Birdman’s new wings

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Chute, Chuck – what’s our local madman up to now?

Queenstown daredevil Chuck Berry is famous for parachute base-jumping but now he’s powering up for his latest adrenaline kick.

The stuntman is building what’s believed to be New Zealand’s only microlight amphibious floatplane – in his backyard.

Berry, a qualified aircraft engineer, owns the plane with three other Queenstowners who share the same passion for flying over picturesque NZ scenery.

It’s a project he’s been working on between jetting around the world to leap off skyscrapers and other towering structures.

Berry sees the two-seater, 100-horsepower craft with foldable wings as a “backcountry-access, utility 4WD aircraft” thanks to the floats he’s fitted to the original Meccano kitset.

“The microlight’s a wonderful aircraft as far as being able to get in and out of small airstrips, and with the floats to land on water it means we’ll be able to land in really interesting places.

“It’s something you can stick all your toys in the back and go off on adventures with.”

It’ll be the first amphibious floatplane in the Wakatipu, Berry says.

Berry’s no stranger to aviation – he’s been a microlight pilot for the past four years and also has the official authority to inspect the planes.

His latest craft will be the fourth microlight he’s built – “but the first one 100 per cent start-to-finish”.

Berry doesn’t just build the aircraft to get a kick out of jumping out of them once complete: “You get a fabulous sense of achievement when you start off with a pile of pieces and over a period of time you construct the thing into one complex flying machine.”

He hopes to complete his project – which he began in January – in a couple of months.

“Flying around NZ is such a special thing – that’s something I’m really, really looking forward to doing.”