Brodies in the skies for 100 years

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The Brodies of Rangitata Island have been flying for 100 years.

To celebrate, they are going aloft.

From September 8 to 10, aviation friends from around New Zealand will gather at their Rangitata Island aerodrome for a private celebration.

Aviation enthusiasts can attend.

The latter-day Brodies, Russell and son Ross, run the airfield and a flight training school.

A century ago, Ross’s great grandfather, also Ross, went solo at Sockburn (later Wigram) in Christchurch.

He is believed to be the seventh pilot to pass his wings test at the Canterbury Aviation Company, Sockburn.

That was on September 15, 1917.

His flying school notes say: “very promising start”, “very good progress”, a very good certificate after only 10 flying days”.

To fly solo, he notched up just three hours and 17 minutes. All flights were in the Caudron trainer, and he was the first South Canterbury pilot to pass.

Ross said his great grandfather then joined the Royal Flying Corp and went to England to train as a military pilot “but fortunately was posted to Egypt”.

“If he had gone to France, he may not have come back.”

In 1919 he returned to the family farm at Rangitata Island – a farm that is still in the family.

Ross said that in the 1950s his grandfather, Struan Brodie, learnt to fly at the South Canterbury Aero Club, and he encouraged his wife, Anne, to fly.

“It was unusual at the time.”

At the time, Ross’s father, Russell, was a baby.

“Then he got the bug. He started to fly as a teen in the 70s.”

Russell Brodie became involved in flying microlights, and the Brodies now run a training school on the farm.

Ross said he started flying lessons when he was 9, and got his licence when he was 16.

To celebrate, he flew 16 planes in one day – a world record, he says, but not recorded as such – including a Tiger Moth, a Tecnam Sierra, a high-performance microlight, and the smallest was a Druine Turbulent.

He is now 17 and an integral part of the flying business at Rangitata Island.

Ross said he loved being in the air.

“I just love the freedom of being up in the air and being in control; it’s a special thing.

“You see things from a different perspective.”

Ross said the Brodies may be the first family in New Zealand to have such an aviation history.

At the time his great grandfather learned to fly, there were only two flying schools in New Zealand.

“And he was one of the first to go through.”