Double X Aviation co-owner and pilot Peter Meadows, of
Queenstown, beside his Aero L-29 Delfin military jet
aircraft, newly based at the Wakatipu Aero Club, Frankton.
Photo by James Beech.
A rare Cold War bird of prey from Czechoslovakia has
nested half a world away, in Queenstown.
The camouflage painted Aero L-29 Delfin military jet
aircraft, with a red Soviet star on its tail, is a striking
sight in the fleet of white private civilian fixed-wing
propeller planes also parked at the Wakatipu Aero Club,
It sits there like a wolf in a flock of sheep.
The aircraft is the pride and joy of Peter Meadows, a pilot
of 30 years, who moved the jet with his wife Brenda and ''New
Zealand's first certificated adventure aviation business'' to
the Lakes district from the Bay of Plenty. He has been busy
setting up shop in Queenstown since late November.
''It's really nice to fly, really smooth, no pistons and
valves'' Mr Meadows said.
''The jet's like a big hair-dryer, with seven great big
flamethrowers giving that thrust.''
The company he co-owns, Double X Aviation, had in its ranks a
Soviet trainer Yakovlev Yak-52, a North American AT-6 Texan
or Harvard, and a Boeing Stearman biplane for scenic thrill
''But we felt we needed jet aircraft to offer something
unique to visitors to New Zealand and the public,'' he said.
The two-seater L-29 was one of 3000 trainer-light attack
fighters built for Warsaw Pact countries between 1963 and
''ZKJET'' was for sale in the United States in 2012 and it
was perfect for their ambitions, Mr Meadows said.
''It looked the part; what you see is how we bought it and we
got a spare engine with it.''
The jet was dismantled for shipping, then reassembled over
several weeks in New Zealand, with all parts checked and
recertified to Civil Aviation Authority standards.
It now sees action when Mr Meadows takes clients on a
whirlwind tour of the Wakatipu basin, cruising at 500kmh with
the occupants feeling up to 4G in the cockpit.
Wives, daughters and girlfriends bought most gift vouchers
for ZKJET flights, as it was something original to give to
the man who had everything, he said.
American commercial and aerobatics pilot Mike Mangold will
test the mettle of the L-29 when the three-time Red Bull
World Air Race champion sits in its cockpit for the jet race
of the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow at Easter.