"Life's short; why not?"
So said 90-year-old Eileen Pearson as she prepared for a flight piloted by her 93-year-old friend Bryan Cox at Tauranga Aero Club yesterday.
Cox, a veteran and former flight instructor, became one of New Zealand's oldest pilots in January when he gained his recreational licence.
The Tauranga man made headlines again earlier this month when he went to Christchurch to pilot a Tiger Moth he trained in during World War II.
Whanganui-raised Pearson, a retired nurse from Brookfield who has 42 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, said she and Cox knew each other through playing indoor bowls at the RSA.
She had also read some of the books he wrote about his war experiences.
The flight, which would be her first in a small plane, was her idea.
"I was just talking to Bryan and I said 'what about taking me up?"
With fine weather and light winds, yesterday was the day.
Pearson's husband David, her daughter Barbara Campbell and granddaughter Gina-Marie Turner all looked on nervously as the family matriarch - nicknamed Forrest Gump for her unexpectedly interesting life - climbed into the little plane with Cox.
Pearson, on the other hand, showed no signs of nerves as she posed enthusiastically for photos in the cockpit of the little Cessna.
"I'm always looking for an adventure," said the one time holder of the Miss Waimarino title and mother of five, who has Ngāti Apa heritage.
"Yes, I've seen a bit of life but that doesn't mean you have to go downhill," she said.
The flight went off without a hitch.
Cox said they took a smooth flight towards The Lakes and out over Brookfield before returning to the airfield.
"My friend really enjoyed it."
He said Pearson was the second passenger he had taken up since gaining his license. The first was also a bowls mate, this time from the Senior Citizens' Club.
Pearson said it was a "beautiful" flight.
"It was lovely flying over the city. I was trying to pick out places I knew but it all looks so different from the air."
Asked if she would fly with Cox again, she said:
"Anytime. Bryan is a fantastic pilot."