By Mick Jensen
There was a beaming smile and a “royal” wave from centenarian Jean Kingan when the plane flown by her 15-year-old great grandson landed at the Ashburton airfield on Sunday morning.
After she had been helped out of the snug four-seater Piper Archer, she said the birthday treat was “an experience of a lifetime” .
It was a very special flight, she said, especially with Lachlan at the controls.
“There were a few bumps, but it was lovely.
“I had no idea how wonderful the district’s braided river system looked.”
The flight took Jean, Jean’s son David, instructor James Billcliff and pilot Lachlan on a bird’s eye view of the Canterbury Plains and the foothills.
Flying at an average height of 1000 feet (330m), the 65-minute aerial adventure included passing over the Chertsey/Overdale area where Jean once lived in a cottage, a circuit of Rakaia and then a trip to Mt Somers, where Jean was also a resident for a number of years.
Jean Kingan has lived most of her long life in Mid Canterbury.
Her late husband, Russell, died at the age of 32, and she has four children, eight grand children and 11 great grand children.
She still lives in her own home and only gave up driving at the age of 97.
Jean celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends on June 27.
Her great grandson Lachlan will be 16 on July 22, an age when he is legally able to fly solo.
He has a flight booked for that day and will move a step closer to his dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
The dream began at the age of 11 when his mum and dad, Sascha and Graeme Kingan, gave him a flight voucher for his birthday.
Other vouchers have followed and proceeds from a part time job have funded Lachlan’s flights of fancy.
Flying is in Lachlan’s blood. His great grandfather Russell was a bomber pilot, his grandfather Derek Aldridge has his wings and was first president of Mid Canterbury Aero Club, and his own dad, Graeme, also learned to fly.
Lachlan’s flying mentor is Ashburton Aviation Pioneers flight instructor Les Vincent, who also happens to be his third cousin.
Mr Vincent has taught two of his sons to fly and both now have careers as Boeing captains.
Lachlan’s flight on Sunday was made with the efficiency and calmness of a natural flyer.
His instructor watched on as Lachlan did all of the checks, took off, landed and performed all the necessary radio communications.
“It was great to be able to take my great grandmother for a spin in the skies.
“We planned this day two years ago because I knew she would be up for it and it would also make her happy.”