Thursday Sep 1, 2011 By Scott Kara
There are times when Richie McCaw would rather play on the wing, as he tells Scott Kara.
There will hardly be a word about rugby spoken during this chat with Richie McCaw. Given the loss to the Aussies last weekend that's not a bad thing, and the All Blacks captain is happy - it's a relief even - to swap talking about tactics at the breakdown with another of his passions: flying.
McCaw comes from a flying family. His grandfather was a fighter pilot in World War II, flying Typhoons, Tempests and Hurricanes; his father, Don, and his two uncles fly gliders, and McCaw has been flying with his dad since he was a little tacker.
He got his licence to fly fixed-wing aircraft in the early 2000s, and did his first solo glider flight in 2005.
Having already featured in Discovery Channel's Sportstar Insider in 2009, about his flying feats and lifetime love affair with gliding, he narrates and shares his aviation knowledge in new series FlightPathTV (Discovery, Mondays, 9.30pm). It's a show for serious plane spotters and novices alike.
"It really is a bit of everything for everyone, to be perfectly honest," says McCaw. "The good thing about it is it's not just all about flash planes - there is a lot of history, going back to World War II and beyond, and a lot of interesting stories about cool people."
People like the old digger who, like his grandfather, was a fighter pilot in World War II and then went on to pilot Air Force One and fly the US president around the world.
"Oh yeah, he's great. And it's those stories, I'm really interested in, and World War II stories too because of my grandfather; stories like the Dam Busters. Those are the ones that really interest me."
The guys on FlightPathTV are mad for flying. They're obsessed. So how avid an aviator are you then?
I love it. I absolutely love it. But it's not my whole life and I've got other things going on. But some of these guys, like the air racers, I suppose they put as much time into it as I do into rugby. But for me, I love it and I'd love to do what they do, but at the moment it's something I fit in around what else I do - and flying is an outlet from that. But seeing what some of these guys do, like going to the Reno Air Race and flying those big powerful planes, I get very envious of them being able to do that. But I've got other things going on at the moment.
Looking at some of these pilots on the show, like [NZ Air Force] helicopter pilot Mary Woolston and the 28-year-old US bomber pilot, they are very young. That could have been you if you had chosen that path.
That's what I wanted to be when I was growing up: a pilot in the air force. But things change, and I was always probably too big to be a jet fighter pilot anyway. But looking at them, and they are even younger than me now, being in charge of those things you think, "Wow". Very envious.
The old vintage footage in the show from the 30s and 40s is great. So how reliable are some of these old planes, like the DC-3 the Crusaders charted during the Super 15?
For an aeroplane built in the 30s, although that one the boys flew up on was built in the 40s, to still be functioning 60 or 70 years on is pretty amazing really. Obviously you [build planes] a little bit differently now, but for the technology back then to keep going through 60-odd years, and for people to still want to fly them, that's something special.
You're obviously used to public speaking, but narrating and telling a story is a different story. Did you need any special training for the show?
It has been an eye-opener. I tell ya. It's not just a matter of reading a script. You feel like you're being over-enthusiastic, but when you listen to it it does have the right sort of level - so you almost have to overdo it to make it sound interesting. So there were a few re-takes, and little "smile when you talk" moments. But I think because I love flying, and I know what I'm talking about, I do have that natural passion and hopefully that sort of enthusiasm comes through.
After your rugby-playing days are over, do you think it's inevitable you will go into flying?
There is no doubt I will carry on flying. But in terms of it becoming a job or something, it scares me to make something that you love as your passion into a job, that you turn up to to pay the bills. But I guess there is the potential to have it both ways, and I do that with rugby anyway, but my gliding is my great hobby. So no doubt when I've finished with rugby I'll hopefully have more time to pursue the hobby side, but what else it involves, I'm not sure.
Who: Richie McCaw
What: FlightPathTV, Discovery Channel, Mondays 9:30pm