Sorry, been awol

I left you all hanging for the second part of my trip to Warbirds over Wanaka.

I apologise profusely, but there are some mitigating circumstances.

  1. My photos of the event came out pretty damn poorly.  This is partly my fault for having a dirty lens, and partly the fact that the runway runs east - west and the grandstand is on the southern side which means you are shooting up sun all day.
  2. I haven't been flying much because money has been rather tight.
  3. Despite the financial constraints I've had to find money for a renewal of my Class II medical and a BFR.
Anyways.  I'll give you a bit of a spiel about Wanaka plus a roundup of where I am at.

It was my first Wanaka, and to be honest, I've seen 90% of the aircraft that were due to be displayed so there was a small sense of "why bother" lurking in the back of my mind when we looked over the budget for the trip.  It was a long way to go to see only a small amount of new experiences.  BUT, boy was it worth it.  For starters, there are not too many places as beautiful as the south island of New Zealand in autumn.  Wanaka gave a unique backdrop to an aviation event that really can't be beaten.
Secondly, the 10% of aviation I had not seen was worth the price of admission alone.  I had never seen a Yak-3 before, let alone an airworthy one.  It was the first time I saw the new RNZAF NH-90 perform a handling display.  I thought it was a rather subdued one compared with the UH1-H Huey performing it's swansong at Wanaka. Boy they really threw it around.  And then there is the jet racing.  I've seen stuff on YouTube about the racing they do at the Reno Air Race, but to see it with my own eyes was something else.

For those of you who were not there, here's some cockpit footage from YouTube.

 It was a great 3 days and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Would I go back?  Probably.  Would I like to fly down?  Hell yeah!  Having said that I was pretty glad I drove down because the weather was rather uncharacteristically dreadful everywhere except around Wanaka.

But the piece de resistance was my second ever flight in a helicopter.  After the airshow, organisers encouraged people to go up for flights in various aircraft, and I thought I'd try a helicopter flight.  After hearing that I am a rather hefty bloke the helpful staff at Wanaka Helicopters suggested I might try out the R44 rather than the R22 (because I do not legally fit inside).  The morning was absolutely glorious, definitely the right weather for joyriding around the Central Otago countryside.  Not a breath of wind, and clear skies.  I met instructor Dan and after a quick briefing he left me sitting the sun while he went off to organise the helicopter. 

We lifted from the pad and hover taxied out onto the runway where we were cleared to depart on our desired heading, towards the Low Flying Zone by the Clutha River.  This was not going to be some joyride, it was going to be my first formal helicopter lesson.  After establishing ourselves in the low flying zone, he handed control to me and let me fly around a bit to get the feel for the controls.  Then it was straight into trying to hover.  I came a bit prepared mentally for the hover but knowing something and then putting it into practise is something else.  I didn't really expect to get hovering licked in one lesson but I had learned a few things since my last flight and wanted to build on them.  Dan gave me the pedals and I thought I did a reasonable job of keeping us straight.  The R44s controls are hydraulically boosted so all you need was light toe pressures on the pedals to get the required response.  Then he gave me the collective and I cautiously tried small pressures to see the effects for myself.  Feeling the governer automatically adjust the throttle was reassuring if not a little awkward, but I think I managed more or less to keep us level and pointing ahead.  Then came the cyclic.  Dan took back the pedals and the collective and I concentrated on keeping us sitting over one spot on the ground.  Here was the first difference I felt between the R44 and the 300CB.  The boosted controls meant there was no feedback through the control surfaces so it felt kind of dead.  I stirred it around trying to find a spot where we wouldn't suddenly shoot off in one direction but it was very hard to keep up.  After managing to eliminate sideways movement I had no end of trouble with pitch, we were either pitching up and flying backwards or pitching down and flying forwards.  The old PIO monster had reared its head again, despite me being ready for it and anticipating cyclic lag.

After the PIO monster won the day, Dan took control, transititioned us through translational lift and handed it back to me.  I tried some medium turns and she behaves very similar to an aircraft except you don't need any pedal to balance the turns when rolling in or out.  It was most gratifying to hear the two blade main rotor making that wokka wokka sound that Hueys make when loaded up in a turn and knowing it was me making it.

Dan said I could descend and follow the river at 200 feet and 65 knots.  That was pure heaven.   While it feels the same as flying a plane the differences are quite significant.  All too soon he took control off me and we returned to the airport where he did the helicopter equivalent of a parallel park, putting us down neatly between two parked helicopters while turning us around 180 degrees.  I know chopper pilots can do this in their sleep but it sure impressed me!

After we landed Dan asked me to compare the R44 and the 300Cb but to be honest I can't really comment because that 300Cb flight was 5 years ago.  I am still a total novice in helicopters, but I did double my hours at the controls from 30 to 60 minutes.  One day I hope to add to this.

So, fast forward to today and my BFR.  The weather wasn't great, I had booked a flight earlier in the week and it had been canned due to rain, but the silver lining in all that cloud was I got all the ground work done.  I checked the forecast yesterday and it looked OK but I noticed that B Cat instructor Peter was free at 3pm so I booked him and WAM for two hours to get the flying part done.  I also tried to kill two birds with one stone and asked for a Raglan checkout (an insurance driven requirement after several club planes came to grief there recently).  So in a rather brisk crosswind, we took off and headed west.  After climbing past 2000 feet the rather bumpy conditions smoothed out and we talked about where we were going to go to do the BFR.  We ended up heading out to the farmland to the north of Raglan to get the turns and stalls done.  I did those fairly well I thought, the wing drop stall especially wasn't as scary as I recall purely because after flying 172s for 10 years you are accustomed to their stall characteristics.  I even remembered to centralize the rudder after the nose stopped yawing.  We then did our forced landing onto Raglan airfield.  I ended up going around because I got too close in and too high.  I had anticipated a lot of sink on finals due to a reasonable headwind and a bit of a crosswind, but it wasn't as strong as I'd thought.  I did slip a touch before lowering all the flap but it wasn't enough to save the approach.  I did better on the subsequent glide approach but was still a little high.  The final normal circuit with a max performance takeoff was the best all day.  We headed back to Hamilton at low level, doing the low level maneuvers on the way.  I was high again coming into Hamilton but put WAM down quite sweetly for a crosswind landing and we taxiied in.  In the debrief Peter talked about me needing to concentrate on getting the plane where it needs to be between 1000 feet and 500 feet on the downwind to finals legs as I am generally quite high so the subsequent approach is not stable.  He said its a currency thing and I agree with him.  I've added it to the list of things to work on.


Congrats on the BFR. If it is any consolation the forced approach is the most failed item on the PPL in Canada , so a couple of attempts is probably par for the course when you haven't done then for a while.

out of curiosity what is it that makes Raglan so challenging?