.

"It was quite a feat. These days to fly a 70-year-old aircraft all the way from England is pretty special.

"But for her to do it without the navigation aids we have today was phenomenal. It's like flying by instinct."

Mr Worsley said the DC3 was very well restored and in "A1" condition.

"It's a shame no one really knew about it coming here. It must have been a great adventure."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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