Despite damage and Covid-19 restrictions, the Fly By Wire adrenalin-filled ride continues to operate. Located above Paekākāriki in a bushy valley, the current owner/inventor Neil Harrap, takes us on a trip through his sometimes rocky years at the wheel.
Jeremy Clarkson was “Fizzing!” after his flight on the Fly by Wire ride saying, “After five minutes on this thing I feel alive!” Clarkson made that comment in a BBC Speed Series program, the six part series opened with Clarkson soaring above Paekākāriki and was seen around the world: (See it at flybywire.co.nz).
“Since May 2021 the Fly by Wire plane has been grounded but will soon reopen under new management” says owner/inventor Neil Harrap. “Like all tourism businesses Fly by Wire was hit hard by Covid-19 with the loss of international tourists, followed by Australians being barred and finally Auckland being locked down. So remaining closed over the winter seemed like the best way for the business to survive Covid”.
The world’s first Fly by Wire ride was built in the late 1990’s and it operated successfully until the devastating flood of 2003. Paekākāriki was inundated with water and flood debris from the Fly by Wire valley, a drainage that goes back several kilometres into the hills. Damage to the ride was severe, only the plane was recovered, most of the track and picnic area disappeared downstream.
The ride was rebuilt in 2018 not long before Covid-19 swept the world, the rebuild alone cost over $300,000 and included hundreds of metres of new fenced track, a new building, new cables, a new plane and a fail-safe winch.
It’s a ten minute walk to the hidden valley through a narrow gorge that’s filled with native bush, waterfalls and bird life. “We encourage people to walk the track and enjoy the beauty, plus the views of Kāpiti” says Harrap.
Saturday and Sunday are the best days to see the ride in action. Free parking is available at the Coffee @ Ian’s car park (formerly the BP Station) or watch the 40 second, captioned video at flybywire.co.nz
Paekākāriki.nz is a community-built, funded and run website. All funds go to weekly running costs, with huge amounts of professional work donated behind the scenes. If you can help financially, at a time when many supporting local businesses are hurting, we have launched a donation gateway.