A Wing And A Prayer
Mark Oremland had a dream. The dream to own his own DC-3 aircraft and fly it from England to his home country New Zealand and along the way, re-create a famous flight. In 1936, at age 27, Jean Batten, from a small town in New Zealand, became the first person to fly from England to New Zealand. Arriving 11 days and 45 minutes after her departure she landed in Auckland and her time was to remain a record for many years. At the time Jean Batten was one of the most famous women in the world. She remains a fascinating figure with a movie in pipeline based on a newly published biography. It was after reading this book that Mark first thought about trying to recreate the journey. His passion was then further fuelled when after he found an old airplane for sale. Mark purchased the DC-3 which had been in storage for years in Dunsford, Surrey in the United Kingdom and had it ferried to Pontoise in Northern France for the restoration and maintenance required for it to make the trans-global trip. DC-3s were once the workhorse of the aviation industry and are still loved by enthusiasts the world over. Buying the plane was amazingly straightforward and not even that expensive – about the price of luxury car. But getting it ready to fly was another matter. Mark, a tour operator based in Paris, decided to advertise the journey and see if he could find some passengers who might help cover some of the mounting costs. Several different people signed up for the ‘adventure of a lifetime’. While the prep work went down to the wire with six technicians working on the aircraft as the deadline approached, the plane was completed on time and departed for England on schedule to begin her extraordinary journey. Aboard were a small group of passengers, mainly from England, the USA and France; from a retired surgeon and an American engineer to one of the men who had helped set up the airline Emirates. There was even a bubbly French hostess on board who had a video camera to record the journey. The DC-3 can only fly short distances by today’s standards. It is also flies low as it is not pressurised like today’s modern jets. This added to the experience giving people panoramic breathtaking views from 6500 feet as they travelled through 15 countries from Great Britain to New Zealand. The journey was fraught with bad weather, bureaucratic nightmares and engine breakdowns in remote places and towards the end of the journey, near disaster struck. Assembled from footage of the flight and interviews with the people involved – the pilots, the engineers and passengers this documentary is a record of a journey that could be the last of its kind. The fuel that runs these old planes is becoming increasingly difficult to source.