The Team

Chris Rudge - Chief Pilot and CEO


Chris has been flying gliders and powered aircraft since 1984. As a tow pilot flying "tail dragger" aircraft, he completed over 5000 glider launches. His total time in aircraft exceeds 6100 hours. He also holds New Zealand and Canadian commercial licences for aeroplanes and balloons, and has flown helicopters. He was the first pilot in the world to log 1000 hours each on aeroplanes, gliders and balloons. In addition to holding four New Zealand national aviation records, he has been flying in the area around Aoraki Mt Cook for 34 years and was the Chief Flying Instructor for the Southern Soaring gliding company from February 2006 until April 2010. Other achievements include being the author of two non-fiction aviation books, one novel and visiting Antarctica eight times.

Darren Smith - Quality Assurance Manager

Darren Smith is an experienced pilot with over 6200 hours fixed-wing time (2500 of this being in tail-dragger aircraft) and over 1400 hours as a glider pilot. He use to fly the off-seasons in Canada fire-patrolling and currently works in New Zealand flying a PAC750 and Cessna Caravan on skydive operations in Wanaka. Darren also spent time in the Mt Cook region flying the "Porter" on skis landing on the Tasman Glacier.