White Island Navex - 31 Oct 2009

On Saturday the 31st October 2009, I flew with my friend Chris Rarere on a navigation exercise out of Auckland's North Shore airfield. We made our way down country to Tauranga for lunch and afterwards flew on to visit one of New Zealand's offshore islands, White Island, which is also an active volcano. We then returned to Auckland via the Coromandel Pennisula.

The day we flew down was absolutely stunning and was a great opportunity to exercise my recently refreshed navigation skills. The photos below are some of the images from the flight. Note that there are no photos from the Auckland to Tauranga leg of the flight as I was a bit busy making sure I hit my navigation waypoints and making corrections. After proving to myself I could still navigate reasonably well, I relaxed somewhat in the afternoon and took plenty of photos along the way.

The map shows the track we followed for the flights on the day.

Our morning flight took us east over Whangaparaoa Penninsula before we turned southeast over Waitemata Harbour and the Thames estuary to our waypoint at Thames airfield. From Thames we headed to Waihi Gap where we flew through to Waihi Beach before turning south to Tauranga Airport.

After lunch we headed southward out of Tauranga to around Matata before turning eastward towards White Island. We orbited White Island then set track westward toward Mayor Island before turning northward toward Slipper Island and on up the Coromandel Pennisula. After Whitianga we turned westward and flew over the Pennisula to head out over the Waitemata Harbour again and on back to Orewa and North Shore Airfield.

Chris Rarere and I have known each other since the early 1980's when we both served in the New Zealand Air Force. We lost touch with each other during the 1990's and early 2000's but met up again though a common friend a couple of years ago. We flew a Cessna 182 for the navex which is a nice roomy aircraft to fly in. Plenty of room to unfold maps in the cockpit and plenty of grunt under the bonnet.

As I mentioned I did not take any photo's on the way down to Tauranga but I took a few while we were there. There was the usual array of classic airplanes on the line and at the museum and it was a glorious day. Couldn't ask for more really.

As we flew south out of Tauranga we headed down the coast towards Whakatane. We had intended to fly all the way down the coast to Whakatane and then on to White Island but part way down we realised we were going to run out of time at the end of the flight if we continued right the way down so at around Matata we turned out towards White Island.

As we approached White Island from the West we didn't get any impression that the Island is an active volcano. Often throughout the year there is a steady column of steam rising from the main crater but today there was no sign of any activity.

However as we flew round the northern side of the Island the crater started to come into view.

Then coming round the eastern side of the Island, the crater and the acid lake with steam clouds finally came into view.

A closeup of the lake shows just a taste of the activity in the crater.

Flying closer to the Island you start to get a feel for the scale of the crater.

Circling round again I got this nice shot of the Island framed by the wing strut.

Then as we flew by for one last pass we could make out the foundations of one of the buildings used for a sulphur mining works which was set up briefly on the Island in the early 1900's. Unfortunately for the miners working on the Island the company had not realised that the Island periodically spewed out toxic sulphur dioxide gas from the crater and the entire crew were killed during just one such eruption.

Having satisfied ourselves with viewing White Island we set course for Mayor Island to the northwest.
We didn't overfly the island but flew to the north.

We then turned northward up the Coromandel Pennisula passing various townships the first of which was Pauanui which is a beach holiday township purpose built in the 1970's and which was built around an airfield. The idea was for families living in Auckland and who owned aircraft being able to fly down to the beach at the weekend and land by or close to their beach house after a short 30 minute flight from either the North Shore or Ardmore Airfields and not have to contend with the 1.5 - 2 hour drive from Auckland. For those who own houses in Pauanui and who have access to private aircraft this works pretty much as advertised but I think the majority of folks living there still drive in.

And of course whats a trip away without the obligatory photo if the participants.

The Coromandel Pennisula has a whole series of beautiful beaches with small settlements attached dotted all up and down the coast. In this picture you can see a couple of these. The main beach in this photo is Opito Bay.

One more photo of a stunning beach. These ones are Little Bay and Waikawau Bay. This was also the point along the northward leg up the Pennisula where we turned westward and headed across the Pennisula back towards Auckland.

As we crossed over the west coast of the Pennisula we flew over the little township of Colville and to the
north I got this photo of Cape Colville which is the northern most point of the Coromandel Pennisula.

This is the office of the 182. Quite well outfitted as you can see. Chris enjoys flying the 182 because of the extra power it affords over the 172 and also because of the opportunity to fly an aircraft with a much more comprehensive instrument setup. I have to say the GPS and auto-pilot make life easier on the long distance flights (and were great for checking my manual navigation figures against.)

Flying accross the Waitemata harbour I took this shot as we approached Orewa from the east.
I am not sure why I like this particular photo but it appeals to me so I thought I would include it.

One last photo taken on short finals as we approached North Shore Airfield.
North Shore is a relatively narrow strip only about 40-50 feet wide so landing in a cross wind can be a bit exciting.