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Heartland NZ Says 'Thanks' For Frodo Flyover

Pic taken from the cockpit by Air NZ's Chief Pilot David Morgan, who was accompanying the crew


Among the many stories generated by Air New Zealand's decision to extend its Frodo celebration flypast on Monday comes one from Gisborne's Wainui Beach School that tugged at the heartstrings of the pilots flying the 747.

The airline alerted schools in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Gisborne and Napier first thing Monday morning that the Frodo 747 would be doing a spectacular low-level flypast over their areas, encouraging them to ensure their pupils looked out for the aircraft.

The principal of 228-pupil Wainui School Mrs Nolian Andrew immediately called Air New Zealand to ask if the aircraft would actually come 'over the hill' to Wainui or if it would just be doing its flypast loop over Gisborne itself. She was thinking of walking her pupils up to the top of the hill to look down on Gisborne, just to make sure they wouldn't miss out on this historic event.

"It would have been a hot sweaty climb up a 300 metre incline but we were all determined to do it and had even contacted the landowner to get permission. We did not want our kids to miss out," she said.

The Air New Zealand pilot in charge of the Frodo 747, Captain Bruce Donnelly heard of Mrs Andrews' efforts, and being born and bred in Gisborne, decided he would alter the flightpath to sweep in over Wainui Beach as well. The airline went back to Mrs Andrews and told her the good news.

The pilots onboard the aircraft were astonished when they flew in over the beachside community to see, on the school playground, the children had formed themselves into the word "THANKS!" to express their delight at Air New Zealand's initiative to include Wainui.

All 228 children formed the THANKS and the teachers formed the exclamation mark.

For Mrs Andrews it was the crowning moment of a year's relief headship at the school which finishes in two weeks.The children have since painted, drawn and written their experience into a colourful recollection of the first time a Boeing 747-400 filled Gisborne skies.

She joked: "I've become a local legend which is hilarious. It just goes to show you that if you're determined enough and you put your hand up and ask, amazing things can happen."

Air New Zealand's decision to extend the special flypast to include five other cities as well as Wellington enabled more than two million New Zealanders to share in the excitement of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King world premiere day.


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