Off to Ardmore

Got up early and headed out to the airport for a trip to the Pilot Expo at Ardmore. Chris and I were sharing PIC duties in FWS (not really long enough to be considered a cross country but at least it was an A - B flight). Chris was to fly us into Ardmore (probably the more difficult leg) and I would fly us back to Hamilton.

On my way out to the Aero Club the morning weather changed from a gloriously still summer morning to thick fog, and in its center was Hamilton airport. We also found out that the Royal New Zealand Airforce had an open day at their Whenuapai Base in Auckland so we were not expecting much traffic at Ardmore. The only problem was, we had to wait till the fog cleared sufficiently for us to safely climb to altitude, so a planned 8.30am departure was delayed until 9am, then 9.30am, until finally it lifted sufficiently just before 10am for Chris to be happy about going and away we went. There was a thin layer of cloud at about 700 feet AMSL which Hamilton tower said we could climb through as it was not very thick. Chris chose to wait till he spotted a gap and up we went. I have a vague recollection of him levelling out rather exuberantly and I felt all the blood rushing up from my feet. Not a pleasant experience.

Above the cloud we could see the ground below and noticed that most of the low stuff was starting to dissipate but we still steered for clearer air where we could pick out potential landing sites. Chris had brought along his handheld GPS and we used it as a backup to the map. The ride at 2500 was mill pond smooth at that time of the morning and we made excellent progress, the DME and GPS telling us we had a 130 knot ground speed.

When we were overhead Mercer township (pretty much the halfway point if you are driving from Hamilton to Auckland) we copied down the AWIB (which was using runway 21 not 03 grrrr) so I had to quickly find the approach procedure and read it out for Chris. There was some circuit traffic on the Ardmore frequency but no more than Hamilton on a busy day. We joined lefthand downwind for 21 number 3 (Ardmore has no ATC so things can be stressful when it is busy) and landed without drama (although Chris was unhappy with his landing). We then cleared the runway and eventually found the taxiway we were supposed to take to get to the parking area.

The event staff had kindly organised Follow Me cars and we made our way to our park and shut down.

The main reason for me going is that I wanted to attend a seminar on mountain flying from Fly Wanaka. We do have some limited mountain flying possible near Hamilton, but this is the real deal. The Southern Alps of NZ's south island are aptly named. The tallest peak, Mt Cook (Aorangi) is almost 12500 feet high and the average height of the range is well above 9000 feet. These guys have plenty of time in the air in and around the mountains so I hung on every word. I'm considering heading down there to do their mountain flying course one day.

After the seminar, Chris and I walked around the stalls and aircraft while Chris took photos of everything. Everything from a brand new Cirrus SR22 to a Cessna 172B of 1950's vintage was either on display or on sale. I marvelled at a Cessna 172 SP with dual Garmin MFDs - they certainly tidy up the instruments.

We chatted to a nice middle aged guy sitting next to a Robinson R22 helicopter and found out later when he handed us his card he is an A Category instructor! I definitely cannot afford to learn to fly a Helicopter but I do want to take a trial flight at some point to say I've done it. It would look cool in my logbook too. :-)

After eating some lunch and realising we'd pretty much seen everything we got a courtesy car back to our plane and made ready to leave. Once again the Follow Me car came and escorted us back to the runway. I wasted little time in announcing on Unicom we were lining up and rolling and as soon as we were lined up I made a quick check of the instruments and opened the throttle. Chris noted that I had not lowered flaps but I made a decision that I wanted to get as much altitude as we could once we got off the ground and the tarmac runway meant I could roll along till we indicated way more than the 60 knots required before FWS would fly itself off the runway so I used as much as I could and we shot into the air.

Chris read me the departure procedure and I made sure I followed it while keeping clear of Auckland International airspace. We climbed initially to 1500 feet until we were well clear of the Auckland airspace above 2500 and then climbed firstly to 2000 feet, and then when the turbulence was still present, to 2500. I levelled off and we started the trip back. The visibility at that time of day was at least 50km so I had no problems visually navigating. I kept an eye on the GPS to make sure that I didn't get too far off our planned track but I chose to cross the hills between Huntly and Taupiri to the east of the track where the hills were not so high in an attempt to avoid turbulence.

I grabbed the ATIS and reported 19nm DME north of Hamilton and was cleared for a north arrival. I started a cruise descent t0 1700 and once we were inside the Hamilton CTR I kept us at 1700 as there was traffic overhead Hamilton, which we didn't initially see because they weren't where we were told to look for them. Once I picked them up and had informed the tower (and the other plane) that I had them in sight I was cleared to descend to join right base for grass 18. We came in on a rather wide right base and I chose to get us into a landing configuration early so I could control the approach.

I put the first notch of flaps in early and set a nose attitude for 80 knots. Then I put down the second notch and trimmed for 70 knots and then deployed full flap and kept the speed at 70 so we had some airspeed to play with. At short final I let the airspeed come back to 65, I reduced power to idle and let the plane sink as we'd had problems with float because of the hot day and a low wing aircraft meant we were getting lots of ground effect. As we got close to the ground I raised the nose and we touched down, bounced gently, then floated, before finally settling again on the stall warning horn.

I taxied clear and we crawled slowly back to the Aero Club. 0.8 in the logbook, not a real cross country but a fun day.


Rodney said…
Ahhh yes, Ardmore! Prevailing winds mean that 21 is used most of the time [I flew with the Auckland Aero Club for 5-6 years before shifting to Wellington].

Sounds like you had a good trip there and back, and that it was not too busy... Since shifting to Wellington [end of 2005], I've been back once and did some flying - it still felt like home :-)
Chris Nielsen said…
The forecast looked like 03 was going to be the one, but yes, every time I have been there we've used 21. Good day was had by all..