This New Zealand road trip should be re-named to the “Embrace Your Fear” road trip. Those that have read along know that I used to have a debilitating fear of flying. Five years ago, I was able to gain control of my panic attacks, and took power over my flights. This week, I celebrated by jumping out of an airplane. One would think that would have been enough for me, but why should it?
I decided to take it to the next level and try flying a plane! I’m not kidding. Thanks to U-FLY Wanaka, this was possible. They offer various introductory flights from 20 minutes to 50 minutes. The best part about learning to fly in Wanaka versus, say, New York? The views! Learning to fly over Lake Wanaka and near its surrounding mountains is honestly mind-blowing. It’s one of the only words I can associate with the experience.
This isn’t one of those companies where they advertise that “you fly the plane,” but you really only get two minutes of flying for a photo op. No. U-FLY allows you to be in control of the plane the entire time, if you’re comfortable! Take off to landing. You're truly learning to fly! Of course, you have an experienced pilot and instructor sitting by your side with connected controls should you need some help.
When first walking into the U-FLY office, located at the Wanaka Airport, we were greeted with enthusiasm by Bernie. We quickly discovered that she would be my instructor and co-pilot! U-FLY operates four small planes, but were kind enough to put us in the four-seater Cessna 172 so that David could come along for the ride! As soon as I saw how tiny the propeller planes were I let out a little whelp, yet somehow I wasn’t nervous.
We climbed into the aircraft, tested all of the safety features, and before I knew it, Bernie was showing me how to steer an airplane! An actual airplane. After briefly learning how to move the plane up and down, and how to turn the aircraft, it was time to take off! While she controlled the foot peddles to keep me straight on the runway, she entirely walked me through how to get the plane off the ground myself. With her instructions, I was flying!
The entire experience was so surreal. Not only to be in an airplane with such stunning vistas, but to be flying it myself with my brother as my witness, was completely exhilarating! I still can’t believe that it happened. I now firmly believe that anyone with a fear of flying should go up for an introductory to flying lesson. Learning the controls, getting a feel for the airplane, and first-hand experiencing the stability of the plane instantly put me at ease.
A truly unforgettable experience, U-FLY Wanaka is an absolute must! I thought hiking Roy’s Peak was unreal…but flying toward it myself was an experience in and of itself! A huge thanks to Bernie for being so awesome, professional, and fun!
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**Special thanks to U-FLY Wanaka and Air New Zealand for sponsoring our journey. As always, all opinions are my own. Photographs taken by David M Gallo Photography.