Taumarunui - 21 Mar 2010

The following photo essay was cribbed from a club report I put together for the Airline Flying Club trip to Taumarunui in March.

On Sunday the 21st March 2010 the Airline Flying Club, of which I am a member, took three club aircraft and twelve club members down country via Max Clears airfield at Te Kowhai and Te Kuiti aerodrome to visit the Taumarunui Aero Club at the Taumarunui airfield. The club members who were participating assembled at the clubrooms around 9:30am anticipating a great days flying but we were casting a weary eye to the sky at the layer of grey overcast hanging about over Ardmore. We were assured however that the weather south of the Bombay Hills was clear and we were goin' flyin'.

Map of the track we followed down country for the flights on the day.
The initial leg was from Ardmore (AR) airfield to Te Kowhai (TE). Then Te Kowhai to Te Kuiti (TT) and lastly Te Kuiti to Taumarunui (TM). We then returned in the afternoon via the reverse course.

Mike King and Haden Starrenburg preparing LMA for the Big Day Out.
After an initial welcome for the day by Chris Dixon (the club Deputy CFI), Rob Utting, the Club CFI briefed us on the conditions we could expect to encounter and the reference points we were to watch our for as we travelled south. Chris then followed Robs briefing by assigning us to our aircraft for the flight down to Taumarunui as follows;
Cessna 182 DJN - (Rob Utting, Gavin Magill , Dean Shelley and Tom O'Brien)
Cessna 172 DJU - (Chris Dixon, Trevor Mabely, Tony Lumb and Haden Starrenburg)
Piper PA28 LMA - (Mike King, Dave Underwood, Nils Victor and Jens Victor)

Chris Dixon checks out DJU.
With everyone ready to go we made our way to our respective aircraft and prepared ourselves for the trip ahead. One small hiccup briefly interrupted our preparations however when another pilot on the airfield decided to start up and try to taxi a Tobago aircraft without first removing the canopy cover or the chocks from the aircraft. Fortunately quick intervention from Chris Dixon and Mike King managed to sort out his oversight before any damage was caused to the aircraft. That good deed complete, we piled into our aeroplanes and headed off to the run up point at the end of runway 21 and with checks complete, we lined up and launched our little flight of aircraft into the overcast sky heading for Te Kowhai, wheels up at about 10:30am.

The initial leg from Ardmore to the Bombay Hills proved to be a quite murky with all three aircraft having to dodge through shower clouds and some thicker patches of cumulus. The cloud base was adequate enough though to make it through comfortably to the Bombay Hills after which, as promised, the cloud thinned out and the rolling farmland of the Waikato greeted us with broken cloud at around 3500ft and 50+ km visibility. A perfect day for flying.

In the 182, those of us that had not flown in this particular aircraft type were shown the considerable pitch changes that occur whenever the aircraft flaps were moved between settings. Rob Utting had given us plenty of warning so we were mostly prepared for the effects but still somewhat surprised at the considerable control inputs required to overcome the pitch changes.

Some 40 minutes later we arrived overhead Te Kowhai to find the airfield very quiet with just Bill Henwood in his Piper Cub and one Bantam microlight in the circuit. Even Bill was not flying when we arrived however as the Cub had broken a tailwheel and Bill was last seen trudging up the airfield with tools in hand to effect repairs to the Cub.

DJN on the ground at Te Kowhai.
The brief visit to Te Kowhai allowed Rob Utting to have a quick catch up with Max Clear while other club members had a quick look at one of Max's Bantam Microlights sitting in the hanger next door to the office. With a fairly tight schedule to keep however we didn't really have much time to dally so we made our way back to our various aircraft, swapped pilots and launched ourselves into the next leg.

Haden Starrenburg and Trevor Mabely check out a Bantam at Te Kowhai.
Back in the air we pointed our noses southward and set track for Te Kuiti and after just 30mins we made our approach and landing straight in for runway 16 at TT. Unfortunately we arrived to find the local clubrooms deserted and no one about. (We found out later that the club members and aircraft had just departed for a BBQ away day of their own.)

With no one to chat to, Chris dutifully paid the landing fee and we swapped pilots once again, hopped back into our aircraft and headed for the skies once more. In the 182, Tom O'Brien was somewhat surprised when the aircraft showed her power by getting airborne while still on the grass portion of the airfield prior to the sealed section of the runway. The 182 is certainly capable of very short takeoff's even with a four POB.

The Club aircraft on the ground in Te Kuiti.
Continuing on down country it was time to play spot the ag strip as we flew along our track. Each aircraft kept a close eye on the GPS to ensure the shortest route possible to TM and soon enough tabletop mountain, to the northwest of Taumarunui, came into view. The chat frequency proved useful for keeping in contact with the other aircraft and was alive with the odd "baa baa" being heard. Then about 10 minutes out from TM we received a call from Kevin Vile from the Taumarunui Aero Club to say they were inbound from Slipper Island with an expected ETA approximately 20 minutes after our arrival time at TM.

Tabletop Mountain to the northwest of Taumarunui.
Soon enough we were passing over the ridge line of the hill beside Taumarunui airfield and the nearly 1200m (3900') runway came into view. A standard overhead rejoin and downwind leg saw us turning finals for runway 19 with a weary eye being kept out for a top dressing pilot working from a strip directly under the final approach vector. He was well out of our way however and we were wheels down at about 1pm in TM. All the Club aircraft were safely on the ground by 1:15 and we awaited the arrival of our hosts.

Tom O'Brien flies DJN on finals to the 4000' runway at TM with Rob Utting looking on.
The Taumarunui Club members duly arrived in their 172 about 20 minutes later and we were soon enjoying the hospitality of our hosts and the warm afternoon sunshine. Tom O'Brien took the opportunity while we were waiting for lunch to renew his type rating in the Piper Archer with Rob Utting instructing but apart from that it was very much bums on seats reading magazines being the order of the day.

Safely on the ground at TM awaiting the arrival of our hosts.
While we relaxed, our gracious hosts Kevin Vile and Jeanette Lei prepared, cooked and served up a much appreciated BBQ lunch of sausages and bread with shortbread, apricot slice, soft drink and apples for afters. With lunch completed however, it was all too soon time to be thinking about leaving. We were under a bit of time pressure to get back to Ardmore as we needed to be there before the airfield closed at 5:55 for a planned air display. So after a quick refuel of the aircraft, the requisite team photo and farewells to our hosts, we headed for our newly assigned aircraft and prepared for the flight back to Te Kuiti.

The crew at Taumarunui.
L-R. Trevor Mabely, Tony Lumb, Chris Dixon (kneeling), Tom O'Brien, Jens Victor (kneeling), Haden Starrenburg (behind Jens),
Nils Victor (front), Dean Shelley, Dave Underwood, Gavin Magill, Rob Utting and Mike King.

The takeoff from Taumarunui and flight to Te Kuiti was relatively uneventful, however with a slightly heightened sense urgency to return home the competitiveness between the aircraft crews was beginning to show and each aircraft started to keep an eye out for each other with a view to being first on the ground in TT.

Nils Victor at the controls of DJU with Mike King instructing.
A quick stop in Te Kuiti saw another pilot change and a quick greeting with the now returned club captain from Te Kuiti Aero Club. Unfortunately we were somewhat pressed for time by this stage so we had to turn down the offer of a quick cuppa and instead returned to our aircraft and the next leg of the flight back to Te Kowhai.

On the ground back at Te Kuiti the Te Kuiti club aircraft had returned from their club outing.
The next leg to Te Kowhai saw us overhead the airfield about 35 minutes later and joining the circuit for runway 23. Spotting the airfield at Te Kowhai can be a bit of a mission but the new line of hangars on the south eastern side of the airfield now make it considerably easier to spot the airfield amongst the sprawling Waikato farmland.

An even quicker turn round of pilots this time saw the 172 airborne before the PA28, with the 182 last off and on course back to Ardmore. Both the 172 and 182 performed left hand circuits out of Te Kowhai but the PA 28 with the ever competitive Chris Dixon aboard, called a right hand exit on takeoff and managed to pick up a few precious minutes on the 172 as we all climbed to cruise height and speed. With the competitive juices really flowing, a careful watch was kept out for the other aircraft as we eked every last ounce of cruise speed out of the aircraft on the way home to Ardmore.

About 10 miles south of Bombay the 182 finally caught up with the 172 and PA28 which were by now neck a neck racing for home and for a couple of minutes all three aircraft were line abreast overhead about Mercer. The sight of three sets of northbound landing lights, line abreast and relatively close to each other must have been a bit of a shock for the 172 pilot who suddenly appeared ahead of us heading southbound. The aforementioned pilot made an immediate left turn to get out of our way as we cruised up towards the Bombay hills gradually loosing altitude to remain clear of the Auckland TMA.

The PA28 and 172 remained side by side right over the Bombay Hills and through to Drury before a quick bit of manoeuvring by the PA28 abeam Drury allowed it to pass behind the 172 and pick up the downwind leg for runway 23 at Ardmore number two behind the 182.

LMA off the port wing of DJU overhead the Bombay Hills.
Then in a last minute grasp for victory, the crew of the PA28 seized an opportunity and carried out a steep descending turn to perform a (very) shortened base leg to sneak in ahead of the 182 to take the honours for first home. The 182 followed hot on their heels and the crew of the 172 had to be satisfied with a close third.

And with everyone home safe and sound we put the planes to bed, paid our bills, then sat and enjoyed a much anticipated amber beverage while telling tales and watching the Roaring 40's display team and an RNZAF Airtrainer perform over the airfield. A most excellent way to end a most excellent days flying.