After a weekend of poor weather I was quite pleased to see the back of it. People's moods over the weather here are quite cyclical - mine included. After days of high pressure and fog you're pleased to see the back of it, yet while it's an inconvenience at least it gives way to much calmer winds and clear blue skies. The opposite can not be said of low pressure rainy days where New Zealand's terrain makes for fairly developed clouds and wind leading to reduced visibility in showers etc. Our poor old planet can't win can it! A few of the group continued with the toy story films and enjoyed film two between our flight bookings.
Monday provided rather low visibility in parts of the country but it did show signs of improvement thus I was signed out to go flying. This route was supposed to take me east over the mountain range before descending into Tauranga on the coast. I'd then depart towards another airfield - Rotorua - make a single touch-and-go and return to Hamilton. The sky was blue with not a cloud in sight at Hamilton but the same could not be said about the mountains where low cloud prevented you from being able to climb up and over. In not wanting to waste a rather nice weather day I circled around a small town and thought about what I could do. I instead made several diversions on my chart - which actually ended up being great practice - and flew a route to the North and then back down the West coast. What a view. If i could take every single one of you up there to share it I would for no words can describe it. It was a good flight all round and my diversions worked out fairly well. Looking back I'm pleased to not have cancelled it would have been such a waste of fuel let alone time.
On Monday a few of our group took a trip up to Coromandel. Their photos were stunning and it certainly made me green-eyed. I couldn't really complain though as I was flying all day - which is the main goal of being here in the first place. However, the following morning the visibility was well below the 16km required for my very early solo navigation flight and thus my coursemates Jack, Chris and I hopped in the car and went. Located a 'short' 2.5 hours car journey away we soon came to realise why we now prefer flying as the Cessna could make the same trip in half the time. On our travels we made our way through various towns, lakes, rivers etc we'd previously seen by air so it was nice to see them at ground level. Despite the beauty of the air, some things are so much better at ground level. It was an incredible day out had by all and if you're ever down this neck of the woods it's a place i'd highly recommend you visit. If you want to see more, then I've created a vlog post and gallery page. Check them out!
The Whitetail syllabus sees us fly a mixture of different events to ensure our competency is kept with things such as stalling, steep turns, collision turns etc. and as a result a few General Handling flights were booked in this week. The first of these was on Wednesday morning where I was one of the first aircraft to leave Hamilton. It's always nice to be the first flight up, especially when you're operating in the circuit as you get to do exactly what you want. Conversely, being in the circuit around 4/5pm is perhaps the worst time as aircraft begin returning for the night.
Being a two hour flight I made a 45 minute booking for circuits to practice flapless landings and glide approaches - both assessed activities within the up-and-coming progress tests - and I'm pleased to say the latter are now improving and just need a final bit of polish. Once done in the circuit I flew out to the eastern training area and completed various general handling exercises. Thursday mornings General Handling flight was much of the same although a bit shorter at 1 1/2 hours.
The best bit about having a General Handling flight is they don't require any where near as much preparation beforehand. You're not flying further than 25 nautical miles and htus don't need to plot on your chart and perhaps best of all, you're not stopping at additional aerodromes and don't need to plan takeoff and landing performance! I made the mistake of turning up 2 hours or so before flight and having attempted nothing but navigation flights in recent weeks had forgotten how little there was to do. It was quite nice being able to enjoy a coffee and wake-up a bit of time as opposed to racing the clock before your signout time.
Following Wednesday's General Handling flight I was further booked for a navigation flight in the late afternoon to make use of the good weather. I planned the same route I'd originally wanted to do on Monday due to the cloud base being significantly higher. Nothing is ever straight forward though and a late returning aircraft made this flight quite tight. Trainee pilots flying solo in New Zealand must be on the ground 45 minutes prior to evening civil twilight (almost darkness) - or 15 minutes if in the circuit of a controlled aerodrome. If I went I'd be very close to breaching the former, but in speaking with the sign out instructor it was agreed I could go but would need to be mindful of the time enroute and divert back if necessary.
Thankfully it didn't come to that and I made it all the way around the route with a bit of time to spare. The views were astonishing with the sea glowing a warm orange. Originally planned to be two hours long, the primary objective of this flight was to have me fly in and out of two separate controlled aerodromes (with air traffic control) in addition to Hamilton. It wasn't so much an issue if it was cut short so long as I could realistically make it into both airports, out again and back to Hamilton. There's always a buffer at the end of each navigation flight for general handling for this very reason. I made it back to Hamilton about 4 minutes prior to this 45 minute buffer and, instead of cutting the flight short, requested the towers' permission to remain in the circuit for a further 20-30 minutes. It was pretty cool being able to land etc with all the landing lights on :-)
...or so i thought. The days of nice weather were rather short lived and I was gutted as I was so looking forward to flying south towards Mount Doom. Ah well. Typical Hamilton weather getting in the way as usual with us seeing nothing but fog all day. What makes this more frustrating is the fact that a few miles east or west were crisp blue skies and zero clouds yet Hamilton's lack of wind saw the moisture hang around for eternity. Looking at the weather for the next couple of days it doesn't look that good either and it's likely the winds will be above my limit should they crosswinds. Best get prepared for more sitting around / cancellations. *sigh*
At the time of writing i've just received tomorrows' schedule and I'm in for two flights again. This'll be my 6th 5.30am wake-up in a row but I guess I should get used to that really if I'm planning on flying for a living :-)
Until next time,