A reunion spanning 75 years soared into the history books when 93-year-old Tauranga pilot Bryan Cox flew the same Tiger Moth that he trained in during World War II.
''Everything went well, it was better than I expected,'' Cox said after a memorable flight over the skies of Canterbury which included an aerobatic spin and roll before he landed the de Havilland Tiger Moth.
The reunion took place after the plane's owner, Russell Brodie, asked friend and air force historian Dave Homewood to track down any living pilots who had flown the aircraft during the war.
Not only did Homewood find a pilot, but he told an astonished Brodie that the pilot was still flying.
The 75th-anniversary reunion between Cox and Tiger Moth NZ 1443 took place on Sunday at the aircraft's base on Rangitata Island south of Christchurch.
Instructor Andrew Love took off and then passed the controls to Cox seated in the rear cockpit. He flew and landed the Tiger Moth.
''I was quite pleased with how it went - it was very nostalgic,'' Cox said.
The difference between the Cessnas that he flew now and the Tiger Moth was huge, but his reflexes returned as sharp as ever. Cox said he was helped by occasionally flying Tiger Moths during his 33 years as an instructor at Ardmore from 1960 to 1993.
Being exposed to 160km/h winds in the exposed cockpit meant getting kitted out to withstand the cold.
A visit to Ashburton's aviation museum yesterday led to another magic moment when he spotted photos of three of the RNZAF Harvards that he also trained in before departing for combat in the South Pacific where he flew Corsairs.
Cox renewed his lapsed pilot's licence in January this year, successfully sitting his Recreational Pilot's Licence with Tauranga Aero Club's chief pilot, James Churchward.
''He is pretty amazing for 93,'' Churchward said.
When Cox first phoned him, Churchward said he was pretty sceptical about whether Cox would even get into the plane. But he quickly discovered how physically and mentally agile the old pilot really was. ''He jumped in, and he was off."
Brodie said Cox looked like someone who knew exactly what he was doing, performing aerobatics like he had never forgotten.
It was a piece of New Zealand history to see the Tiger Moth and Cox together again after 75 years, he said.