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Long flight marks Batten's incredible journey

Published: 8:03PM Monday November 19, 2012 Source: ONE News

The pioneering spirit of New Zealand's most famous aviator has been celebrated with a re-enactment of Jean Batten's historic flight from England.

A restored 1940 DC3 touched down in Te Anau today at the end of a 22,000km, three-week trip that retraced Batten's journey 76 years ago.

"I think it's part of our heritage, just like old cars and all the old machines," explained the plane's owner and local businessman Mark Oremland. "We can keep them in museums, but it's not the same as keeping them running.

"It's much slower - gentle travelling like it was in those days."

Today's final leg marked the end of an adventure that took the crew through political strife in the Middle East, bad weather in Asia, technical hitches and cabin temperatures as low as four degrees.

"The modern airliner is basically autopilot, automatic navigation," said captain Chris Goevinne. "You basically fly above the weather at 35,000 feet - the highest we went was 11,000 feet."

This journey took 25 days and roughly 25 stopovers, in contrast to Jean Batten's historic trip that took just eleven days in a single engine craft.

At just 27, Batten wrote herself into aviation folklore, when she became the first person to complete the arduous journey from England to New Zealand.

"She was flying, she landed, allowed herself two hours of sleep while the other people had a quick look around the aeroplane, fixed some things and refuelled it," said Goevinne.

"And she went again with basic navigation systems - incredible."

The plan is to keep the DC3 flying in Fiordland as a reminder to tourists and locals of Batten's remarkable achievement.