27 December 2011

Cape Reinga Flight

Now my CPL is out the way, I need a total of 50 hours cross country PiC time logged before beginning my instrument rating. I had around 40 before yesterday, deliberately leaving myself a few 'worry free' flights without the stress of an impending test coming up, to enjoy after passing my commercial licence.

I booked myself a C172 for Boxing Day, when they skies are usually much quieter than usual, and planned out a 485 mile route: From Ardmore up to Kaipara Flats, then overhead Dargaville and the famously clear Kai Iwi Lakes, up to Kaitaia for a full stop landing and leg stretch, then up along the Ninety Mile Beach to Cape Reinga, and back down the east coast to Kerikeri, Whangarei before returning home.

My passenger for the day was my girlfriend, who'd been on a few long distance flights with me before, and hadn't ever thrown up due to turbulence- the perfect candidate! The wind was a steady easterly, between 15 to 20 knots at 2000 feet, so I was expecting rough air along the lee side of the hilly ranges on the first half of the flight. It turned out to be quite lumpy indeed, so I altered me route just off shore as we tracked north to avoid the worst of it.

I was planning on using my iPhone to play music through the AUX plug of ZK-TAN throughout the flight, but for some reason I couldn't get it to work. We'd been in the air for about 20 minutes when I remembered I had the MotionX GPS tracking app installed which I could log the flight route on, and switched it on overhead Orewa.

Below is the result of 4.9 hours worth of flying- not 100% accurate as we ended up crossing over to the eastern coast of the Aupouri Peninsular about half way along Ninety Mile Beach to advoid lee side turbulance around the heads. The flight path also shows a weird line right to the runway back at Ardmore, so I'm guessing these two variances from my actual tracks must have been due to loosing GPS coverage.

Oh yeah... I forgot to press 'STOP' on the app until I was sitting at the traffic lights in the car half way home from Ardmore. If you zoom in really closely, you can even follow the roads we drove on after landing! Anyhow, here are a selection of photos from the flight itself, mostly taken by Mrs. Ardmorepilot: 
Following the transit lane past Takapuna
Random heart in the bushland
Kai Iwi Lakes #1
Kai Iwi Lakes #2
Hokianga Harbour
Downwind at Kaitaia
Lunch break!
Both coasts visible on the Aupouri Peninsula
Ninety Mile Beach, looking north
Ninety Mile Beach, looking south
Spirits Bay
First view of Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga #2
The Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meeting
Cape Reinga #3, lighthouse, tourists and coaches visible
Cape Reinga #4
A chocolate coloured river
Pristine beaches on the Karikari Peninsular
Anyone know what's going on here?
Sediment at the Mangonui Harbour entrance
Urupukapuka Island
Approaching Cooks Cove
Beautiful clear water at Cooks Cove
Oneroa Bay, Russell
Russell town, once known as the 'Hellhole of the Pacific'
One of our friends' holiday home
Car ferries at Opua

20 December 2011

CPL Pass

Today is a good day- I finally passed my CPL Flight Test after putting it off for nearly half a year :D

If you've been following my blog for a while, you may recall this post where I explained how I hadn't passed first time around due to botching up my Precautionary Landing back at the end of June. The following day, the CAA's CPL requirements changed to include a minimum of 10 hours mountain flying before a resit was possible. 

This created a botteneck like problem, with many CPL students needing to log these hours before they could book themselves in for a test. Unfortunately limited certified instructors who could teach it, as well as limited weather conditions when the terrain awareness lessons could be taught slowed down everyone's progress. Days with the 2000 foot wind at more than 15 knots were a right off due to turbulence.

It took me untill the end of September to obtain my mountain flying hours, during which time, instructor #6 had swapped me over to instructor #7 due to him having to leave to teach C Cat students instead. I'd also become pretty disheartened about the whole flying scene and was feeling more and more unmotivated each time I went for a flight. I didn't seem to be making any headway, repeatedly made the same mistakes and couldn't seem to shake my negative attitude towards building myself up ready for a test resit.

During this mentioned time in limbo, I'd began working an unrelated job at Auckland International Airport assuming I could fly on my days off- starting out by doing 4 days at work, then having 3 days off to fly each week. In my head I thought I could easily could carry on my training part time, but in reality it was terrible. The job hours were way too long, I was always physically knackered, and I actually admit that I began hoping that when I woke up on my days off, the rain radar would show cloud and showers all over the Ardmore area so that I could stay in bed and have a lie in.

However, my family and girlfriend continuously encouraged me to not give up on my dreams every time I complained about flying, and my new instructor wouldn't take no for an answer. By November I was working less hours and properly back in the zone, feeling ready for my CPL. I had a good friend who was also in the same mindset as me, both on the verge of quitting, but them I saw him pass his CPL and it really inspired me to follow. My test date was originally booked for the 6th- but got put off a week due to bad weather. The following week was even worse, so it was pushed back until the beginning of December so I could at least get a bit of currency before the big day. 

A large low pressure system out in the Tasman didn't agree with my plans however, and threw front after front of rain and gusty northerlies at the country keeping me and every other student pilot stuck well and truly on the ground. This gave me ample time to study for the theory part of the test, and I hit the books much harder than I had the first time around, really getting to know my CPL Law and Tech and AIP volumes.

This time last week, it was looking like my test was going to have to be put off until February 2012 with the main area testing officer booked out until Christmas, then away on holiday for January- however, my saviour came in the form of an ex Bay Flight CFI, now an ASL testing officer based in Wellington. At the request of the school, he came up to Auckland for 4 last minute CPL tests, the third being mine.

The rest is history really- I rocked up at 7am this morning, pre flighted my aircraft (ZK-TAV), then entered the briefing room. I was given a simple theoretical Air Transport Operation to flight plan for: Ardmore - Thames, pick up 2 passengers and a bag, then return to Ardmore. Simple as. He gave me ample time to complete the paper, 45 minutes, and upon return, didn't even check the figures I'd calculated, he just wanted to know the procedure I'd taken to arrive at my answers. 

I then braced for a deluge of general questions, hoping the subjects I'd studied in depth such as emergency procedures and Part 135 operations would be included, but was only asked about 5 simple questions on AFROR's and auto metars!

Next we walked out to the aircraft, and conducted a walk around together. Mr ASL listened as I described each preflight check, and only interjected twice mentioning the play in the trim tab due to a loose hinge and that once the tanks had been filled, it takes 15 minutes for any water in them to reach the bottom strainer area. 

We climbed aboard, I gave a passenger brief, started up TAV and taxied out to the run up area. Things had been going smooth the whole morning and I felt pretty confident. All the many hours of flight training came together and I managed to rattle out my short field takeoff brief, run up checks and TWOP speil without a hitch.

Light and variable winds for the first time in months helped me big time, and he didn't once ask me to repeat a manever as we took off and worked through the syllabus. From memory, the order was: Instrument Flight full panel, climbing/descending/turning, limited panel: climbing/descending/compass turns/unusual attitudes, Steep turn left/right, Max rate left/right*, Basic stall, Advance stall, Slow flight dirty, Wind drop stall, Slow flight clean, FLWOP, Steep Gliding Turn left/right, Low flight: Coastal Reversal Turn left/right, Precautionary landing**, EFATO***, Flapless landing, and a Precision landing.

*I dropped around 50 feet in my Max Rate turn to the right, and volunteered to redo it. The testing officer said it was 'fine' but if I wanted to, I could. I managed to nail it and hit my own wake turbulance the second time which made it worth it!

**I was nervous about this one, and had been practising simulated precationarys in all sorts of uphill agriculutral stips with hilly surronds over the last few days. However, for the test, we were out in the low flying zone and Mr ASL told me to pick three boat moaring poles sticking out the sea in a line and pretend it was a runway, then to conduct my pattern around them at 300 feet. Piece of cake!

***The engine failure after takeoff was done over the water at the low flying zone (L266). My only option was to land ahead towards the beach shoreline and shallows. Because of the light winds, I took my first notch of flap earlier than usual, to keep my aim point constant, although during the debrief, the testing officer reckoned I didn't need to.

Once I shut the aircraft down back on the AFS ramp, I was given a handshake and told congratulations. It was hard not to let my grin overtake my face as I hung around school for a little while filling in the necessary paperwork. This pass couldn't have come at a better time, as I'd already planned two holidays- first up north to the Bay of Islands over New Years, then back to the motherland for January. This long update serves as a substitute for me neglecting this blog over the last few months, which will hopefully become much more interesting with all the flying activity I've got planned for 2012... Watch this space!