logbook1.gif (2755 bytes)

money_small_anim3.gif (11952 bytes)

Abel Tasman - Rotorua - Waiheke    11 to 13 February

There were mega CBs near Wanganui, which is on the direct route from Motueka to Rotorua , and we had to go up to 13,000 feet to getter a better view of the monsters to avoid.  We had to request a less direct route via New Plymouth which  cost us about 20 minutes or 50 NM extra.   Rotorua was overcast with rain showers and we needed a cloud base at least 690 feet above the airport  to make the non-prciesion (VOR/DME) approach.   The latest METAR had just that: 700 feet and 3 km visibility in rain.  The controller gave the commercial pilot of the plane behind  us also inbound to Rotorua a good separation  from us: 'The weather is deteriorating and the Mooney ahead   may perform a missed approach'.  Luckily the cloud base was just high enough.   We broke out of the clouds to find the runway only a short distance away. The commerical turboprob made it in as well, but we think he cheated as his class B approach MDA (minimum descent altitude) is higher than ours.

We booked into the oldest hotel in Rotorua called 'Princes' Gate', the nearest equivalent of a 'Hotel de Charme' that one could find in a modern country like New Zealand.  We enjoyed drinks at the cosy bar followed by an excellent dinner.

It was still overcast the next morning, with light drizzle from time to time.  Unsure whether we would be able to fly back that afternoon to Waiheke as planned, we restricted our movements to the places of interest in and around town.   Rotorua was a fashionable spa in the late 19th century.  Visitors came to 'take the waters' to cure themselves of anything from gout to psychological problems.   But maintenance was a big problem as the sulphuric acid corroded all the metal used in the water pipes.  We visited the Maori Arts and Crafts centre just outside town, where we saw bubbling hot springs and a quite impressive geyser, and the Maoris performed a traditional song and dance show.

We called Ray at various intervals to find out the actual weather at Waiheke.  It was not improving, so we decided to stay another night in Rotorua .We wanted to avoid landing in Auckland and having to take the ferry to Waiheke.  It would have made life complicated for our departure as the extra fuel tank - which still had to be installed on the back seat - was in Waiheke.  The decision made, we treated ourselves to an excellent brew of Earl Grey and scones with devonshire cream in the cosy tea room above the Art Deco Blue Baths.  The baths opened in the 1930s and lasted until 1982. Their heyday was the 1940s-50s.  In the early days, it was particularly popular with the young men who were able to see scantily clad young girls in public for the first time in history.

The decision to leave the next day was the right one. Or was it? I was as close to bending metal on old faithful Honey-Mooney as I have ever been!! The weather was still overcast in Rotorua but it was lifting and there were only few scattered to broken clouds  over Waiheke island after the frontal system had passed.  The Auckland weather radar had no significant returns. We took off IFR from Rotorua in light rain and were soon on top in the sunshine at 9000 feet. The only problem was the wind which had shifted to the southwest behind the front. Since it had been raining, the braking action on the wet grass strip in Waiheke would be extremely poor, so it was not wise to land downhill on 17, which has a 2% downhill slope. And Mooneys float for ages on downhill runways (...they like to fly!).  On the other hand, landing uphill on 35 was not ideal either, since that meant a tail wind component on landing which made the 650 meter grass runway a very short one, especially with the wet grass.

As expected we broke out of of the clouds at 2000 feet on the ILS 23L in Auckland, cancelled IFR to fly the last 10 NM to Waiheke VFR. Our groundspeed confirmed that there was at least a 25 knot tailwind at 1500 feet. The windsocks at Waiheke confirmed that the wind was a tailwind for 35 with some crosswind from the left. The large crab angle on final for the approach confirmed a strong crosswind from left and it looked initially OK. But on short final it became turbulent due to a hill, and the airspeed went up to 10 knots above the target value of 70 knots, so over the threshold I applied full power and went about for a second approach. I went as close as I dared to the vineyard hill on short final (it was turbulent) and made a low approach. But windshear and updrafts made the airspeed shoot up again just before the vineyard hill even with throttle at idle, and I was ready to go around again. A downdraft just after the hill on very short final put the airspeed back in order again and I decided to land. Touchdown was sort of OK 1/3 down the runway and we were slowing down going up the hill. But due to the tailwind component we had touched down at a high groundspeed, so suddenly the end of the runway was approaching very fast. And the brakes had absolutely no effect!! The uphill slope disappears near the end and it got really scary. 100 meters before the end (..which I knew was not pleasant!!) I swerved abruptly left, the plane turned 90 degree and we were sliding sideways. That did it! We managed to stop 20 meters before the end!! The tires had made a couple of nice tracks in the grass due to the sideways motion, which had created a better grip on the wet grass. Why don't they make aircraft tires with threads designed to brake on grass?

After recovering from all that adrenalin, we taxied somewhat shaken back to the parking where Ray was waiting and had been watching all the action. The Cessna 172 (home based at Waiheke) which came in after us also on runway 35 had less problems. But Cessnas have much more effective flaps, float less in ground effect and has a 5 knots lower approach speed which makes a big difference.

The plan was to depart for Tonga early the next day, but there was still a lot to do.  The 35 Gallons cabin tank on the rear seat (which had been shipped to Waiheke from Geneva ) had to be installed, and we had still no positive reply from either Tonga, Western Samoa or French Polynesia. So numerous faxes and phone calls had to be made, and all our clothes for warm weather, some tools and many other unecessary items had to be shipped back home to lighten the plane for the long hops across the Pacific. We got the Tongan authorisation late afternoon and the W. Samoan one was promised for the following day. The French Polynesians got all the extra information about our survival gear which they had asked for. Flemming went to bed at 2:30 am and we had to get up at 06:00 am for our 7 and a half hour long leg to Nuku'alofa, Tonga.

Click on image to enlarge, click browser back to return

35-Angela_Geyser.jpg (28028 bytes)

Geyser and mineral deposits in Rotorua

35-Old_bath_house.jpg (24547 bytes)

The old bath house in Rotorua from the late 19th century, now a museum

35-Maori_war_dance.jpg (23727 bytes)

Maori war dance

35-Maori_show.jpg (29447 bytes)

Maori traditional dance show

35-Blue_bath.jpg (19724 bytes)

The Art Deco Blue Bath in Rotorua

35-Waiheke_survival.jpg (28709 bytes)

Flemming checking out our marine survival gear in Waiheke. 35 Gallon rear tank to the right.

35-Waiheke_rear_tank.jpg (29866 bytes)

Ready for the Pacific. With the 'Brazil' 35 Gallon tank installed on the rear seat, we have a total of 123 US Gallons on board

plane_prev_home_next3.gif (2099 bytes)