AN RAF pilot from Box has traded in his Tornado for a small two-seater plane he assembled himself to fly from the UK to New Zealand on a route taken by intrepid early aviators.

Wing Commander Chris Pote departed from Boscombe Down in Wiltshire on October 16 in a 300kg Aeropro Eurofox, made from an aircraft kit.

The aim of the voyage is to celebrate the Royal Air Force’s 100th birthday, re-visiting many of the airfields used by the RAF over the last century, and commemorating those who have gone before them.

The team also hopes to inspire the next generation, visiting schools and youth organisations to encourage youngsters to study STEM subjects and pursuing adventurous ambitions.

Chris, who is married to Carolyn has has two children, said: "The key difference is down to how low you are and how you can see things. We stop frequently and you feel immersed in the countries you fly over.

"The most challenging part was Bankok to the Christmas Islands, where there were a lot of thunder storms, and until finally we flew out over a crystal blue sea."

The plane is of a similar size and capability to those used by early British pioneers such as Bert Hinkler and Amy Johnson, and the route to New Zealand is made up of 25 hops between the historic airfields, flying for up to 12 hours at a time. Challenges include bad weather, air traffic control difficulties, bureaucracy and the local environment.

Co-pilots have flown different sections of the trip. Rachel Nugent from the Met Office co-piloted the first section to Lyon. Wing Commander Kev Gatland, a Tornado Navigator, flew with Chris to India. At that point Squadron Leader Emma Landy, a former search and rescue pilot, took over to complete the first part of the expedition to Australia.

The first part of the expedition, from the UK to Perth, Western Australia, was completed on November 4. They faced huge thunderstorms in Malaysia, large expanses of desert in the Middle East, crossed part of the Indian Ocean from Christmas Island to Australia and hung on to the plane in a storm in Bangkok that threatened to destroy the aircraft on the ground.

As part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics engagement the team presented to schools in Karachi on behalf of the British Council, the school on Christmas Island and many Air Cadet groups en route.

On Monday November 26, Chris and Officer Cadet Abby McGill from Yorkshire University Air Squadron resumed the expedition across Australia to New Zealand, and as a final challenge, the team hopes to manage a world first by flying across the 1300-mile wide Tasman Sea non-stop in an aircraft weighing only 500kg, including fuel and the pilot.

You can follow the expedition, including a live tracker, at on facebook as RAF 100 GB-NZ Expedition and on twitter as @raf100_gbnz

The expedition is funded by industry and personal contributions, with any sponsorship going to Save The Children, the RAF Benevolent Fund and the RAF Association, supporting RAF families. Visit