Typical of high-pressure days here in New Zealand, I once again woke to find thick fog floating about on the ground. Given that I had been scheduled to complete both of my solo navigation flights today I could already predict that the first of these would be cancelled. Lo-and-behold the lack of any significant wind prevented it from lifting and the flight was re-scheduled to replace my afternoon one. Cancellations like this can get a little frustrating given the early wake-up time, especially when you have a few days on the trot with exactly the same weather, but that's the nature of the beast unfortunately.
The fog eventually lifted to make way for one of the nicest days since arriving here. With crystal clear skies, not one cloud in sight and winds exactly as forecasted, I had a great flight. The lack of significant variation to the winds actually provided me time to soak in the views which I was quite happy about. I managed to complete everything as I should have, even arriving ahead of time. Given the really nice weather it was a shame my morning flight wasn't scheduled an hour later as I might have been able to complete both flights. Either way, at least I was able to get one done. I did try to squeeze in another in the late afternoon but as the plane I was to use came back late I would have landed past the commencement of nighttime should I have gone.
12/06/2017 & 13/06/2017 - CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER
Sadly the nice weather was short lived and the next few of days brought a combination of low cloud, visibility and fog. On one of the days my instructor decided that rather than having my coursemate/roommate and I sat twiddling thumbs we would pay a visit to the maintenance hangar. With ~36 aircraft in the Hamilton fleet flying between one and eight flights in a given day, it's to be expected that frequent maintenance inspections and repairs are carried out. When you consider that all of this schools annual flight hours are 2nd only to Air New Zealand, the maintenance staff certainly have their work cut out.
There happened to be a Cessna in maintenance during our time there and it looked as though it had had a complete engine replacement given that all pipes and cabling were shiny and new. Given the fact the cowling was removed my instructor jumped at the opportunity to quiz me about all of the components. It was certainly a throwback to Aircraft General Knowledge from ground school, but it was interesting to see each of these components in use and actually learn a bit about the aircraft I was flying. After looking at the Cessna we then walked to the opposite end of the hanger to take a look around a Katana.
After my day off I was pleased to see the weather was looking good enough for me to go and complete the second navigation solo. Having planned everything, pre-flighted and completed a sign-out with the duty instructor I took to the air to soon realise the conditions weren't quite as forecast. Whilst the cloudbase was at around 3,800ft with my flight planned at 3000ft this wasn't so much the issue. The problem was the haze. At many points throughout the flight I continued to doubt whether I should continue or not but pushed on regardless as I could still 'kind of' see the coastline etc. On heading back inland from the coast the visibility continued to decrease to the point I could no longer see the major mountain ranges typically required to navigate. I called it a day at this point so made a diversion back to Hamilton from Te Kuiti. Unfortunately this did result in me cutting the lesson short by around 40 minutes. On the plus side though, at least I got to practice the aims of the lesson (diversions) in a real-world scenario!
Being self-critical, I didn't quite complete the diversion technique properly and was 20° right from my intended track having forgotten to account for something called magnetic variation. I have learnt from that so hopefully won't do it again. On speaking with the head of foundation training here it was decided that this flight would still count as complete due to it being over a certain number of miles in distance and thus counting as cross-country time. However, being 0.7 hours short of the 2 hours I will still need to make this up at some other point. This is good in a way though as I can try to make to it up by flying a longer navigation solo to somewhere more interesting down the road.... we shall see.
On one of the evenings this week we had the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority come to the training centre to give us a talk on fuel safety and best practices. Despite the training given to us by the school on this very subject and the precaution that exists to ensure all solo flights never leave with anything short of full tanks, it was still very insightful. We were told of near horror stories related to fuel incidents and provided with tips and checks to ensure this never happens to us in the future. We even learnt about the smaller things such as dipsticks and how they're unique to each individual aircraft - I didn't even know that prior to this speech. Insightful indeed.
16/06/2017 - CANCELLED DUE TO CLOUD BASE
Waking up to a clear-ish sky I was looking forward to the two flights ahead. Sadly, you should never judge a book by its' cover and both the forecast and prevailing weather were far from satisfactory. Despite planning the flight, including take off and landing performance calculations for two enroute airports, my instructor and I agreed it wouldn't be wise to take a plane up in such low cloud. Showers in the vicinity were also responsible for reducing the visibility even further so it certainly wasn't promising.
Sitting about on the ground for a while hoping it would clear, my coursemate introduced me to an awesome weather product called Windy (www.windy.com). Windy, which you can see in the screenshot above, compiles all of the global weather data from various forecasting services to help you visualise exactly what's going on in your area. Using the data on this service my instructor and I opted to switch my navigation flight for a basic instrument flight instead. We briefed and were all ready to go, but sadly the weather continued to deteriorate and both flights were later cancelled.
Here's to hoping tomorrow improves, but it's unlikely looking at the forecasts.
Well, much of the same really. It's still early doors for the navigation stage of training and I've still a fair few to complete before moving on to the next bit. With that said, I've only a couple more pre-defined navigation flights to complete and once they're out of the way I'm free, within reason, to plan my own routes. I'm looking forward to those as I can plan a trip or two to see some of the more scenic locations around New Zealand, including Barrier Island and Mount Ngauruhoe - a.k.a. Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.
Until next time,