Three flights in two days

After not flying at all since my trip to Whenuapai in early December 2010, I filled a weekend with aviation. I had booked a flight on Sunday in a 172 to take my work colleague and his fiancee along with the lovely Susan to Raglan for lunch. I realised last week I was not current in the 172, so I had to book a currency flight to get some circuits in. Then on Saturday morning pilot friend Aaron asked me to fly DQV back from Tauranga because he wanted to bring another plane back to Hamilton, so I agreed to fly him over. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos because the batteries in my camera are flat.

The weekend started with what was going to be 3 circuits in a 172 but ended up being 4 plus an orbit and a go around. I made a meal of the glide approach and had to go around, then due to an IFR flight making an approach 2 of us had to orbit. Four approaches later I was current (legally).

The day was very nice, excellent flying conditions with light winds and only a bit of cloud over the Kaimais to make life interesting. Also there was the Walsh Flying School operating out of Matamata so the MBZ was temporarily a control zone. On the way over to Tauranga we kept south of Matamata township (which is approximately 5nm south of the actual airfield) but reported into the ATC which was on watch and they acknowledged our presence and said there was not a lot of activity to report at that stage as far as conflicting traffic was concerned.

We had a small moment getting into Tauranga airspace because the radio I was using decided to glitch and I didn't realise it until we were pretty close to the boundary. I changed radios, made contact and was cleared for the Racecourse 1 arrival. We had to descend quite rapidly to reach the height required the approach procedure, I had to lose 1800 feet in about 5 nm so I reduced MP to 22" and set a nose attitude to give me initially a 400 fpm descent, but as the airspeed increased the nose wanted to come up and because I was busy looking for traffic I didn't notice that we had stopped descending for a couple of seconds then I nosed down to 700 fpm descent and remembered to wind on a bit of nose down trim and that helped.

I made my call overhead Tauranga Hospital and I was cleared to descend for the grass runway. I asked for the seal runway because we were 4 up and reasonably heavy and ATC recleared us for 07 seal. I did the downwind checks and we were quite lucky I had maintained 1000 feet right up until the final turn because a Cherokee went under us on finals for the seal. I then made my turn for the grass runway and ATC recleared us for the grass. In all the confusion I could not remember if I had been cleared to land so as we crossed the threshold I confirmed with ATC before making a light touchdown. I've been told how much easier the Arrow is to flare when there is weight in the back and as I eased back on the controls the nose came up a lot higher than I intended and we ballooned a bit. But we touched down and rolled to a stop without much fuss.

The flight back was quite eventful, Matamata ATC routed us via Waharoa Township at 3000 feet and above, we had a descending tow plane to avoid (never saw him but he reported north of the field which was some distance from where we were), a glider (also never saw him) and a whole heap of activity in the Matamata circuit. In comparison Hamilton was quiet with only one other aircraft in the circuit.

Move onto Sunday. After putting this flight off twice (it was originally supposed to take place in December of 2010) due to marginal weather we hit an absolute peach of a day. I was a little worried about the return trip from Raglan because we would be 4 up and just under max weight at the hottest part of the day departing a strip with obstacles on both approaches. I did a weight and balance and the p-charts using the worst case scenario (max weight, nil headwind and hottest expected temperature) and had my math checked by an instructor. The good news was that according to the p-chart we would only need approximately 480 meters to take off and Raglan is 646 meters.

We took off and set course for Raglan. The flight is only about 10 minutes in duration which is nice for non pilots because 10 minutes is about as long as it takes for 4 people inside a 172 to become uncomfortable. I called up 10nm out and heard there was glider towing in progress off 05. After spotting the tow plane and glider one of my passengers pointed out a glider joining the circuit ahead, we were still a few miles away but it was good to get the picture in my head. As I joined overhead the tow plane ducked in around me and joined downwind for 05. I announced I was descending non traffic to join downwind for 05 and proceeded with the descent.

I like doing approaches on 05 at Raglan because it is very scenic, as the base leg takes you out over the Raglan bar and down Ngarunui beach before turning final. Damn I wish I had batteries for my camera. I flew a steady approach and a good landing before taxiing clear. Once I got out of the plane I inwardly whooped because there was a steady breeze of around 5-8 knots blowing down 05. We had a lovely lunch and after a preflight and runup I taxied us down to the end of 05, briefed my passengers on the short field takeoff procedure and where my check points were, did the lineup checks and with my feet hard on the brakes opened the throttle. Everything came up as expected and I released the brakes. Raglan is quite a wide field so its possible to use an oblique angle to make sure you are properly into wind. With no small relief I announced we had live airspeed some distance short of the first marker and we lifted off at around halfway down the strip. I lowered the nose in ground effect to build a bit of airspeed and then eased the stick back and up we went. We had an excellent rate of climb so I relaxed and set course for home. We detoured past a big wind farm being constructed on the hills south east of Raglan and then joined straight in for Grass 07. I had expected a crosswind because the ATIS had said the wind was swinging about 40 degrees and the tower had quoted a crosswind of about 4 knots so was carrying a lot of speed on final. As we crossed the threshold the wind was dead on the nose so when I flared we ballooned then bounced. I was not happy with the landing but my passengers were none the wiser and were happy we were back in one piece.

Two days, three flights, three airfields, six passengers, two aircraft types and 1.6 hours in the log book thank you very much.


PropellerHead said…
I assume you were in JGP, Euan. (have found WAM pretty comfortable 4-up for an hour or so). Sounds like a great little flight. Had a great trip to New Plymouth same day; landed 14 (120ยบ 17Kt!) at NP and got 07 for landing back at Hamilton - nice to have the cross runways, eh? May this weather long continue!!!
Flyinkiwi said…
We were booked in JGP until it went u/s the day before so fortunately WAM became free when I was just about to postpone the flight again.