The US$100 hamburger

This flight was a natural continuation of my experience as I now slowly build hours PIC. While not really a cross country flight, it was long enough for me to think about navigation and map reading, and I got a chance to brush up on those skills. It was also an opportunity for me to combine a birthday gift with a US$100 hamburger flight.

The plan was to take JGP with Susan and two friends Glenn (whose birthday gift the flight was) and Cathy over to Raglan for lunch. Raglan is one of the few NZ seaside towns where the airstrip is a major part of the settlement so its nice and close to the centre of town where all the decent eating establishments are.

The day went similar to my recent Rotorua flight. I turned up early and got the weather information, preflighted the aircraft and got everything ready to go. The weather was fairly windy (8 knots on the ground, 25 knots at 2000 feet) but it was blowing steadily from the west so that would make landing at Raglan a piece of cake. I decided to wait 30 minutes longer than planned to let the worst of the low cloud dissipate so by the time we got airborne the cloudbase had lifted to a decent 2500 feet and was expected to get even higher as the day went on.

Due to the headwind I decided to fly directly to Raglan, as the 25 knot headwind would make the flight a fairly lengthy one, and since Glenn and Cathy didn't have a lot of small plane flight experience I wanted to make the first leg as short as possible in case they had difficulty or discomfort. I had briefed them before we left on the high likelyhood of turbulence but Head Instructor Roger said that the turbulence he had experienced earlier in the morning was more of long rises and sinks rather than speed bump oscillations. In fact it was surprisingly smooth on the way over and the turbulence was very light.

The weather in Raglan was showery so I decided to get on the ground as soon as possible. I executed a standard overhead join and set up for a precision approach (Raglan is 646m in length and we were slightly over max all up weight but well within balance limits). The landing couldn't have been better, a gentle set down with the stall warning buzzer sounding as we landed. As with my landing in Rotorua, I got complimented by the passengers which gave me a feeling of great relief as I knew that a) Glenn and Cathy had made the flight without any drama, and b) they knew I was able to land safely which meant they would be more confident in my ability to get them home which meant I wouldn't have to worry about them as much on the return flight.

I taxied clear, shutdown and secured the aircraft as everyone piled out. We walked through the camping ground to town and eventually found a nice cafe with a nice view of the harbour to eat lunch. Ironically enough I settled on a hamburger.

After a very tasty lunch we strolled back to the plane, I did a preflight in light rain (is it always like this?) and after a thorough warmup I taxied us onto the runway and performed a max performance take off (aka short field to my American readers). I've nicknamed JGP the Millenium Falcon, because it might not look like much but it has it where it counts. The new 180hp engine and prop combination give it excellent climb performance at low altitudes and we easily cleared any obstacles at the far end of the runway.

I turned north and we flew up the coast for a few miles so Glenn and Cathy could get a look at New Zealands awesome coastline. Then I turned east and we headed back to Hamilton, where I got permission to operate overhead Hamilton city and flew them around Hamilton showing them sites of interest.

Overhead Hamilton there was moderate turbulence which I was rather worried about because normally Hamilton isn't too bad. A thought popped into my mind when I requested sequencing for landing because I knew that grass 25 would have moderate to severe turbulence on finals because of the shape of a gully about 800m from the end of the threshold. I had plenty of experience landing there but the wind had intensified to 12 knots on the ground and was changing direction constantly within a 40 degree arc.

My final approach was not my best and in hindsight I maybe should have given more consideration to going around, but it was within my personal limits so I decided to continue with the landing. I came in slightly high, and just as I closed the throttle the wind changed direction and my left wing dropped about 15 degrees. In that adrenaline filled moment between seconds I heard Instructor Pauls voice in my mind saying "you're the pilot, do something about it!" I rather forceably righted the aircraft and we touched down a scant second later. I told my rather tense passengers that we were down and safe and they appeared to accept this as fact since we were all right way up and rolling down the runway.

I taxied back to the aero club and shutdown, and Glenn and Cathy were already buzzing about the flight and made some remarks about wanting to go on another one at a later date. I took these comments as meaning the flight was another successful one. This sort of thing is why I got my PPL and its great to be able to share the gift of flight with those who are not as interested in it as I.


Rob said…
Sounds like a great hamburger run.

When I get my pilots licence I plan on keeping the sight seeing fun and the flying as "non eventful" as possible as well.
Euan Kilgour said…
Hi Rob,

Yes, I think any pilots main concern when flying PIC with non pilots is their safety and wellbeing.

My hot tip is inform your passengers when you are doing anything which changes the attitude/altitude/heading of the aircraft. That way they know it is you doing it and not the plane flying itself. Funny though it sounds, passengers often are unable to tell the difference.

Call me neurotic, but I fly the entire flight in my head many times before we actually take off. You'll be amazed what some simple planning and forethought does to your state of mind when you are in the air.