Air Safari

100 hour serviceThis year it's something a bit different. The Classic Hits 2010 Air Safari

Had to have an early service to make sure there are enough hours to get the length of the country, and back. The early cock up is not getting the insurance right. Wild panic with the broker required tomorrow...

As usual the aircraft is not ready to fly until the weight of paperwork exceeds that of the aircraft

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img_8343A day of surprises. I knew the plane would not perform too well at max all up weight but it really is not the same vehicle.

We qualified for a late departure from the airdrome of our choice so did not go to Ardmore. I picked up my fellow aviator from Patamahoe and ran straight into a rain shower, not serious but the climb performance of the aircraft is pretty poor. There'll be no water landings and takeoffs with everything on board.

By the time we got to Thames for coffee the wind was getting up to 15-20 kts, not really good enough for Robbie to do any solo time. From there up the coast to Coromandel and cross to Whitianga. A right pigs breakfast of the crosswind landing a “go around” into an area of steep downdrafts.... Oh dear.

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Read more: Auckland to Whitianga

img_8365Today calls for travel to Tauranga via New Plymouth, a strange route (look at the map) but the weather is clearly not playing ball. We would not have done that anyway so it was interesting to be overtaken by so many planes as we headed down the coast.

We had repacked our bags and the Catalina crew had offered to take one. Fantastic to lose 10kg, it's amazing how much difference that makes.

We got to Tauranga a bit before 10am and after a few circuits I took a scenic flight in the big Catalina, well worth the money, it's a great treat to be in such a strange and historic aircraft.

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Read more: Whitianga to Tauranga

img_8398Very good dinner at the Turkish place on the waterfront in Tauranga only marred by the rather poor weather forecast. The weather is actually quite good but it does get a bit windy as the day progresses.

It was an easy call to pass on the complex and long route to Taupo. We travelled straight to Opotiki and then around the East Cape (good to have done it by bike so recently and get a different perspective on it).

Mostly the wind was kind but we had quite a bit of turbulence on the East side of the Cape and it was a very slow run down to Gisborne. The main group managed to get stuck in Taupo with rain and did not arrive until fairly late.

The locals turned out with a Kapa Haka group and the mayor said some good words before an interesting 'camp oven' dinner. Pretty good night really although it was marred by some people talking through the performance and mayors speech. Very rude really.

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Read more: Tauranga to Gisborne

img_8390I have stayed in the Captain Cook Motel before and discovered that it is on the main road to the Port. Trucks start at 3:30 or so and make the most appalling row, how can that be right? Avoid.

The organizers have set a 'vintage ' course for the day and we are given a list of points to go via and items that need to be identified (things like how many water tanks at Table Point on the Mahia Peninsular). Simplke but you have to go there to find the answers.

The weather is sunny and warm with no wind and the first stage goes pretty well. Lunch at Hastings than the second leg down to the coast and on to Masterton. The organizers have given us another short course but after only a couple of points we work out that they have left the answers on our sheet. Duh!

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Read more: Gisborne to Masterton

img_8408Todays a rest day but the weather forecast is still very nasty over the Cook Strait, high winds and a front coming. We have a tour booked to the Tui brewery but when the Met Service upgrade the Cook Strait forecast to a Gale warning we decide to flag that and head for Blenheim (Omaka).

This it turns out is the weekend for the Blenheim “Grape Ride” with several thousand cyclists booking all the motels in town (a now familiar tale) but I manage to phone and get the last room at the Commodore Motel although it turns out to be some way out of town but OK for all that.

The crossing is uneventful but very slow and provides lots of time for worry about the engine stopping but in the event it runs sweetly and we get to our accommodation mid afternoon. Omaka is hard to find from the air but we get there ok and are able to get the plane in the huge Marlbrough aero club hanger to weather the wind. Great value for $10

Dinner with aviation friends is provided at the Bacchus (for me again) and is excellent albeit slow service. It's still very good value.

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taubeshootBlenheim is quiet on Sundays, very quiet. We visit the local computer store and can see that the rest of the team are stuck at Masterton waiting for the weather to break

The afternoon is spent at the Aviation Heritage Centre and an old (yes older than me) guy named Tony give me a guided tour. Again I can't speak highly enough of this place, it's a must see even for the no aviating. Just first rate.

The rest of the safari do eventually start to arrive mid afternoon so we can't feel too smug unfortunately. It's all for the best though.

We also managed a good dinner at the Raupo by the river. Another good choice for the evening I'd say.


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img_8406Another early start and we are able to do the same course (mostly) as the main team and travel to Timaru with lunch at Rangiora. The plains are flat and blessed with good weather and a generous tail wind. All in all a good flying day.

An oil change for the bird at Timaru and we are set for another 25 hours flying. Unfortunately there is still water in the oil but several people say this is probably a result of not getting it hot enough. I don't really look at the indicated temperature being more concerned with keeping it in the 'green' so this is more than possible, I'll have to check on the next flight.

Dinner in the hanger is a spit roast pork and beef. Not at all bad with a couple of well earned beers!

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img_8416A rest day in Timaru starts with a first rate breakfast in town followed by a bus trip to the Richard Pearce memorial (the first powered fight, forget the Wright bros, they were later). Richard ended up in a hedge which was a small snag but, perhaps more seriously, missed out in the worldwide credit for the job.

The bulk of the tour was to the DB Brewery, very interesting although the bottling line had broken and they were repairing the resulting shambles. A worthwhile tour I thought.

Another civic reception in the evening at the Caroline Bay hall, a grand old structure down near the port.


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img_8435Difficult decisions have to be made as the weather forecast down south is not of the best and it is a very long way for our plucky little float plane. After talking with a friendly and conservative pilot from the area we conclude that our safest and most reliable way of getting to Wanaka is to skip the last leg of the Safari to Invercargill and travel more or less direct. This will allow us to bypass the bad weather to the south and save literally hours of flying in uncertain conditions.

We followed the route of the Safari up to Twizel with a bit of turbulence past the Mackenzie Pass. It is an incredibly scenic area from the air (as well as from ground level). Most impressive. The auto gyros were at Omarama when we arrived and we had lunch with them and a long chat with Chris from Southern Soaring who was hugely helpful in telling us about crossing the Lindis Pass and what we might expect there.

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Read more: Timaru to Wanaka

img_8446This blog is about the Safari so I'll not go into any detail about the show or our trip back. Suffice it to say the show was of the usual high standard and should be on everyone's 'must do' list at least once. Flying there and back is an optional bonus and presents a set of challenges for the amateur aviator which pushes you outside the comfort zone.

The Zenair performed without fault and we learnt a lot about it and it's limitations and abilities. We also learnt a lot from the other aviators on the trip.

Would I go on another air safari? Probably not.

Am I glad I did this one? Definately.

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