Ross Kilner has been flying with his best friend for 11 years.
His name is Bongo, and despite having four legs, he rarely touches the controls.
The 13-year-old Maltese shih tzu has spent more time in a de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth than a kennel.
The duo flies out of Robe Airport on South Australia’s Limestone Coast where Mr Kilner has owned a hangar for 30 years.
It was not an immediate love affair between Bongo and air travel; when Mr Kilner bought him off his former owner in 2009 the pup was not exactly a frequent flyer.
Early on, Bongo’s ears would prick up when Mr Kilner would start the engine.
“He soon got used to it … much like cars. Now he just loves to travel,” Mr Kilner said.
Over the years the two have travelled right across the state and beyond.
Mr Kilner’s other plane, an ultralight Karatoo he bought for $20,000, can get all the way to Leigh Creek — 836 kilometres — on a full tank.
“It’s my bladder that wouldn’t last that long,” he said.
‘New lease on life’
A little while ago Bongo was grounded from flying; he seemed to have lost his enthusiasm for life and flying.
When he took Bongo to the vet he was advised to put him on a strict diet of chicken and rice.
“I wasn’t going to because I thought, ‘He hasn’t got long to go, there’s no good starving him now’, but I did it anyway,” Mr Kilner said.
While Mr Kilner has hundreds of people — if not more — up in his two planes, his most consistent and loyal passenger has undoubtedly been Bongo.