Spreading your wings

In life you are either a passenger or a pilot. Which one will it be?

If you're leaning towards having more control, then take the plunge and really learn to soar with Solo Wings Aviation Centre in Tauranga.

There's a knot of nerves settling in the bottom of my stomach as I walk up to the smallest two-seater plane I've ever seen. Weighing in at a meagre 288kg before adding fuel and humans, the Pipistrel Alpha Trainer is the perfect aircraft for your first flight.

Or so I'm told. But once we're buckled in, head-set intact and humming along, the excitement kicks in.

This tiny craft will take us soaring through the air.

It's an experience that is almost indescribable.

The control column only needs the slightest hint of movement and the tiny craft responds, swinging through the open skies with deft agility.

Thankfully flight instructor David Yeo has the flight under control with his own set of controls on his side of the Pipistrel.

Good thing too because when we level off in the air at 1000ft I am taken by the view.

The mid-afternoon sun bouncing off the waves of Mount Maunganui beach, the teenyness of cars and people on the ground below, the mightiness of Mauao seemingly so close I could touch it, and just the startling realisation that I am, in fact, flying a plane.

David expected this would happen; he knows first-timers are often stunned at the views you can get on a clear day. Which is why he left me to marvel for a bit while he took control.

But the awe didn't last long when David tells me through the in-flight comms that it is my turn to fly.

After a slightly shaky handover, David holds his hands up as high as he can in the tiny aircraft.

“You're flying a plane,” he says, and I laugh.

We landed back at the Solo Wings Aviation Centre at 15 Dakota Way, near the Tauranga City Airport, and there was part of me that was yearning to get back up into the clouds.

So whether you're interested in flying a gyrocopter, a Cessna or a microlight, Solo Wings can help.

The company offers a range of services to suit any interested would-be pilot, from an introduction to flight course that runs for 50 minutes, to a flight training service that will see you trained for however many hours your type of licence requires.

Solo Wings provides the facilities and the aircraft to teach for microlight pilot certifications for both aeroplanes and gyros, and private and commercial pilot licenses for aeroplanes.

Instructors aim to mold and educate pilots to be safe in all ways.

“By making something safer you make it easier,” says David.

Pilots from around the country bring their aircraft to Solo Wings for maintenance and there is a dedicated motel-style unit available for visiting pilots, complete with the use of a car.

Norma Kelly and Colin Alexander.

And if you're after something just a little more grounded, The Aviator Experience – a virtual-reality combat flight simulation for people who want the thrill of the flight while keeping their feet firmly on the ground and is available in the Solo Wings hangar.

But Solo Wings doesn't just train people to fly; it can also help self-confessed aviophobes conquer their fears and the skies.

So whether you're thinking of taking the plunge and sending yourself into the skies, or you want to send a friend or family member on the flight of a lifetime, talk to Solo Wings.

And with Fathers' Day coming up, there's no better gift for your Dad than the open skies.

Get in touch with the team at Solo Wings to book a flight – real or simulation – for Dad, for yourself, or for anyone you think would enjoy the experience.

It's almost indescribable

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