A very special Air New Zealand flight departed Christchurch on Saturday morning carrying 50 Koru Care kids off on a one-of-a-kind tour of the skies above Aotearoa.
Just about everything about this flight was unique, including its flight path, which would certainly have caught the eye of anyone browsing aircraft tracking sites online.
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flown by Air NZ Chief Pilot Captain David Morgan took off towards the West Coast at 11:40am, looped up and around to pass over Taranaki with a few extra turns along the way, then headed back to Christchurch to reveal flight NZ4376 had drawn the shape of a kiwi.
Gathering at the themed Little Heroes Headquarters at Christchurch Airport, the Koru Care kids started their morning with a pre-flight party, having faces painted, posing for superhero portraits and dancing at a silent disco. There was also a surprise acoustic performance from Drax Project.
Air NZ's CEO Greg Foran joined Saturday's flight and said it was "uplifting" to offer a special charter flight for kids who aren't usually able to travel offshore due to medical conditions or family situations.
"Today's flight is a real heart warmer. Some of these children have never been on a plane before so we wanted them to experience the excitement of flying and our teams have pulled out all the stops to make today a magical experience for our Little Heroes," Foran said.
The Little Heroes also met some of their real heroes at the pre-flight party, including All Blacks Sam Cane and Joe Moody.
All carbon emissions from the Koru Care flight and the flights that flew the children to Christchurch were offset through Air NZ's FlyNeutral programme.