Fred Ladd flies under Auckland Harbour Bridge

31 March 1967

Fred Ladd (Archives New Zealand, AAQT 6401 A95630)

On his last day flying for Tourist Air Travel in March 1967, Fred Ladd illegally flew his Widgeon amphibian aircraft under the Auckland Harbour Bridge. He was discharged without conviction for this stunt.

An extrovert and a risk-taker, Ladd flew for the Royal New Zealand Air Force during the Second World War before becoming a household name during his years with Tourist Air Travel in Auckland in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1969 he began an amphibian tourist service in Rotorua and by 1971 had formed Captain Fred Ladd’s Volcanic Wunderflites. He joined Air Central in Taupō in 1976 but grounded himself the following year after suffering dizziness. Then aged 68, Ladd had 21,109 flying hours behind him. After Civil Aviation withdrew his commercial pilot’s licence, Ladd worked hard on his general fitness in an effort to get it back. While unsuccessful in this endeavour, he set a number of national over-70 swimming records and became a strong advocate for the rights of older people.

In 1983 – aged 80 - he took up gliding, maintaining that ‘flying is a way of life that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be without’. Fred Ladd died in Taupō in January 1989.