By Dave Williams
Seventy-six years after Jean Batten made her groundbreaking flight from England to New Zealand, an elderly DC3 is following the same route.
France-based businessman Mark Oremland, the owner of Te Anau Lodge, is heading the three-week venture which has reached Singapore.
The "Airscapade DC3", with Jean Batten's image on the tail, is following as much as possible the 22,000km trip the pioneering female aviator made in 1936.
It had suffered minor problems with the radial engines, which was to be expected, but performing well, Mr Oremland told NZ Newswire from Singapore.
However, fatigue had turned out to be a bigger problem than expected for the crew and three others making the entire trip.
"It's turning into a marathon, it's very, very full on."
It had given them new appreciation for Jean Batten's "astounding" effort to do it on her own more than 75 years ago, he said.
Mr Oremland bought the 1942 DC3, one of thousands which saw service with the US Air Force during World War II, and had it restored in England.
He did not want to say how much it cost to restore.
"I won't go there, it's too painful. It ran away on us but we couldn't turn back."
The restoration was finished only two days before they left. "We cut it very fine, but now it's done its test flying."
They still hoped to make Auckland by November 14, but they would not be pushing too hard to make any deadline.
Once they arrive in Auckland, they will then fly to Te Anau where the aircraft will offer charter services.
In 1936, at age 27, Jean Batten, flew her Percival Gull Six to become the first woman to fly from England to New Zealand in just over 11 days, a record that stood for more than 40 years.