Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search


Daredevil Chuck Berry spreads his wings

Media release 05 March 2003

Daredevil Chuck Berry spreads his wings across the breadth of New Zealand.


After months of preparation Queenstown daredevil John ‘Chuck’ Berry has completed the longest unassisted flight from coast to coast of New Zealand.

With the aid of a special ‘wing suit’ Chuck made the flight between Cape Maria Van Diemen and Tapotupoto Bay, a narrow isthmus of 6.5km coast to of coast.

Chuck and wing suit cameraman Sol Vallis exited a Cessna fixed wing plane at 15,000 feet at a height of 20,000 from the West Coast near Cape Maria Van Diemen at the tip of New Zealand. Below the sweeping capes of New Zealand’s longest beach - 90 Mile Beach – provided the backdrop to this ultimate challenge. Gliding across the breadth of the Island Chuck deployed a parachute to land at Tapotupoto Bay on the East Coast.

The flight was made possible thanks to a special wing suit – developed by a French man who studied the Madagascan flying squirrel. The suit worn by Chuck for the flight was a custom-made Italian suit with wings under the arms and legs.

“The wing suit takes flying to another level. Instead of a vertical fall there is a horizontal glide ratio of 2.5:1 allowing me to fly further through the air than fall. It’s a total body flight with your whole body in freefall,” says Berry.

That’s not to say the task is an easy one. Although the wing suit does allow horizontal flight it can create complications.


“Because your whole body is contained within the suit you have to use your arms or move your shoulders to change how you fly. Add to this a parachute and you’re having to coordinate two systems together. It’s not just a parachute but a parachute with wings.”

However, for the man who has completed over 45000 sky dives and pioneered BASE jumping in the South Island with a cool 250 BASE jumps to his credit, flying across the breadth of New Zealand was an ultimate challenge.

“No one has done this before so it makes sense that I would do it! The fact that I am flying in a wing suit makes a whole new level of skydiving possible. You have the theory but what I love is being able to turn that theory into reality!”

The flight team based themselves at Ahipara Houhora near Ahipara, Northland – one of the furthest points of the North Island of New Zealand.


“We were lucky with the weather conditions - early morning clear skies and light to moderate winds. It was perfect!” says Berry.

Chuck lives by the aviation philosophy that in doing anything, you must do it 100 percent correct, first time, and it must never fail. He combines a background in aviation; he had a career as an aircraft engineer for Air New Zealand, with years of experience in skydiving.

“Everything I’ve done has been like cross training for this flight. The ‘wing suit’ lets me bring a number of these skills together in one act.”

So what is it like to fly in a wing suit?

“Imagine a dream where you’re flying. It’s just like that! Your arms and your hands are your wings and that’s what you’re flying with. Just imagine what you’d do if you wanted to fly. You are the wing, you are the flying machine.”


For more visuals check out

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Electronica: Restoring The World’s First Recorded Computer Music

University of Canterbury Distinguished Professor Jack Copeland and UC alumni and composer Jason Long have restored the earliest known recording of computer-generated music, created more than 65 years ago using programming techniques devised by Alan Turing. More>>


Scoop Review Of Books: Almost Getting Away With Murder

The Black Widow by Lee-Anne Cartier: Lee-Anne Cartier is the sister of the Christchurch man found to have been murdered by his wife, Helen Milner, after an initial assumption by police that his death, in 2009, was suicide. More>>

Howard Davis: Triple Echo - The Malevich/Reinhardt/Hotere Nexus

Howard Davis: The current juxtaposition of works by Ralph Hotere and Ad Reinhardt at Te Papa perfectly exemplifies Jean Michel Massing's preoccupation with the transmigration of imagery in a remarkable triple echo effect... More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: Nō Tāu Manawa

Vaughan Rapatahana responds to Fale Aitu | Spirit House by Tusiata Avi: "fa’afetai Tusiata, fa’afetai, / you’ve swerved & served us a masterclass corpus / through graft / of tears & fears..." More>>

9 Golds - 21 Medals: NZ Team Celebrates As Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Close

The entire New Zealand Paralympic Team, led by kiwi sprinter and double gold medallist Liam Malone as flag bearer, are on the bus to the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro for the Closing Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. There, they will celebrate the fantastic successes of the past 10 days. More>>


New Zealand Improv Festival: The Festival Of Moments To Return To The Capital

The eighth incarnation of the New Zealand Improv Festival comes to BATS Theatre this 4-8 October , with a stellar line-up of spontaneous theatre and instant comedy performed and directed by top improvisors from around New Zealand and the world. More>>


Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news