Flying in New Zealand


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Hamilton to Gisborne

Distance – 247 miles

Flight Time – 2 hours 30 (approx)

I’ve decided to share this flight on here as it was one of my favourite flights in New Zealand. If you don’t read it all then I hope you enjoy the photos at least!

Warning: Contains an epic tale of struggle and pain, not for the faint hearted (towards the end)

Sunrise whilst pre-flighting my aircraft for the days long long flight ahead! The photo is quite dark however, it was a beautiful sunrise and set the scene for a great day!


My aeroplane for the day, an Alpha A160, it’s basically a Robin R200 however Alpha bought the rights to the design and this is the end result. The Alphas aren’t as fast as the Robin (about 20 knots slower) as they’re about 200KG’s heavier but still nice to fly.

After the preflight I checked the weather and planned all of my headings for the day based on the forecast winds for the altitudes I would be flying at. The weather forecast said the cloud base would be scattered at 2500 feet with no significant weather which was good enough for my flight so I got signed out and off I went.

I set off from Hamilton on my way to Whakatane aerodrome, my first turning point on my way to Gisborne. This leg was approximately 75 Nautical Miles and the longest section of the flight. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stop and get out however I managed to get a couple of touch and goes in at the airport before departing and going on to my next turning point Opotiki.

I followed the coast line to East Cape, the most easterly point of New Zealand, and was so taken in by the view. The landscape of New Zealand is just fantastic, so green, so varied, with mountains in the distance, beautiful cliff formations, rivers that stretch for miles and so much more. I couldn’t help but look out over the sea and think how lucky I was to be there.

Approaching East Cape I could see a white dot on a hill which looked like a lighthouse and as I got closer I descended to take a better look … and of photo of course.

Unfortunately the camera I was using wasn’t the best so it’s a little blurry. At this point I’m about 1000 feet above mean sea level, I should have gotten a photo closer however looking at the LCD screen of my camera this one looked good enough.

The time was just coming up to 2 hours since leaving Hamilton when I turned at East Cape and made my way down the last stretch towards Gisborne. There were some really beautify bays and rock formations on the way, further satisfying my love of landscapes. Of course I made a point of taking some photos.

I have to say, this is my favourite photo of the trip and one of my favourites from my time in New Zealand. I absolutely love this jetti and the location, I wish I could have landed and taken a walk down it. It’s a shame the distance is hazy, I’ve tried to edit it in a way that would make it less hazy however have been unsuccessful in my attempts.

Around 20 NM from Gisborne I flew over a random formation of rocks just off the coast, I’m not sure what else to call them as they were quite large.

Coming into Gisborne I was cleared to join left hand down wind for runway 14, a small grass runway that runs parallel to the bitumen runway. You can see from the above aerodrome plate my track down to the runway. A very interesting feature about this aerodrome, apart from its many many runways, is the fact that a train track runs straight through the bitumen runway 14/32 and at the end of the grass 14/32. Whilst on final for runway 14 I was lucky enough to see a train come past but unfortunately due to the phase of flight I was in, I couldn’t take a photo.

I landed at the airfield, refuelled my aeroplane and went into the terminal for a drink, something to eat and a visit the restroom. I asked one of the reception staff for a print out of the current New Zealand weather and decided that it was time to go as rain was sweeping across the main land and that was supposed to be the way I was going.

Looking out at the direction I was supposed to be going, I realised I couldn’t get that way due to the low cloud and rain and decided to go back the same way I had come.

So I departed Gisborne on my way back to Hamilton, the flight back would be around another 2 hours 20.

40 minutes later… I started needing to visit the rest room.

50 minutes later I realised I was was out of radio contact with Christchurch Control due to the high ground around so was unable to update my search and rescue time. After a few attempts a Beech 1900 was kind enough to relay my message and I carried on my merry way.

1 hour later I reached a piece of airspace which was uncontrolled to 16,000 feet and decided to climb as high as I could. I managed to get to 10,000 feet before the aircraft really struggled. Being a piston engined aircraft with no turbo on it, it started losing power at about 6,000-7,000 feet due to the relatively thinner air there. Going from 6/7,000 feet to 10,000 took a long time. Coming down was another story, it was good fun doing a rapid descent from 10,000. I decided to level off where the wind was blowing a little stronger, helping to push me back to Hamilton.

As I approached Whakatane I started feeling pain due to needing to go to the rest room, this was an hour 30 into the flight. One hour to go, I knew I was going to be in pain. I considered landing at Whakatane however evening civil twilight was approaching and I wasn’t night rated at the time so I carried on.

I considered going in a bottle however knew that it definitely wouldn’t end well for me. I did what I could to take my mind off it and I started rocking backwards and forwards as it seemed to help. As I approached Hamilton I did what I could to get down as fast as possible. I requested a straight in approach onto the grass runway, with a slight cross wind, so that I didn’t have to go down wind and spend any more time in the circuit than necessary.

I landed the aeroplane and shut down at the fuel pump on the apron. I didn’t even fuel the aircraft, I just ran straight into the training centre in absolute agony. I couldn’t stand straight. I came back out to a queue of planes waiting for fuel, sheepishly refuelled my aircraft, parked it on the apron and tied it down.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic days flying.

If you haven’t read the story then I hope you’ve at least enjoyed the photos as much as I do.

Happy Landings,
Journeym4n

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2 Responses to Flying in New Zealand

  1. rjwhiskey says:

    Good story! The pictures were incredible! The ending reminds me of one of my multi-engine commercial flights. I think the leg was 150-175 NM. I wanted to be ready for the flight so I drank an extra large coffee on my drive in to the airport. It was about an hour before we were scheduled to take off so I thought I would have been alright. I used the restroom before we took off. I thought everything was good until we leveled off about 15 minutes into the flight. Oh it hit me and it hit me hard. Long story short, I performed the shortest short-field landing of my life and took the first turnoff that led to the FBO. It was excruciating! My instructor never let me forget it.

    • Journeym4n says:

      Thanks a lot! :-).

      Haha I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one that has been caught out by it. An aeroplane with no loo is not the time to need it. On the long cross countries I used to do I’d take a bottle of water with me to keep hydrated, especially in the Robin/Alpha with it’s bubble canopy giving way to the sun beating down on you the whole time.

      Was it your MEP rating or were you doing IR? I can see it being a huge distraction for your flight! Fortunately I only had one heading to fly to get back.

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