February Update

Hi everyone. Well just because I haven't been posting doesn't mean I haven't been flying... well... I haven't been up in the left seat but that will change this week as I head to Whitianga for the National Flying Competition. OK lets recap the awesome things I have been doing.

First up was my trip to the NZ Sport Avex in Tauranga. I went with my pilot mate Chris, his friend Alistair and his lovely wife whose name escapes me (sorry!) in our favourite Piper Cherokee Archer ZK-FWS. The day dawned bright and sunny with a few clouds around but by the time we were ready to depart Hamilton the cloudbase had lifted sufficiently so we could make it over the Kaimai's whilst staying under the cloud.

I sat in the back on the trip over (banging my head on the roof with the slightest bump) and kept my eyes outside looking for other aircraft. Once we got into the Matamata Mandatory Broadcast Zone (there because of regular parachute activity) around the Matamata airfield things got a little more tense as we were hearing of more aircraft in the area but did not see them. We headed over the Kaimais and Chris tuned into the ATIS and studied the VFG for the appropriateVFR arrival procedure before trying to get a word in on the incredibly busy Tauranga frequency. I counted 14 aircraft operating around the Tauranga area (by listening into the radio chat - I didn't see any of them till we were much closer) and they were keeping the tower so busy we had to orbit a couple of times before Chris could get a word in.

Eventually we were cleared and flew down our prescribed route, and eventually we were cleared number 3 on approach. I found two of them before realising the third had already landed. Chris took us on a long downwind so we could accurately identify and sequence ourselves and I think he did a fantastic job in a fairly stressful situation. The worst part of the flight was the last second (and I mean last second) clearance to land from the tower. We were probably about at about 50 feet and the threshold was less than 100m away when they cleared us to land. We touched down and got clear of the active runway as quickly as possible and taxied to our parking space.

Then it was a short walk from the flightline to the lengthy queue to get in, which was moving at a decent pace so it wasn't that much of a problem. Once we were inside it was cameras out and snapping at anything with wings. Here are the fantastic photos intrepid amateur photographer (and private pilot) Chris took with his very impressive camera. The highlights for me were watching the Thunder Mustang (NZ's fastest piston engined plane), the amazing solo aerobatic displays by the Cessna Aerobat (I still have problems believing what this underpowered training plane is capable of), Tiger Moth (it was funny to hear that the plane was more than twice the age of the pilot) and the Giles 202 (NZ registration ZK-NUT - sort of sums up the pilot as well, amazing skill, balls of steel and slightly mad); the best sight and sound of the day was the low level pass by a Hawker Hunter at just under the speed of sound followed by a zoom climb to 10 000 feet.

All too soon it was over and we climbed aboard FWS for the return trip to Hamilton. After sitting in the queue at the holding point for about 40 minutes we finally got airborne. Fortunately for us most of the traffic was heading north, which mean our trip back was fairly quiet. After circling overhead Wairere Falls so Alastairs wife could grab a couple of photos it was onto Hamilton. Chris admitted that he had never flown the published VFR arrivals into Hamilton so I had to tell him what to do. It was kind of pointless though because about 2 minutes later the tower cleared us for a direct approach to Grass 25. The fun began when we realised the approach was more or less up sun. Then we had problems finding the airport so Chris cleverly switched in the VOR and triumphantly stated that we were flying directly at the airport even though we couldn't see it which was strangely comforting. Eventually we saw what we thought was the runway, but when we were almost on short finals we realised that we were flying towards the large grassy expanse BETWEEN Grass 25 and the old Grass 26. Then came a steep right turn and then left onto finals for Grass 25 followed by another excellent landing. Then off to the bar for a well earned beer. A great days flying and entertainment.

Two days ago the folk at Alpha Aviation invited members of the club on a guided tour of their facility where they are building the 3 A160's the Aero Club have purchased. We got to see the aircraft in their formative stages (one has the basic fuselage assembled, the others are still in bits and pieces in various jigs around the shop floor), and also an insight into the aircraft manufacturing and assembly business. I took some photos and will find somewhere to put them so you can see them at a later date. After that was done I re-took my flight Nav exam. I thought I did well, finishing well within the time limit and even reviewing all my answers. I can't claim to be confident that I passed because I have failed so many times I can't bring myself to entertain the thought of passing till I see the grade slip in the mail.

I'll post again after the National Comps. Fingers crossed that the weather holds. I don't really have a competitve streak, so my mantra for these competitions is that I am there to fly, not to win. Besides, if you the first part well enough the winning takes care of itself.


Chris Nielsen said…
Thanks for the kind words mate.. especially 'cleverly' - I like that one :-)

It was good having you on the trip - it's always nicer with another pilot on a cross-country, and you will find out all about the sense of utter terror that grips you when you're lost on a cross country :)