Angel Flight, the charity that flies qualifying non-urgent medical patients to hospitals and specialists that would otherwise be many hours' drive away, had a few weather issues in its early stages in Kaitaia, but it's soaring now.
Kaitaia mum Shannon Hoani and her 6-week-old son Magic arrived safe and sound back in Kaitaia on Thursday, having flown to Auckland on Monday (accompanied by a camera crew from the TVNZ programme Sunday, for a segment to be screened next month).
A young bilateral amputee, accompanied by a carer, also flew to Auckland on Monday and returned the following day.
Both patients were met at Ardmore by Earth Angels, who drove them to Middlemore Hospital then returned them to Ardmore for their flights home.
Both would have spent two days on buses, with a night in a Whangarei motel, to get to Auckland and again to get home, Angel Flight founder Lance Weller said.
Magic's flight home was aboard a Cessna 182 piloted by Aucklander Alistair Leggat.
"It's great; I enjoy flying, and if you enjoy flying it's a good thing to do," he said.
He became involved with Angel Flight after seeing an advertisement placed by Lance, calling for volunteers to join the cause.
Thursday's flight to Kaitaia had been perfect, with Shannon making a great co-pilot.
"She's a star," Alistair said.
Angel Flight pilots provide their planes at no cost to passengers, also meeting the cost of fuel and other expenses. The various airports used waive landing fees. And Shannon was impressed.
"It went all good, good scenery. We flew through the clouds, which was cool," she said.
Her son's surgery had gone well, but they would be flying back to Auckland again on Thursday.
"The service is mean. It's a good service, nice people," she added.
"It would take so much longer driving, and we would have to have a lot of stops for Magic. The flight is just there and back."
She had sat next to Alistair on the flight home, and while flying through clouds had been "freaky" she had been delighted to spot 90 Mile Beach and her home town in the distance.
Angel Flight NZ has 23 pilots, 22 Earth Angels (who meet all the costs of road transport) and four mission co-ordinators, all volunteers. Patients must have a medical referral, and clearance to fly.