23 November 2016


Hi there again - long time no post, eh?  I haven't done as much flying as I would have wished this year what with work, home, overseas trips and weather.

So, I was a little daunted about the airspace changes around Hamilton which came into force on 10 November. I had been to the pilots meeting at the club a few weeks ago which was very informative but there's nothing like the real thing, yes?

Monday 21 November:

So, today's little exercise was to take ZK-WAM up for a few circuits and then exit the control zone for a short local flight and then return using the new procedures.  

The weather was perfect. The high winds of Sunday had ceased and it was a variable 5Kt wind at ground level. Visibility was quoted at 25Km but there was a lot of haze (it is Hamilton, after all!!).

I won't go into the details of the airspace changes but suffice to say that the VFR departure and arrival procedures are now runway dependent.

Having arrived at the club bright and early at 0815 I checked in at the desk where instructor, Mandy asked me what I was doing, sent me off to preflight and said she would give me a quick briefing before I went.

So briefing done and off I go from runway 18R (the short GA runway parallel to duty runway 18L). Well, no problem with the circuits; nice landings including a near perfect glide approach (why can't I do that for competitions?, Grr!!). 
So, on the third downwind I requested a 18 West departure which was duly approved with the right turn after takeoff instruction given after "cleared touch and go" on finals.

Off to the West at 1200' or below calling clear a lot sooner than before (the control zone has been "shrunk") and switching to the new common frequency for the Raglan CFZ. After a position and intentions call I climbed to 1700' turning North to be about 2 miles west of Temple View, my reference point for the return on a 18 West arrival. There was another 172 around heading in from Raglan way at 2000' so I decided to stay at 1700' (I didn't see him until he was on a short final ahead of me - hazy weather and white painted aircraft!).
Just west of Temple View I called the tower, got a clearance for the 18 West arrival and, despite having to stay at 1700' until early base leg got down for a pretty good landing on 18R runway.

Mission accomplished with no real dramas. Next step: an East departure, maybe to Tauranga where there have been similar airspace changes.

19 February 2016


...Of Mice, Men and VFR Pilots, etc.

Monday 15th February

First post for a very long while but today's tale is worth telling.

I had planned an aviation outing with youngest daughter in early January - Hamilton to Tauranga for brunch and back home by early afternoon, but was frustrated by the weather - very cloudy Kaimai ranges and raining at the Waihi Gap so it was an early return home then.
So, today was our second attempt at the same flight.

Weather seemed OK when checking the night before - rain predicted in Tauranga early morning (had cleared by the time I checked the weather this morning) and again after 1600 but OK for VFR in between and good conditions in Hamilton all day.  Well, you know weather forecasts!!

It was a little cloudy but the cloud over the ridge by Wairere falls was well clear (1000' plus of clearance to cross when we got there) so we flew over on a direct track from Hamilton without any dramas. A bit breezy in Tauranga at 13 Knots but 070º magnetic so straight down 07/25 and no problem for landing.

We had an excellent brunch at the Avgas Cafe but in the half hour or so we spent there the weather had closed right in (helped by the wind backing to the North-East driving the cloud towards the ranges).  I thought it was worthwhile trying to get back via the Waihi Gap as the ATIS appeared favourable (just) but after taking off for a look I couldn't see Matakana Island behind the Mount (see photos) and the cloud base and vis were well below that on the information so it was a call to tower to return for landing. By the time we got down and taxied clear it was actively raining quite hard so back to the cafe for a sit down and chat about the situation.  Once back there the wind had dropped away to variable 4 Knots so the low cloud was likely to be around for a while. 

I phoned the tower and the guys there were very helpful. They invited us up for a look at the weather from their excellent vantage point. Completely VFR unflyable over the Kaimais but the controllers assured me it was starting to clear. Also, had a PIREP (pilot report) that the cloud base at the Waihi gap was ~1200' so that route was out and it looked even worse to the East for the other lower route via Te Puke. No choice other than to sit it out.  I called the aero club in Hamilton to tell them we were "stuck" and was reassured that weather conditions were still good over there and likely to remain so if we did make it over the hills.

After a pot of tea at the cafe, the sun was starting to break through over the sea so time to check in with the tower again. They reckoned it was clearing over the gap where the road (Highway 29) goes over so I went up to the tower for another look and, sure enough, the Kaimai ridge could clearly be seen where the road goes over and also at Wairere falls. The controllers said that a twinstar had just crossed the range VFR a short time before.

So, after a call to the club in Hamilton with my intention which they were happy with, we set off.  The route via the road looked best and we were able to climb to 2800' once clear of the zone which was plenty of room to get over the gap (road height is about 1700' and the highest point - a mast to the east is ~2200'). We flew though a light shower but crossed the ridge safely, heading towards the mast first and then turning right to cross diagonally over the lowest point. I called Tauranga tower to tell them we were over OK and to thank them for their help. Apart from a few bumps on the lee side of the range (surprise, surprise!!), it was an uneventful flight back home to Hamilton.

Lessons learnt and heeded (mainly):

1) Weather forecasts are FORECASTS and, although essential to preflight planning, are not 100% reliable. Conditions can change sooner and quicker than predicted.
2) Have a back-up plan - staying a night in a motel may cost but is a lot better than having to do a precautionary landing on a beach/in a paddock or worse.
3) Don't let that dreaded get-there/home-itis grab you.  We contacted middle daughter in Hamilton to sort out some stuff which we had planned to get back in plenty of time for so felt relaxed about the time factor.
4) Get help and information - the aviation community are always very helpful I have found and the guys in the tower today were worth their weight in gold. Thanks to them, an instructor at the club who told me "Not to push it", and, I think, a bit of common sense from me, it all ended well and safely.

A challenging but good day flying in the end. Finally, some photos (courtesy daughter's phone):

Looking pretty good over the Waikato - soon to change, though!!

Pretty, pretty

After Brunch... not too good to the East...

And worse beyond the Mount!: Time to land - 10º flap already

12 July 2015


.. as they say, about 10 months, in fact!!

So , why no posts?  Well, I haven't done a great deal of interesting flying, have been more busy at work and moved house late last year. It also seems I got out of the habit of writing on this blog.
So, time for an update.

I haven't been entirely idle on the flying front but have done a fair bit less than usual since the club competitions last September which meant I got out of currency on both 172s and Cherokees and needed a few dual flights to get "all sorted" again.
Having got current again just before Christmas I booked WAM early in the New Year to take my oldest daughter who was over from Melbourne for the holidays and her flatmate from Aussie who had never been to NZ before up for a bit of a scenic.  It was a stunningly good day for flying, sunny with an 8-10 knot wind from the West so we took off from 25 making a right turn after takeoff to fly over the city and thence through the Taupiri Gap to Huntly, out to the coast to Raglan and then back to Hamilton.  The girls enjoyed the flight which was very pleasing.  

Over the next couple of months it was mainly circuits to keep current and a few flights in the Stearman over at Tauranga.  Then a trip to the UK for a few weeks and then, suddenly it seemed, the year was halfway over!

So, to get completely up-to-date I have been up twice since getting back, the first for a Sunday afternoon club competition - bombing - which was fun but I didn't do too well. That brings us up to yesterday....

I had booked WAM to go up with instructor, Rob for a currency check.  It had been about -3C overnight and on arriving at the club the first job was to de-ice the wings of WAM.  This involves buckets of warm water, wiping down, checking fuel drains aren't still blocked, seeing that the water has re-frozen on the shady side and doing it again.  One of those "fun" jobs just above the level of cleaning out a chemical toilet - much less smelly though :)

Cold but beautiful!
Rob and I were eventually happy to get going and all went pretty well.  I flew three circuits with Rob, he threw in a glide approach and an EFATO (engine failure after take-off) which went well, all landings were on the good side of acceptable so Rob was happy to jump out and let me do three on my own. Those landing were also pretty good (one touch down point a bit further than intended but still smooth) and was very happy with that.  A good, if a little chilly morning's flying.

07 September 2014


Club competition time again - how time flies!!

Saturday 6th September

Day one.  A bit cloudy but well flyable with a strengthening south-easterly breeze so Grass runway 07R was marked out for the landing grid.

Gentleman's Circuits: started fine with steady 80Kt in the climb, remembering lookout, downwind checks and nice and steady at 70Kt on base, two stages flap and then the turn to final close to 500' agl, full flap and trimming for nominated speed of 60Kt.  Looking good?  Well, not quite. I had seen one of the previous competitors get pretty low on short final and land short so I kept the power on a bit longer than usual and... I am still looking low.  Now, I am guessing (several hours later) that the wind at 3-400' up was somewhat stronger than on the ground (maybe shelter from buildings a factor, too) and that is why I am losing height as the wind has (effectively) dropped. I recovered OK to get over the threshold but still low. I had no height left to hold it off and the touchdown was well short of the "perfect" 50 point box (about a 10 I reckoned).
Next circuit, all well until short final where I looked high, pulled power to get down and ended up with a tad too much downward momentum and a bounce from a good position on the grid to a longish way down and, probably, another 10.  Not what I wanted at all and I doubt whether I will place in this event.

Senior landings: this wasn't a lot better.  At least this is only marked from base leg as I forgot we had QFE (aerodrome pressure; i.e: altimeter set at zero on the ground) and turned crosswind at 700' (usual height if QNH = ambient pressure is set). Ooops!! 
We had to extend downwind on tower's instructions and ended up on a longer final than ideal and my landing, although good and smooth was nowhere near the centre of the grid.  The second circuit was much the same.  All good in the air but a poor position on the landing. Grrr!!  A few others had similar problems so thinking it may be close between myself and flyinkiwi for that "double or quits" beer challenge!

Non-Instrument Circuits:  this was after lunch and maybe a few handfuls of chips (the hot type - the others, old chap, are crisps where I come from) helped because this felt the best of the competition exercises for me.  The idea is you fly two standard circuits with the flying instruments only visible to the air judge in the right hand seat.  The competitor nominates take-off and climb speeds, downwind engine RPM, base and finals speeds. Challenging, but it all went fine in the air and, probably because I was nice and relaxed, the landings were on, or very close to the centre of the grid but that doesn't matter for this exercise as all you have to do is make a good or safe landing to score points.  Of course, I have no idea how close I was to my nominated speeds or how accurate my height judgement was but was pleased enough with that performance.

Sunday 7th September

Day two and I was only doing the forced landing competition today.  Lovely sunny day with a decreasing wind from the South so 18R was marked out for the landing grid

Forced landing without power:  in this you take off, climb in the circuit pattern to 2500', the air judge pulls the throttle to simulate the engine failure and you have to go through a forced landing exercise in which you are marked for doing all the engine failure checks, mayday call (simulated), passenger briefing, glide speed control, height at 1000' point, general airmanship (lookouts, etc.), and then the "dead-stick" landing on the runway grid which is scored as for the spot landings.  After the first touch and go you do it all over again from a different engine failure height.
Well, it started OK climbing up to 2500' on late downwind but then a Dash-8 did a go-around so we were given an orbit at 2500' which felt odd at that altitude and once complete we crossed the downwind threshold of 18L to be West of the strip for the start of the exercise.
First throttle pull was at 2500' and I went through the checks pretty well, I thought (missed engine instruments and partial power check) but nailed the speed and check points and was feeling pretty good about it all until the turn to final where I was too high. I managed to sort it with flap and a bit of S-turning but touched down way too long and a zero for that landing! 
Second go was not that great: throttle pull at 2000' this time - no way going to make 1500' point so headed straight for 1000' point and nailed that. Again far too high on final and this time flap and S-turns weren't going to sort it. I was up to 80Kt+ trying to make the runway which wasn't going to happen so, power on, go around and a DQ for that half of the exercise. Grumble, grumble!!
Oh well, it was all good fun and educational and there is always next year.
Finally, a few photos (all from Saturday):

C-172R "WAM" waits to take off

"WAM" short final

Aerospool Dynamic "MLC" landing

Robin/Alpha R2160 "WCD" short final...

... and about to touch down

Ground hazard? Lots of plovers around the field at present - wonder why??

09 August 2014


Having got current again a few weeks ago it was time for a bit of cross country in "WIT", the club's Archer III.  One of my middle daughter's friends, Jordan, had wanted to come flying with me for some time and today was the day.  Over the past week, I hadn't been too optimistic about getting up as we had had rain, wind or both for several days but today dawned bright and clear with a light breeze, at least initially - more on that later!

I arrived at the club and before preflighting discussed my plans (Hamilton (HN) to Tauranga (TG) via the Waihi Gap - coffee at TG then back to HN over the Kaimais) with Instructor, Rob. Well, the wind at TG was against that plan: it had gone from 220º at 11 knots at 0830 when I last checked at home (x-wind on runway 25 approx 6Kt) to 190º at 13Kt at 1000 (12 knot x-wind - too much for me particularly with a likely freshening breeze).  Rob informed me that any significant cross-wind at TG was "no-go" for landing a club aircraft and signed me out with the caveat of no landing at TG.  I told him I would modify my plans and just go to the coast at Waihi and then back to HN.  

By this time Jordan had arrived and I showed him around the plane while pre-flighting and we took off from runway 18L into what appeared to be a strengthening wind (200º at 9Kt at 0830 was 180º at 12 max 15Kt at take off time).  
We left on a West departure over the city turning to track towards Paeroa once North of Horotiu and well clear of the HN control zone.  We had surprisingly few bumps along the way.  There was a bit of wind-shear at 500' above ground level (lower and less than expected, probably indicating that the surface wind was becoming closer to the 2000' forecast wind of 190º at 20Kt). It became a bit bumpy again climbing through 2200' over the city and stayed that way so I elected to go back down to 2000' where it was smooth. I didn't want to upset my "first-timer" passenger. There was one quite big bump between the small hills just North of Morrinsville but otherwise the flight was smooth all the way to the gap and only a few bumps between the hills there (I had climbed up to 2400' by then to get above any "chop" and that worked well).

Jordan seemed to be really enjoying the flight and the scenery by now so we got to the coast at Waihi Beach, did a 180º to track back past the Martha Mine on the right hand side to give Jordan the aerial view of that landmark. Then it was directly back to HN once clear of the gap just South of Paeroa.

At Morrinsville I got the Hamilton ATIS which confirmed the strengthening wind, still 180º but now 17 max 20 knots.  I requested and was given a Mystery Creek arrival.  As I came abeam Matangi I was just about to call the tower when they came on the radio to give me "descent unrestricted, join left base for 18R, number 2 behind Cessna on downwind".  They must have read my mind!  I called back the usual read back including looking for traffic which I spotted a few seconds after making the call - he/she was well in front of me.

Given the wind, I elected 80 knots for base and 70-75 with two stages of flap for final and all seemed to be good until just crossing the threshold, I flared a bit too high, was losing speed, and much faster that I can type this, "Dammit, too high, too slow, this won't end well, go around" flashed though my brain and I had the throttle full open before the thought was finished! Raised flap to one notch, informed the tower, "WIT going around" and then flew a pretty good and accurate circuit back to base leg again having decided to have 75-80Kt on final with only one notch of flap this time as I had noticed my ground speed on the GPS had only been 55Kt on the previous approach and, maybe, I had been a bit too slow for the breezy conditions (the wind was somewhat variable in direction as well as speed).  This was a good decision as I flew a nicely stable approach, timing the flare perfectly to roll the main wheels on the runway centreline just beyond the numbers in which was a pretty good, smooth touch down given the conditions.

Jordan said afterwards that he thoroughly enjoyed the flight and wasn't at all fazed by the go-around (I think a lot of first-timers would have been).  I was pleased that all the training and experience "kicked-in" almost sub-consciously with the end result a very satisfying flight. 

21 July 2014


Well, it's been a while (> 3 months), as they say, but it's time, long overdue, for another post.  I had been away (UK and Canada) for a month, mid-May to mid-June and, thanks to some truly awful weather had four bookings cancelled since getting back.

Tuesday 15th July

Finally, a fine dawn with no rain, fog, adverse wind or low cloud and an available aircraft and instructor.  It had been pretty cold overnight but just above zero so there was no frost or ice on the wings of Archer, WIT and instructor, Russell and I were off into the circuit 3 months to the day when I last flew the type.

WIT awaits in the early morning sun

The first circuit went really well with a good landing and all I forgot was the fuel pump switch to on at pre-takeoff (tut, tut!!).  The next was OK, too and Russell said he would hop out and let me go around on my own if the next landing was good (no pressure, eh?!).
Well, it was fine, Russell got out, and I was off for three circuits on my own with no real dramas (lost flying speed about 10cm above the runway on the last trying for a real precision landing on 18R but it was only a gentle bump) and current again on Archers.
Next step, current on 172s.......

Monday 21st July (today)

After a lot of rain overnight (although not as bad as Auckland which was awful driving back to Hamilton last night) I didn't have great hopes of getting up but, there was no wind to speak of, few cloud at 5,500' and all good to go up in "WAM" (my first flight since "WAM"'s recent spell in maintenance) with instructor, Chris for a reprise of last week in a different type.
No dramas on pre-flight, run-ups, etc., and into the circuit.  First approach was good and stable but drifted a bit along 18R and landed a bit longer than intended. The next on the big 18L was precisely on the designated spot but a bit late on the flare.  Floated a bit on the third and Chris made the comment that we should be a little slower (55Kt) on short final) as the plane was very light (just enough fuel + reserve for the exercise).  Got it nailed just fine on the fourth and Chris hopped out, having complimented me on good, stable approaches (which was nice) and I was off on four of my own.
Chris had set the timer on the GPS for the fuel (-reserve) available and that zeroed on very short final for 18R to land on the last lap, taxiing off the runway with about +45 seconds into the reserve.
So, all good, current again on both Archers and 172s and looking forward to a bit more flying in the coming weeks.

08 April 2014


Having not done any cross-country flying for some time I thought it was about time I did something more than just a local flight and a few circuits here at Hamilton or flying the Stearman when we are over "at the beach". And when my rather-nervous-flyer wife said she would like to come on a flight over to Tauranga for an expensive coffee while I went up in the Stearman it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
So, having booked Archer III, WIT for this morning we trekked over to the club for 0830 to preflight and get going.  I had been somewhat nervously watching the weather over the past few days but it was clear at Hamilton airport, the bad weather at Tauranga was not forecast to arrive until 1400 and, although there seemed to be quite a lot of low cloud around between us and the Kaimai Range, I knew from past experience it was only only really possible to assess whether the range was passable once up in the air (I have taken four different routes over the range or through the Waihi Gap in the past).
So, we taxied out to the run-up area beside the threshold of 18R and the first trouble struck.  On engine run-up I switched the left magneto off; all good, 50 rpm drop at the worst on the right mag, and then tried the left mag alone; oh ****! 300 rpm drop at least!!  Having encountered this situation before I reckoned it was likely fouled spark plug(s) on the left mag circuit so I leaned off the mixture a couple of times while revving up and tried again. No joy, still at least 200 drop so I tried leaning off one more time and, hey, all good, only a 50ish rpm drop now and it was likely fouled plug(s) after all.
After that we took off from 18R without any dramas and headed off on an East departure via Scotsman Valley (EastNE).  Once clear of the zone at around 2000' it was obvious there was a problem.  A sea of cloud confronted me more or less all the way from just beyond the valley all the way to the Kaimais with only the top of Mount Aroha visible poking out above the clouds.
It wasn't all that great where I was, either.  I had been following a Katana about 3-4 miles ahead and spotted him turning around and heading back towards Hamilton.  I also had needed to descend to around 1200' to avoid cloud.  It looked a little clearer around Morrinsville to the North so I did a climbing turn to the left to head that way and avoid the oncoming traffic.
Once a little to the South of Morrinsville I had a good look around.  The visibility looked very poor to the North as well as to the East and tracking North to go through the Waihi Gap did not look an attractive option and I made the decision to return to Hamilton (my good lady in the right seat was looking a tad nervous at this point).
By the time I got my radio call in to the tower I was skirting the Northern edge of the control zone and was cleared to join straight in for 18L (no IFR or commercial flights in the vicinity, then).  An uneventful approach and landed just after a Katana which I think was the one that passed me in Scotsman Valley.  A good call in the end as I later found out from Pete, the Stearman instructor, that the weather "packed in" at Tauranga at lunchtime and it may have been a little dodgy or even impossible to get back home if we had got there.