From New Zealand To Australia In A Homebuilt

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Those of us on the far side of the world may think of New Zealand and Australia as neighbors, but in fact, the two countries are separated by about 1,200 miles of rough and lonely seas. Pilot Murray Belfield, 66, got to experience those miles up close last week when he flew solo in his homebuilt two-seater Jodel D11 from his home in New Zealand to a fly-in near Sydney. It was believed to be the first crossing in that model of aircraft. Belfield flew 500 miles the first day, landing at tiny Norfolk Island; 500 miles the second day took him to Lord Howe Island. He hit rough weather on the third day. "There was some heavy rain and hail and strong headwinds," Belfield told reporters after landing. "I had to wind my way down through the cloud and get below it. I was at 1,500 feet at one stage." His long-range radio died on the first day, but he was able to reach an airliner flying overhead and transmit his position. "It's nice to keep people informed of your position in case you go down in the drink," he said. Belfield, who got his pilot certificate at age 50, spent 10 years building the wooden D11.