TAURANGA - Tony Christiansen may not have legs, but that has not stopped the Tauranga man spreading his wings.
The 39-year-old, whose legs were cut off in a train accident when he was 9, has just flown into aviation history.
He is believed to be the first double amputee in New Zealand to fly solo, although a Civil Aviation spokeswoman, Martyn Gosling, said at least two other disabled pilots also used hand controls.
"You have to concentrate on what you can do," said the successful businessman and sportsman, who swam a mile at the school sports the year after he lost his legs.
"I know a lot of able-bodied people who are far worse off that me. I've been fortunate to have achieved a lot of things."
He has represented New Zealand six times at world disabled games, holds a Tae Kwon Do black belt, is a qualified lifeguard and scuba diver, a water skier and a "passionate" speedway driver.
The father of three now flies a Cessna 172, thanks to the Bay of Plenty Flight Centre's chief flying instructor, Phill Hooker.
Mr Hooker - taught in turn by Mr Christiansen to fly model aircraft - battled through Civil Aviation red tape to enable his friend to soar to new heights.
Mr Christiansen, having built his small signwriting business over 10 years into the biggest of its type in the Bay of Plenty, is now concentrating on a new career as a motivational speaker at seminars and corporate gatherings.