One thing that fascinates many about aircraft is their history. Due to the rigorous maintenance requirements imposed on aircraft, it is not uncommon to still see aircraft from the 1930’s flying around New Zealand in pristine condition. Engines and other important parts will be changed often, but the airframes are still often the same.
If you ask a pilot what the most iconic general aviation aircraft in the world is, many would say the Cessna 172. It is the most successful aircraft in history, with the first production model delivered back in 1956. There are many variants of it from A through to S, and somewhere along the line there (N to be exact) is our workhorse, ZK-RNX.
I still remember giving RNX a last-minute polish before it made its flight from Queenstown up to Ardmore when it was sold over to us here at Island Aviation back in 2019. I had no idea I would work for a major airline and another scenic flight operator over the next 2 years, only to be reunited flying it again out of Waiheke Island, greeting it like an old friend.
RNX was produced back in 1980, before very quickly being exported to Australia. There it served 14 years flying, before being brought over this side of the Tasman Sea. It has had many owners while here in New Zealand, one of which being Glenorchy Air down in Queenstown. There its upgraded engine with an extra 20 horsepower and a lighter airframe compared to the other 172 models proved its worth. When flying a full plane into Milford Sound with 9000 ft mountains around on a hot, low-pressure day, you need every bit of power you can get. I should know as I did it many times in RNX over 18 months working down there.
Photo by Jason Charles Hill and Matt Cherub