2013 New Zealand Air Safari

It was the Waikato Aero Clubs turn to host a leg of the Air Safari as I said previously.  I signed up to volunteer my services as needed, and it turned out I was going to participate in the Air Safari to an extent further than I'd expected.  Club CEO and Air Safari Official Richard asked if I could assist him along with fellow club member Mike at the finish line for the leg.  Our mission was to get to the finish line (the carpark at the Karapiro Dam), set up the sighting rig and help Richard spot aircraft.  The reason it was there and not at the airport was that the competitors must fly the route with precise timing and to have the finish line in controlled airspace would not be fair to them.  Also being at Karapiro, they would be far enough outside the control zone to finish the race, get the ATIS down and contact Hamilton tower before they hit the boundary.

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The route the competitors were supposed to fly was a zig zag route that would take the faster aircraft approximately 45 minutes to complete so we didn't have a great deal of time to get up and running.  When we arrived Richard commented that they had picked the wrong spot for the finish line because the aircraft were expected to arrive from the east and the view in that direction was obscured by terrain and trees.

We set up the sighting rig as per Richards specifications before taking up our positions,  Mike with the binoculars taking down registrations in case we had a mixup, me with the hastily improvised clipboard and Richard with the radios.  The rig was set up in more or less a north-south direction so Richard would call out the time based on aircraft crossing an imaginary line long the axis of the rig.  I would then write down the time next to the aircraft's ID number in the log.  Fortunately for us there was a few very fast aircraft with which to get some practice in before the gaggle of slower aircraft arrived en masse.  The first to arrive was the fleets only twin, followed by a 182RG, then the two RNZAF Air Trainers.  Then there was a gap and the flood hit.  Richard said later he was so glad Mike and I were assisting because he doubts he would have been able to keep pace.

In life outside flying I have volunteered for timing crew for motorsport before so this sort of thing was not new to me, but in motorsport you know exactly where the next car is coming from!

After what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only about 25 minutes the last competitor crossed the line, we verified we had times logged for all the starters and we broke camp and headed back to the Aero Club, where all the aircraft were neatly parked and their crews digging into some refreshments at the bar.


A group of interested people (including me) got escorted out to the flightline and got some photos of the competitors aircraft.  The fastest one there was the Twin Comanche but there was an assortment of aircraft including but not limited to:  a Europa, a Tecnam P2008, 2 Arrows (the only Cherokees in the field strangely enough), a Zodiac, a Vans RV6, a ton of 172s and a little old 150.  It was a great afternoon excursion, and it was great to see some familiar and more than a few unfamiliar faces at the bar afterwards.  I want to wish all the crews the best of luck for the rest of the adventure.