Katamarino's Round the World flight

I tried Vegemite. I think I was in Africa, though. Not sure why it was served. Maybe they sometimes get Australian tourists. Anyway, I thought it was OK on toast. But I also like anchovies.
The next day has been split into two posts, as we did a lot! Here is post number one.

It was going to be a very long day of flying; we’d decided to condense two days into one, so that we could later spend 2 nights in Christchurch rather than moving on every day. After an excellent breakfast prepared by Noel, we caught a taxi to the airport and headed out from Invercargill. Our first course was south, towards Stewart Island and the most southerly stop of the entire round-the-world trip. Having come this far south, I couldn’t resist the temptation to hop over and land there; and there was also a town I was keen to visit!

Departing Invercargill

Many cows

Stewart Island is served by one airline, and most of their flights take place first thing in the morning, or late in the afternoon. They gave us the all-clear to go in and land after their morning flights were done. It was a short flight over the Foveaux Strait, and we overflew the airfield to check conditions before entering a left downwind over the town to land. We gave the usual traffic calls, and the Stewart Island Flights base responded and let us know that they were on their way to pick us up!

Approaching Stewart Island

Ryan's Creek airfield


Not long after landing, a gentleman showed up in a van and gave us a ride back to town. He was a pilot for Stewart Island Flights, and filled us in about what it was like to operate flights to and from the island, as well as to several of the beaches around the island when conditions were right. They’d flown a number of walkers out to various beaches just that morning. He dropped us at the company base, and gave us a few pointers on what to see around the town.

Parked at Ryan's Creek

The main town on Stewart Island is called Oban. After visiting the Scottish town of Oban 9 months earlier with my father, during the first section of the flight, there was some satisfaction in coming to visit the other Oban on almost completely the opposite side of the globe! The New Zealand Oban seems to be even smaller than the Scottish version, which happily means that it’s very easy to walk around. We started off our visit with a walk along the seafront to the visitor center. From here we started back, and met up with a Canadian visitor; his daughter had met a man on Stewart Island while travelling, and he was now here for their wedding! He gave us a few more suggestions of where to go, and we parted ways.


We next wandered down main street, and dropped into the Kiwi-French Crepery looking forward to a second breakfast! “Oh” came the reply when I ordered our desired food, “we’re not doing crepes”. This was something of a surprise and seemed to rather limit their repertoire, but options in Oban were limited so we made do with a chocolate brownie and a hot chocolate.

Stewart Island Museum

Our next stop was the town museum, which was rather limited but did offer a few glimpses into the history of the island and was certainly worth a visit. We stopped off on our way from here at the island fish and chip shop, which had been highly recommended by everyone we spoke to, and we were not disappointed! Brunch complete, we returned to the Stewart Island Flights office and the lady there drove us back to the aircraft. Time to move on!

Excellent fish and chips

We took off from Ryan’s Creek airfield, and decided to head across the island for some sight seeing. First stop was Mason Bay, where Stewart Island Flights had apparently dropped people off that morning and indeed we saw various hikers on the beach. We carried on low level around to Doughboy Bay, another place that aircraft sometimes land, before continuing south towards the very tip of the island. We wanted to see the very southern tip of the “main” part of New Zealand (we decided the Auckland Islands are too far out to count!)

Low level south along Stewart Island

Stewart Island coast

The southern tip of Stewart Island was just as rugged and desolate as we had anticipated. No trails, roads, or other signs of human habitation were evident. As we turned around the southern point, off our right wingtip there was nothing of any substance (sorry, Auckland Islands) between us and the Antarctic. That, however, must be saved for a future flying adventure…

Southernmost point

The day's flying

We headed back up the eastern side of Stewart Island, passing over multiple fish farming facilities on our way back to the Foveaux Strait. We passed just east of Oban, and over Ruapuke island as we crossed back to the mainland, headed on a direct track towards Dunedin. We were not far inland, however, before I suddenly remembered a recommendation that I’d recently received from my friend Hannah (of “USA: Coast to Coast” and “USA: Southwest” fame). She was on holiday with her family in New Zealand at the same time as us, and had stumbled upon an excellent aviation museum at Mandeville. I let ATC know of our destination change, and phoned Mandeville using the Bluetooth function of the audio panel to get permission to stop in.

Back to the mainland

Approaching Mandeville

Mandeville has a lovely grass runway, with no other traffic as we came in and landed. As we taxied in, a large group of school children in high visibility jackets paraded over towards us and waved as we parked. It turned out they were going to visit the building that we parked next to, which was the hangar where the aircraft restorations were carried out. We followed them in and had a look around. The work in progress was impressive, with full rebuilds down to the original structure and beyond.

The workshop at Mandeville

After visiting the workshop, we stopped in the cafe for a drink and an ice cream, before heading to the museum. The museum is focused around the de Havilland aircraft company, and is small but extremely interesting. Most of the aircraft there are operational, flying models. While we were there, a Tiger Moth came back in from a flight with a tourist, who was effusive about the experience! We finished looking around the aircraft, and headed back to the 182. Next stop, Dunedin.

Tiger Moth at Mandeville

The de Havilland museum

Dragon Rapide

Fox Moth

To be continued...
We had originally planned to stop in Dunedin for a night, to visit Larnach Castle. The plan had been reworked, to allow for an extra night in Christchurch; only spending one night in every stop over the last week was fast paced, and was getting a bit tiring. We decided to still fly over to Dunedin anyway, to stop for some fuel and fly over to see the castle from the air. The flight from Mandeville was pretty short, but a little bumpy; winds were starting to build up, and there wasn’t much point in flying high on a leg of this length.

Departing Mandeville

Crossing Southland

Approaching Taieri

We decided to stop at Taieri airport, which is fairly close to the main Dunedin airport and requires adherence to low level VFR corridors for arrival and departure to avoid busting controlled airspace. As we came in from the north, we were sandwiched between the floor of controlled airspace and a ridge of high ground below us; it almost felt like we’d have to fly underneath the power lines! We entered the traffic pattern at Taieri, and touched down to the east on the large grass runway, shutting down at the fuel pumps. The flying club lent us their fuel card, and the people in there had even heard about the flight and been following us on Facebook, which was nice to hear!

Refueling at Taieri

The "Bloke's Shed"

We didn’t stay long, just enough to put some fuel in the mains, and we were off again. We followed an autogyro along the taxiway to the end of the runway, and he waved us past to take off ahead of him as he seemed to be carrying out some very slow and deliberate pre-flight checks. It seemed to be a flying lesson in progress, and it was considerate of them to notice us in line behind! We took off and headed north; I was feeling a little pressured for time at this point, and completely forgot about Larnach Castle until it was too late. Oh well, that can be saved for a future trip!

Gyrocopter ahead of us

Rugged terrain north of Dunedin

We had one important destination before reaching Christchurch; Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. I’d never really had a proper look at it, but today the weather conditions across the South Island were great, and I was excited to finally see it up close! As we cruised up the island on autopilot, Elsa napped, and I reviewed the Mt Cook flight procedures and gradually climbed up to about 12,000ft. I didn’t want to get in the way of the commercial sight-seeing flights that would doubtless be buzzing around.

Central South Island lakes

Approaching Mt Cook

Into the Southern Alps

Hydropower installations were clearly visible on some of the large lakes we passed over on our way north. More than 80% of New Zealand’s electricity comes from renewable sources, being blessed with plenty of opportunities for hydroelectric and geothermal generation. We flew up Lake Pukaki towards Mt Cook, marveling at the stunning views; the weather could hardly have been better for us! We followed a circuit anti-clockwise around the mountain; up the Tasman Glacier and then around over the Franz Josef and Fox, before heading south again. It was great to see the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers properly, after they’d hidden from us on our flight south!

Mt Cook

Snow fields

Tasman Glacier

We descended hard from Mt Cook, and headed for Tekapo airfield. This is the main home of Air Safaris and they had offered to welcome us and help us out with refueling. As we landed and taxied in the airfield was a hive of activity, clearly most of the day’s flights had just landed and aircraft were busily being serviced and put away. One of the pilots noticed us coming, and pushed an Airvan out of the way so that we could taxi up to the fuel pump.

Approaching Tekapo

The Air Safari team had been following the trip, and were extremely friendly and welcoming. We were quickly refueled, and chatted for a while before it was time to be on our way again; although not before picking up a souvenir shirt, having now landed at both of their airfields! We waited for a Cessna 180 to land, and then headed out to the north on our final flight of the day, to Christchurch.

Making friends in Tekapo

Departure from Tekapo

Mountain haze

A well known New Zealand aviator, Bruce Drake, had seen our posts online and invited us to fly in and stay at his private airstrip, a little north of Christchurch. We had jumped at the opportunity and were now on our way to his home of Barradale. The plains east of the Alps spread out like a patchwork of fields and farms as we slowly descended to remain clear of Christchurch airspace, crossing a couple of large silt-packed rivers bringing down meltwater from the mountains. I followed the land marks in towards Barradale and was pleased to see it exactly where we’d expected; I flew a right downwind to runway 06 to keep clear of another private strip to the north, completely misjudged my base turn and overshot final, but managed to get stabilised and bring it in to land anyway. 0 points for style.

South Island, east coast

Snow-melt fed river

Approaching Barradale

We parked the airplane up against Bruce’s hangar while he and his wife gave us a tour of the house, showed us our accommodation in their amazing guest suite, and then lent us a car to head into town. They could not have been kinder! That evening we met my aunt and father in the city center and took him out for an Indian meal to celebrate his wedding anniversary.
On our first day in the Coromandel...
A family I know from California took a trip to NZ that was originally supposed to be a couple months, now more like 4 months. I found out the other day they are in Matarangi, which is near here. I went back through your posts to see if you had been nearby. Very cool that this is the place where you asked the question. :)

Not sure when they are coming back. They don't seem to be in any hurry. The kids are not school age yet, besides schools are closed here until the fall.
It was a pleasure to wake up and not need to be heading to the airport for another flight. The flying is always enjoyable, but a day off every now and then always helps to manage the fatigue and keep the pace sensible. We had a relaxed breakfast with the Drakes, before relocating the aircraft around the side of the house to the tie-downs; the wind direction had shifted, and Bruce had warned us that wind strength could increase without warning, so better to be safe than sorry!

"Cessna parking only"

After this, we drove back into Christchurch to meet my father and aunt. We parked at the botanical gardens, and walked through them to meet the family, who were waiting “next to a gorilla playing an accordion”. This was an accurate description; the musical gorilla was certainly pulling in plenty of tips, so his strategy seemed to be working. We pulled ourselves away from the spectacle and headed for a light lunch at the “Boat House” restaurant.

The botanical gardens


The Boat House cat

From here, we walked through town for a while. The impact of the 2011 earthquake was still clearly visible throughout the city, although the rebuilding was clearly proceeding at a great pace. The earthquake was New Zealand’s 5th deadliest disaster at the time, and knocked it off of its perch as the nations 2nd most populous city as people moved away in the aftermath.

The Memorial Arch

City tramlines

Post-quake damage and rebuilding

We carried on through the city until we came to the Cardboard Cathedral. The main Christchurch Cathedral was seriously damaged in the earthquake, and this replacement was opened in August 2013. A major part of the structure is made up of 24″ cardboard tubes, hence the unofficial moniker. It rises nearly 70ft above the alter and seats around 700 people; it’s a very impressive structure indeed! The timeline to repair the main cathedral is still unknown, so this one is expected to be in use for quite some time.

The cardboard cathedral

We walked from the cathedral back towards the center of the city. Dad and my aunt would be carrying on now to drive north along the coast, while we enjoyed one more night in Christchurch before heading to catch up with them. We said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways.

Damaged buildings

Elsa and I jumped onto the city sightseeing tram, that runs loops around the central districts with a guided commentary from the driver. He pointed out a number of the significant buildings, and described a lot of the various impacts of the earthquake and what was being done to rebuild. We got off the tram near the botanical gardens, after most of its loop was done.

On the tram

City mural

The damaged cathedral

We took a slow walk around the gardens, starting at the Peacock Fountain. We carried on along the Avon River before heading through the Rose Garden, and back towards the car. Our next stop was the earthquake museum, a very moving exhibition about the 2011 earthquake including many first person accounts of the day itself.

Botanical Gardens

The earthquake museum

We drove back up towards Barradale, stopping to pick up some desserts and wine, and to fill up the car that Bruce had kindly lent us to use. That evening we enjoyed an amazing home-cooked meal of salmon and accompaniments courtesy of the Drakes.
We enjoyed another late breakfast with the Drakes, and had a little tour of the airfield to see Bruce’s aircraft and workshop. That done, we taxied the aircraft round to the front of the house for a couple of photographs. Bruce had very kindly fixed the broken landing gear fairing the day before while we had been out, using a spare which he had from a wrecked aircraft. This was really taking hospitality to the extreme, and it felt good to have that issue taken care of; there are enough other things to worry about on a trip like this.

Saying goodbye to the Drakes


We took off using runway 06, and circled overhead the field once to gain height before heading on course to the north. We’d taken Bruce’s advice on this, to ensure we were high enough not to clash with any traffic at the private strip just to the north, or at Rangiora airfield which was not much further away. There was one aircraft flying at Rangiora, but we were well above him as we climbed away, sandwiched between their traffic pattern below and the controlled airspace of Christchurch overhead.

Passing Rangiora

The east coast

We headed north near the coast. The wind was blowing hard from the west, coming in over the mountains, but luckily at our level there wasn’t much in the way of turbulence. As we closed in on Kaikoura, we started descending, in the hope of seeing some whales; this part of the coast is renowned for whale watching. We tuned into the area broadcast frequency so that we could listen in to the positions of the whale watching aircraft, and let them know what we were up to.

Approaching Kaikoura

We had arrived at a good time; two aircraft were discussing the location of a whale that had been spotted, and two whale-watching boats were close to it, making it easy to spot. The commercial aircraft were down at 500ft, so we circled above them at about 1,200ft, still getting a pretty good view of the whale. Before long it dived, and we continued on our way north along the coast.

Whale watching boats trailing a whale

The Kaikoura peninsula

As the mountains draw closer to the coast north of Kaikoura, the highway and railway are sandwiched into a narrow strip of land along the beach. To a civil engineer, it was fascinating seeing how they had been constructed, hurdling the rivers and streams that run down out of the mountains at irregular intervals. After a little while we turned inland to head to the VFR corridor that allows traffic to come in to the airfield at Omaka. We put up with a bit of turbulence as we came across the hills south of Omaka and Blenheim.

The day's route

East coast highway and railway

My copilot's sunshade system

The wind was blowing hard from the northwest, but with Omaka’s six runways it wasn’t hard to find one with minimal crosswind and we taxied in to visitor parking in from of the Marlborough Aero Club. I checked in with the club to confirm we were parked in the right spot, and chatted to them about my next planned stop, Picton. They suggested that it wasn’t a great place to try and fly into in with these wind conditions, and to stop back in and have another chat on the way out.


We walked back down the field to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center. Omaka is a major center of warbird activity, which started in the 1990s when local pilots imported a pair of Nanchang CJ-6 trainers. Stage one of the Aviation Heritage Center was opened in 2006, dedicated to World War One aircraft. The director Peter Jackson has played a large part in the center, and most of the aircraft are displayed in tableaus created with the help of his movie set teams. Stage two, covering World War Two, opened in 2016.

In the WW2 exhibit

We met my aunt and father at the center, and the ladies relaxed in the cafe while Dad and I visited the aviation exhibits. The tableaus set up to display the aircraft were beautifully created, and really helped to put the aircraft in context and tell the stories around them. A large number of the aircraft in the displays are still airworthy and fly at open days and other special events.

WW1 tableaus

We left the museum, and drove over to the Aero Club. Elsa had decided to ride with the ground team, given the expected turbulence on the short flight to Picton. I chatted about the conditions with some of the experienced pilots at the club, and we called up someone living at the destination field; all concurred that there’d be bumps on the way in, but the actual approach and landing shouldn’t be a problem. I sent the ground team on their way, headed back to the aircraft, and launched north for Picton.

Departing solo from Omaka

I was cleared through Blenheim’s airspace, and headed straight for the entrance of the valley that leads to Picton. Up at 1,500ft there was a fair amount of turbulence but nothing horrific. The airstrip at Picton is run by Sounds Air, and one of the restrictions on visiting aircraft is that no take-offs or landings can be made while a Sounds Air aircraft is at the terminal. I’d timed my arrival to be just after a flight departure, but arrived a couple of minutes early, so I circled a little way north of the field as the Cessna Caravan departed to the south, before joining a left downwind to land, and parking up between the hangars as instructed.


The ground team had just arrived and managed to watch me landing; my Dad gave me a hand unloading the aircraft and getting the cover in place.

After paying the landing fee at the terminal building, we drove north to Picton. We checked into our AirBNB, before Dad, Elsa and I hopped back in the car and drove north for some sightseeing along the Port Underwood Road. Most of the road was heavily vegetated, so the sightseeing opportunities were limited, but we managed to find a couple of beautiful vantage points to stop and look out. That evening we ate down near the water front in Picton, and returned to bed early; the ground team would be departing at 6am the following morning to catch the ferry, and we wouldn’t be far behind them!

Sightseeing north of Picton

Our lovely hosts at the AirBNB gave us a lift to the airfield, together with their teenage daughter. Their daughter was fairly interested in aviation, and had been gliding fairly often until a wing separated from the glider one day and she miraculously survived the crash, spiraling down 1,500ft with one wing like a sycamore seed and walking away with only minor injuries. She’d been taking a bit of a break from flying since then, which was entirely understandable! She gave me a hand doing the pre-flight inspection on Planey; all was good, and we were soon starting up and ready to go.

Saying goodbye to our hosts

The overnight rain and cloud had cleared out from Picton, but had been moving the way we were going, and was now over the Wellington area. I had therefore decided to file an IFR flight plan. Just before takeoff I received a call from the ATC center asking about our route; they couldn’t find the airway that I had filed after Wellington on any of their maps! As we were chatting, they said “Oh no, wait, it’s ok, we found it. Wow, nobody ever flies that one”.

Climbing out from Picton

Goodbye, South Island

The weather over the Cook Strait was beautiful, but low cloud and fog was hanging over the land of the North Island. We entered the cloud as we passed over the coast, with the autopilot following the GPS course for us east towards Masterton. We had decided to stop into Masterton that morning as the New Zealand national aerobatic championships were going on there, and it would be a good opportunity to meet a bunch of other pilots and see some high level flying.

Approaching the North Island near Wellington

Hazy conditions

As we descended towards the field, we came clear of the cloud, and entered a left downwind. Transient parking was right where all the aerobatic aircraft seemed to be gathered, so we taxied over and shut down somewhere that I hoped would be out of the way. As we came in, someone came on the radio and quizzed us about current weather conditions, to try and get some idea of when they’d be able to start the day’s competition.

Descending towards Masterton

Final approach

Parked up at Masterton

There were plenty of pilots and spectators hanging around, waiting on the conditions to improve enough for aerobatic flight. We passed the time chatting about the competition, and our flight. A couple of aviation journalists were present to cover the contest, and they took the opportunity to interview us about the journey so far and take a few photographs. After an hour or so the bad weather blew through, and the first contestant was able to take off and start their routine. One of the visiting pilots kindly lent me her BP fuel card so we could fill up the aircraft before continuing.

Aerobatic aircraft at Masterton

New friends at the aerobatics competition

The weather begins to clear

We watched some of the very impressive aerobatic maneuvers before starting up and following out the kind fuel-card lending pilot and her husband in their RV. We took off between competition flights and climbed hard to the north to clear the mountains north of Masterton, setting course for the small airstrip of Te Kowhai. Cloud was scattered, with thicker sections off to either side of the route including over Mt Ruapehu; yet again we were denied a view of it!

Departing from Masterton

Flying north to Te Kowhai

The day's route

Approaching Te Kowhai

We were stopping off in Te Kowhai to attend their annual open day and fly-in. It seemed like most of the fly-in visitors had attended in the morning, as there was now a steady stream of aircraft taxiing out of parking to depart. We taxied in and some men on a golf cart directed us to a space next to a Yak and we shut down and said hello. They recognised the aircraft, and invited us across to the pilot tent for some hot dogs and to chat to some of the locals. It’s always a pleasure to talk about the trip!

Parked up with a Yak

At the fly-in

Unique home-design and build

One of the men who had greeted us came back over, with a journalist in tow. He interviewed us and took some photographs, it was turning out to be a busy day for talking to local media! This done, we went off to wander around the airport and check out the various stalls and displays. There were quite a variety of aircraft and cars on display, and plenty of good food stalls to enjoy! By the mid-afternoon, we’d seen all there was to see, and returned to the ‘plane for our final flight of the day.

Leaving Te Kowhai

We took off towards the west, and turned right towards Auckland. It was a beautiful afternoon to fly with clear skies and smooth air. We cruised north across the parched fields, trundling along well behind a couple of RVs which had left just before us and rocketed off ahead. On arrival at Ardmore we taxied straight to the NZ Warbirds Association’s hangar 2, where they had kindly offered to host Planey for a few weeks until the flight was ready to continue across the Pacific. One of their pilots gave me a lift to go and collect the rental car, after which we put the airplane to bed and headed out to our hotel near the main airport.

Back at Ardmore, an excellent pitot cover
The next morning we went for brunch near the international before Elsa’s flight. We had a bit of time to kill, so we went and visited the memorial garden for the crew of the ill-fated Air New Zealand flight 901, a DC-10 with 257 people on board, that crashed into Mt Erebus with the loss of all on board. It was very sobering to sit on the grass and watch the flights taking off from Auckland airport, and think about the unfortunate chain of errors that led up to that disaster. After a while, it was time to head to departures, and send Elsa on her way back home.

Visiting the memorial garden.

With Elsa safely at the airport and through security, I returned to Ardmore. As I pulled in, a parade of Land Rovers was pulling out of a side road – I stopped to let the tail of the column continue and keep them all together. I then regretted my decision, as they all continued to the Warbirds hangar and took the last parking space!

Land Rover convoy

Taxiing out at Ardmore

I had been due to meet another journalist here, but he’d cancelled at short notice, so I pre-flighted, loaded up, and headed out to the south. My father was still around, making his way back up the North Island, and we had planned to meet up in Turangi, at the southern end of Lake Taupo. I set up a slow climb to remain underneath Auckland’s airspace, and leveled off at 3,500ft to cruise south towards the lake. There was an overcast layer hanging about over Ardmore, but as I headed south the weather cleared up.

South again across the North Island

My route

Clear skies over Lake Taupo

A village on the shores of Lake Taupo

I climbed a little more as I approached the lake to stay clear of terrain, and then descended overhead Turangi to check out the field conditions. I circled out to the south and came in to land towards the lake, surprising some trout fisherman in the river near the threshold. Turangi is famous for quality fishing. My father was visible next to his car, taking pictures as I landed, and he met me in the parking area as I taxied in.

Approaching Turangi

Final approach to Turangi

Dad met me at the aircraft and suggested we take a scenic flight. Given that Mt Ruapehu was finally visible and not covered in cloud, I thought that this sounded like an excellent idea. We fired the engine right back up again and took off to the north, with a left turn out towards the mountains in the National Park. One of them, my father informed me, had been used as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings films, the filming locations for which we had managed to mostly avoid so far!

Climbing out again over Lake Taupo

Heading for the mountains

Mt Doom!

We climbed steadily towards Ruapehu, reaching just under 9,500ft to stay below the controlled airspace above. As we drew closer to Ruapehu we were able to climb a little higher, into the circle of uncontrolled airspace that surrounds the peak of the mountain, and at 10,000ft we were able to look right down into the crater lake. It was exciting to get this view, that so few people are ever privileged to see. After circling the volcano we descended down the western side towards the lake again, and came in to land back at Turangi.

Looking down into the crater of Ruapehu

Heading back to land at Turangi

Parked up in Turangi

That evening we drove out to the lake for dinner at a restaurant overlooking the water. The view would have been perfect; if there hadn’t been a giant marquee blocking the entire frontage of the dining room!

Dinner time

Dad collected me in the morning, and drove me back out to the airstrip. There was a low overcast hanging over the whole area; we were very glad that we’d taken our scenic flight the day before, instead of the original plan of doing it this morning. I took off to the north, and started retracing my steps towards Ardmore; my first stop, however, would be Hamilton for some fuel. I snuck along below the cloud, keeping well clear of terrain, and called up Hamilton a little way from their airspace. It seemed like a fairly busy airport, with a lot of student traffic coming and going.

Departing Turangi

The route

Approaching Hamilton

Tower gave me a straight in landing, and then directed me turn by turn past a queue of outgoing student traffic to find the AvGas pumps. I was heading in to Waikato Aviation, who helped me out with a loaned fuel card. I filled up the mains, and went inside to the cafe where they were advertising “The world’s best chocolate brownie”. As something of a connoisseur, I figured I should be the judge of that; I found it to be excellent, although not quite the best I’d ever had! Brunch snack completed, I returned to Planey and took off from the smaller of the parallel runways, heading back to my temporarily adopted home of Ardmore.

I'll be the judge of that...

Cafe at Hamilton

Heading back to Ardmore

The final flight back was smooth, and after landing at Ardmore I taxied back to Warbirds and parked up in what was to become my usual space. After covering up the aircraft, I reclaimed my rental car and headed into the city.

I had a room at the Parnell Pines hotel for the next two nights; my father was staying there until he left for home. On arrival I was delighted to discover that there was a “Chocolate Cafe” directly opposite the hotel. This would be somewhere that I’d definitely be visiting. That evening we met my uncle for dinner, before heading back to the hotel and bed.


Parnell Pines breakfast

After breakfast at the hotel cafe the next morning, we made our way out into the city. We started with a little souvenir shopping for family before heading to the Auckland Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). The museum is divided up into two sites, imaginatively named MOTAT 1 and MOTAT 2. We visited them in order; MOTAT 1 deals with the technology side of things, along with motor vehicles and trams. There were excellent exhibitions on New Zealand technology companies such as Rocket Lab, as well as a fascinating selection of cars and other vehicles. A particular highlight was one of the modified tractors that became the first vehicle to reach the South Pole.

Snow tractor

MOTAT 1 also hosted an exhibition on “The Flying Kiwi”. Cliff Tait set out in 1969 to fly around the world in a New Zealand built Airtourer aircraft. At the start of his adventure he had only 80 hours flight time, and very basic instrumentation. Compared to his endeavours, my trip was very straightforward! Unfortunately he was not able to secure permission to fly through Russia, and had to have the aircraft shipped across that part of the route, but it was still an incredible achievement.

The Flying Kiwi

His route - a lot of similarity to mine!

From MOTAT 1 we took the museum tram to MOTAT 2. This hosts aviation, military and rail; although the latter two were not open. The aviation displays were excellent and I was pleased to be able to see Cliff Tait’s Airtourer, Miss Jacy, in the flesh. Compared to the Airtourer, my C182 seemed like an airliner! Particularly impressive were the enormous flying boats; you really don’t realise the scale of them until you see them up close.

The Airtourer

Flying boat

Dad and I went out for an early evening meal, as he was heading to catch his flight out of Auckland that night. After an excellent Italian, we stopped in to the Chocolate Boutique for a ridiculously chocolatey dessert.

The promised land

After dinner we said our goodbyes. I was really going to miss him! He made his way to the airport, and I headed out to Ardmore to attend an event. Captain Bob Pearson was in the country on vacation and had very kindly agreed to give a talk about the “Gimli Glider”; the 767 that he was piloting when it ran out of fuel over central Canada. He and his crew brought it in for a successful landing at the old Gimli airport, on a runway which happened to be hosting a drag racing contest at the time! Everybody survived, and it was great to hear the first hand accounts of both him and his partner, who had been in the main cabin during the event.

With Captain Pearson and Pearl


I checked out of the Parnell Pines the next morning; I’d be relocating to an AirBNB close to Ardmore airport. First though, it was time to take care of some maintenance for pilot and plane. Breakfast, followed by a haircut, and then to Warbirds to collect Planey and take him across the airport to Oceania Aviation. I had put a message online asking for anywhere I could carry out my routine maintenance; oil and filter change, spark plug service and so on. Sean from Oceania had responded and invited me over, so late morning I turned up and was greeted by Lewis. We nosed the airplane up to the hangar, and got to work.

Maintenance at Oceania Aviation

Lewis was a huge help, and before long we had the cowls off and the oil drained. We got the spark plugs cleaned and rotated, a new oil filter in, and fixed a few odds and ends that were coming a little loose on the newly installed engine. Overall, everything looked great though, which gave me added confidence for the long Pacific legs that were still to come.
The next couple of weeks were to prove a strange time. I was supposed to be returning to work, but the COVID-19 travel restrictions were starting to bite, and travel to my work place had just been stopped. Over the next few days, I spent a while with Planey at Warbirds, doing a thorough empty and organise of the interior. I was able to identify quite a quantity of items that would no longer be needed, and pack them up to be sent home rather than flown with me across the Pacific.

While I did this, one of the managers from a flying school on the field stopped by to say hello, with his daughter and a couple of other individuals from the school. His daughter had just secured a job with Air New Zealand. She had been following the flight on social media and had wanted to say hello, which was very flattering! It was good fun to chat with them about the flight, and their respective flying endeavours in New Zealand.

Making new friends at Ardmore

I also stopped in to visit Oceania Aviation again, and drop off some liquid treats to thank them for their great assistance with my maintenance work. Shaun and Lewis had just come back from collecting an aircraft that had landed out with a rough running engine, and we spent a bit of time enjoying some refreshments and chatting about their work.

The prodigal Cessna returns

Friday evening at Oceania Aviation


On the Saturday, a group of pilots had organised a small fly-in get-together at Raglan airport, a little grass strip at a town down the coast from Auckland. It was billed as a Piper Cub meet-up, with the opportunity to go for rides! The flight down from Auckland was smooth; the weather for the weekend was lined up to be perfect. All the fields were still looking parched and dry; it was a miracle that no big fires had started.

Departing for Raglan

A lovely day on the North Island

Approaching Raglan

Left base

Raglan was a beautiful little seaside town, and the airstrip is located on a strip of land a short walk from the center. I did a particularly poor landing, which luckily nobody seemed to notice, and taxied in to park on the edge of the field at the end of a row of visiting airplanes. A couple of pilots walked over to say hello, having recognised the airplane. They invited me down to their “command center”, set up in a mobile home down one end of the airplane parking, and offered me home made brownies and other snacks. This was shaping up to be a good fly-in!

Parked up at Raglan

The Beaver arrives

We watched a couple of other aircraft arrived, including a de Havilland Beaver, while the Cubs came and went. The pilot of the Beaver chatted to the Cub pilots and learned that they were heading out to land on the beaches near the strip; despite having never landed on a beach before, and having a much heavier airplane, he jumped right in to the Beaver and set off alone to try the same thing. This was to prove a mistake. We received notice not long afterwards that the Beaver was stuck in soft sand, and both Cubs loaded up with pilots and passengers to go and try to help.

Visiting pilots from North Shore

A C172 arrived from North Shore airport with 3 on board, who all turned out to be very friendly. I joined them to walk into town, where they headed for lunch and I settled for a walk around and an ice cream.


When I returned to the field, the news was bad. It turned out that after freeing one wheel on the Beaver, they had been trying to free the other; with 3 pushing hard on the strut and the engine at full power the airplane had suddenly come free, spun round, and floored the helpers with its tail. The two ladies were in bad shape and the air ambulance helicopter was on the way. Luckily we later discovered that they were both OK with only minor injuries, but it was a sad end to a lovely day.

Taking a ride in a Cub

Heading back to Ardmore

Most everyone dreams of an epic adventure - at least one in a lifetime - and few ever achieve it.

By chronicling yours so very well, we all get to share - and for this, I (and, I imagine many others) am eternally grateful.

If ever we share a table, your palate will be sated, your glass never empty and your money, worthless!
The events of this post happened in the second week of March.

I returned my rental car at opening time the next day, and took an Uber to Warbirds. With a few more days in New Zealand than expected, due to travel restriction caused by the COVID-19 virus, I had decided to use the opportunity to visit the Chatham Islands. This small, remote archipelago of islands lies 500 miles off the east coast of New Zealand, and is politically a part of New Zealand itself.

The first settlers were the Moriori people, in the 1500s. They set up a peaceful, pacifist culture that strictly avoided warfare, which made it easy for the Taranaki Maori to enslave and almost exterminate them in 1835 when they traveled out from the mainland. In 1842, the islands became part of the colony of New Zealand, and shortly thereafter the white settlers were in a position where they could declare the Moriori released from slavery, and had the strength to enforce it.

The Bay of Plenty

Clouds over the North Island

My first flight took me from Ardmore, across the North Island to Gisborne. Weather was good, and I was able to set the autopilot and continue straight as an arrow towards my first stop. I spoke to Rotorua control who cleared me through their airspace en-route. There wasn’t much traffic around, just a couple of aircraft in the pattern at Gisborne and a few commercial flights coming and going along the way.

Near Tauranga

Crossing the landmass towards Gisborne

Mountains near Gisborne

Left downwind to land at Gisborne

I had contacted one of the flight organisations in Gisborne and they had offered to assist me by providing fuel. After landing, I taxied in to their facility and shut down. I wandered into the office, which was unlocked but deserted; there was a phone and a number to call, and they said they’d be about half an hour. I passed the time in the terminal building with a sandwich and a hot chocolate. Important to fuel up before a long ocean crossing! I used the time to file my flight plan as well; a full ICAO flight plan is needed for the Chathams, even though it’s technically a domestic flight.

Parked up ready for fueling

I returned to Air Gisborne, where a lady had shown up to help with the fueling. I gave the fuel pump a good workout, filling all four wing tanks and then putting 40 gallons or so into the ferry tank. The weather in the Chatham Islands can be changeable, so it was important to have plenty of fuel to be able to get all the way there, and then all the way back if necessary. Avgas is not easily available there either, so I wanted to be self-sufficient. Nice and full of fuel, I started up and headed out.

The routing to the Chathams was very straightforward – just a straight shot down the airway. ATC cleared me on my way, and also let me know that there was an Air Chathams flight expected to depart while I was en-route, and that I could call them up for a message relay if needed. 100+ miles out, I’d be out of VHF range. I tried to use the HF radio again, but still wasn’t able to make any contact through it; this was something that would need to be taken care of before the long Pacific legs. I settled in on autopilot for the long cruise out, occasionally diverting around some scattered weather.

Departing from Gisborne

Final views of land

Goodbye, North Island!

It felt a little unusual to be back over the open ocean, with no land in sight. This, of course, was still a short hop compared to what was to come in the next section. It was a peaceful flight, listening to podcasts to pass the time. I cruised at around 10,000ft, and for once I had the benefit of a fairly strong tail wind. 40 miles out, I started my descent. Just before I called up the radio operator, a conversation came up between the Air Chathams base and the outbound Convair turboprop aircraft. They mentioned that they’d heard a flight (clearly me) was coming in, but that they thought I’d cancel due to weather. I was a little confused; the weather seemed fine to me, so maybe they knew something I didn’t! I called up anyway, and let them know I was inbound.

Cloud en-route

The day's flights - plenty of open ocean again!

Chathams ahead!

Descent towards the Chathams

Soon the western most reaches of the islands came into view ahead. The main island was rather bigger than I had anticipated; on the map, surrounded by all that water, it looked very small and remote! The views were beautiful as I cruised across the island, descending towards the airport, and making an overflight to check the conditions before landing. I joined a left downwind, touched down, and taxied in to the main apron.

Back over the land

Looking south across Chatham Island

Chatham Island airport

I had called Chatham Islands Air a couple of times before coming, to arrange permission and to get as much local knowledge as I could. They’d been very welcoming and helpful, and their C206 pilot was waiting as I taxied in and directed me to park in front of the hangar. He offered up a warm welcome to the Chatham Islands! Chatham Islands Air very kindly offered up a space for Planey in their hangar, and we manhandled the 206 out so that we could put the 182 in the back, out of the way over the next few days.

With the Chatham Islands Air C206

Tucked safely away

Rosemarie, from the Awarakau Lodge, was waiting to give a ride back to the accommodation. Along the way we stopped off to see her husband Greg, who had just finished sheering a load of lambs, before heading to the lodge and settling in. There were two other guests, on the island to give training to the council; we all enjoyed an excellent home cooked meal of locally caught fish. The Chatham Islands visit was starting off well!

It was an early start the next morning, as Greg had offered up a chance to join him for milking their cow, and shearing a few leftover sheep. After a quick breakfast of Weetbix, we headed into the field for the milking; fresh milk, straight into the bucket!

Getting the milk

From here it was a drive up to the lamb shed to watch how the four remaining sheep were shorn. Greg clearly had the practice down to a fine art! He had the four of them shorn bare in no time, and released back into the yard bleating happily, if a little confused.

Shearing time

Chatham Island is remarkably large, almost 1,000 square kilometers (400 square miles). Greg and Rosemarie had cars available for rent, the perfect way to explore the island. They gave some great tips for where to go, and what to see, in the limited time available, as my plan was to spend two nights on the larger Chatham Island, and then relocate to the small Pitt Island for a final night.

First stop was the main town of Waitangi, to visit the Chatham Island Museum. It had a lot of great information about the history of the islands, from their initial colonization by the Moriori people, to the discovery by westerners, and the “invasion” by mainland Maori. I was surprised to learn just how large a proportion of New Zealand’s overall agricultural output was thanks to the Chathams through their history!

In the museum

Driving north from here, I noticed a sheep laying tangled in a fence by the road. I assumed it was dead, but at the last minute I noticed a movement. It was alive – but I had no idea what to do about it! Before wading in myself, I drove up the driveway next to the field to see if the farmer was home, but it was deserted. Returning to the main road, the farmer was coming the other way; I told him about the sheep. “Yeah” he said, “it’s been there a couple of days, it’s dead”. “It moves an awful lot for a dead sheep”, I responded. His eyes widened a little and off we went to the sheep; he managed to free it and it struggled up to its feet. Hopefully it would be ok! In all the excitement I forgot to get any pictures.

Blind Jim's place

The next destination was all the way up on the north eastern tip of the island. In 1959, a New Zealand Air Force Sunderland flying boat (NZ4111) was taxiing for departure in the Te Whanga Lagoon when it struck a rock. The aircraft started taking on water, and the operating pilot ditched it as close to shore as possible. A survey revealed that the aircraft was beyond economic repair, so the engines and any other parts that could be salvaged were removed and taken away, with the hull left in the lagoon. Much of the remainder of the hull was cut up and hauled to a local farm, where for years it was used for a storage shed. More recently it has been placed in display in a barn, and visitors can stop in to look around at the remaining sections.

The Sunderland

From here, a van of visitors from the Chatham Islands Hotel led the way out to the tip of the peninsula. There was a short trail out to the rocks where a seal colony resides, and there were plenty of seals in residence today, sunning themselves on the rocks and playing in the water! It was possible to get surprisingly close without disturbing them. On the way back, we stopped at the grave of Captain William McClatchie. Born in 1818 in Scotland, he arrived in the Chathams in 1839, dying in the shipwreck of the Resolution in February of 1855.

The path to the seal colony

Seal colony

The grave of Captain McClatchie

The next stop was to see the Moriori tree carvings. Moriori ancestors made carved images on the trunks of kopi trees. Many of these carvings, or dendroglyphs, survive today. They have powerful spiritual associations, although their meanings are debated. It became clear that to really appreciate them, it would be essential to visit with a guide. I could not tell what was a tree carving, and what was just random shapes in the bark!

Tree carving

It was getting late, so that was the last sightseeing for the day. The drive back to the lodge was picturesque, and I stopped off at one point to look at a truck that was covered in angry signs and slogans. Greg later told me that this belonged to a local Maori. The government had just reached a financial settlement with the remaining Moriori, but some of the Maori thought they shouldn’t get anything as they were a defeated people! One wonders what their attitude would be towards the Maori who were demanding similar financial settlements on the mainland. The group dinner again that evening was as delicious as the last!

An anti-Moriori truck, owned by a resident Maori.


The plan had been to relocate to Pitt Island for a night, but the next day dawned with howling winds. I spoke to a couple of the Air Chathams pilots on the phone, who had experience of flying their 206 into the Pitt Island strip. They advised against trying to fly into the strip for the first time in these conditions; it’s not the easiest place to land, even without the winds. Decision made, it would be another day exploring Chatham Island! Greg and Rosemarie made the car available again, and I drove off towards the north west tip of the island this time, stopping in Waitangi to check out the port and the church on the way.

The harbour

The church

It was a surprisingly long drive all the way out to the end of the island. Of course, it always seems longer when the roads are gravel, and speeds have to stay slow! The first stop after Waitangi was Port Hutt, a very small fishing settlement half way to the far cape. There wasn’t much going on; lobster pots and buoys were piled on the shore, and a rusting barge was sitting in the bay.

Port Hutt

The road continued out towards Waitangi West, across some more hilly terrain. The wind was still roaring across the island, and heavy waves were pounding the beaches. After a steep descent from the hills, the road continued through farm fields, before reaching a series of gates and finally a “Private Property – No Entry” sign. This was the end of this drive, and I turned the car around, heading back to the south east and stopping in at the Stone Cottage along the way.

Stone Cottage

Stone Cottage is only reached by following an almost non-existent track across cow fields, to the base of a small mountain by the sea. The cottage was built in around 1870, and various other farm buildings came and went around it over the years. Today, the only building that remains is the restored Stone Cottage. After parking up next to the apparently deserted cottage (no other vehicles around), I wandered around the outside to take a few pictures, and was then surprised to be greeted by a cheerful looking elderly lady opening the door and waving to me.

This turned out to be Helen, who had grown up in the cottage before moving away to the mainland. She had returned a few years ago, and now lived here alone with no vehicle, no mains power or generator, no water, no gas. It sounded like a very basic existence, but also extremely peaceful! She receives regular visitors; that morning apparently a whole bus of tourists had stopped by. In the winter, she’d go four months or more without leaving the cottage and visiting town, but she does at least have a telephone to stay connected to the outside world, as well as a battery radio that can pick up a signal from the mainland.

Inside Stone Cottage

She was very welcoming, and showed me all around her cottage, as well as giving introductions to her two dogs, five identical cats, and pair of indoor chickens that provide her with daily eggs. She had no end of fascinating tales about life growing up on the Chatham Islands, and about her more recent years in Stone Cottage. It would have easy to sit and chat with her for hours, but there was one more place to visit that day, and it was a very long way away, at the complete opposite end of the island.

Meeting one of the matching cats

Helen outside Stone Cottage

A long drive on the windy gravel roads led to the town of Owenga, and the statue of Tommy Solomon. Born in 1884 on the island, Tommy eventually became one of the most successful farmers on the island, and is thought to have been the last of the full-blooded Moriori. His statue sits on the southern end of the island, gazing out to sea, on land that is still owned by the Solomons. He certainly has a beautiful spot to while away the ages.

Tommy Solomon

A third delicious meal was served up by Rosemarie and Greg that evening, followed by an early night. The next day would be the renewed attempt to get to Pitt Island.

My home for 3 nights on Chatham Island
The events in this post happened in the middle of March.

The following day dawned with much lower winds. It looked good for a flight to Pitt Island, before heading back to the mainland. After breakfast Greg provided a lift out to the airport, I met up again with Dylan the 206 pilot. He helped with pulling the 182 out of the hangar, and offered up use of the Air Chathams computer to file the flight plan. The Convair was parked up on the ramp, having cargo loaded before its flight out to the mainland. The captain asked if I wanted to look around, and I jumped at the chance to check out the cabin and cockpit. It certainly looked like something from an earlier era!

Air Chathams Convair. Check out those props!

Convair cockpit

Getting ready for departure

I started up the engine and let the oil warm, as the passengers were walking out to the Convair. They sent puzzled glances towards Planey, perhaps wondering what such a small airplane was doing so far from New Zealand. The oil temperature came up, and I back-tracked down the runway, pausing at the end to carry out a thorough set of pre-takeoff checks before pushing the throttle in and getting underway. The Convair started to taxi out as I passed over the end of the runway and turned south towards Pitt Island.

Goodbye, Chatham Island!

I stayed at low level, and flew down the coast past Waitangi towards the lodge. Descending to 500 feet gave great views and photo opportunities of home for the last three nights, before I climbed up again to cross the south eastern side of Chatham Island towards Pitt. From the air, there were great views of some of the inland lakes and then all of a sudden, coming over the coast, a spectacular waterfall tumbling over the cliffs! It was impressive enough to warrant a circle round to see it a second time and get some good photographs.


The Lodge

Chatham Island waterfall

Having drunk in my fill of the coastal views, I climbed up to 2,000 feet for the water crossing to Pitt Island. It came into view very quickly, and I kept Dylan’s instructions in mind as I tried to pick out the right landmarks to spot the airstrip. His instructions were spot on, and the strip popped into view right where expected. I flew a left downwind to check out the strip conditions, and came in for a landing, making sure to avoid the bottom third of the strip which was apparently the most bumpy. I parked up next to the windsock and shut down, keen to step foot on Pitt Island.

Reaching Pitt Island

Pitt Island Strip

There wasn’t a great amount at the strip, apart from the windsock and a long drop toilet. While wandering around and taking a few photos, a black robin stopped by and perched on the propeller. These little birds are unique to the Chatham Islands, and it was great to see one up close. After a little more stretching of the legs, it was time to start up and get under way again. I took off downhill, avoiding the bumpy lower part of the strip, and circled around the northern side of the island before settling into a long climb en-route.

On Pitt Island

Departing Pitt Island

Amazingly, the wind had shifted around and was giving a tailwind for the flight back. I climbed to a little under 10,000 feet and set the autopilot to follow the course set in the IFD540 GPS. The Air Chathams Convair was still just about within VHF range, and they were kind enough to use their HF radio to let Auckland Oceanic know that ’53H was airbourne and en-route.

Final views of Chatham Island

The route

The flight was very smooth, with nothing to do other than pass the time with a little entertainment from my tablet and occasionally transfer fuel from the ferry tank until it was completely emptied out. About 100 miles out from the coast, I made contact with Napier tower, and a little later started my descent. There was a fair amount of cloud around, but it was not too challenging to remain in VMC conditions.

First views of Napier

"Ship harbour" reporting point

Napier sent me to the ship dock reporting point initially, and then cleared me for a left downwind to land. I taxied in to parking; no fuel was needed at this stop, given the large amount that I’d taken when leaving Gisborne to head out to the Chathams! The only order of business was a bathroom stop and a bite to eat at the airport cafe. Similar to a few of the other regional airports in New Zealand, there was no obvious way to exit and enter the secure area, but a couple of local flight businesses were happy to help out with exit and entry through their offices. Soon it was time for the final flight back to Ardmore.

Departing Napier

The airport itself was pretty clear, but low cloud was hanging around most of the rest of the area. Tower cleared me to fly out to the west, back over the sea, and climb up through an area of clear sky until I could get on top of the clouds. One circle was enough to get the job done, and I set course for Ardmore. The cloud tops slowly rose as I went, and Napier was able to coordinate with Rotorua control and get clearance into their airspace to keep me in clear air.

Climbing up to cruise above the clouds

Back across the North Island

The cloud dispersed as I approached Ardmore, and I gradually descended to remain underneath Auckland’s airspace. I parked Planey up at Warbirds again, and took an Uber to the rental car place to collect my transport for the next few days. This done, it was time to return to the Airline Flying Club for drinks and burger night – they’d invited me along when I’d flown with them a few days back! It was another great evening swapping flying stories with the gang, including one lady who’d been knocked down by the Beaver in the Raglan incident; she was healing nicely and had even been given a free Beaver t-shirt for her troubles.
The events in this post happened in mid-March.

There was only one big event left before the end of the New Zealand section. This was the annual Warbirds Open Day, held at Ardmore, with plenty of flying displays and ground exhibits. Planey’s presence had been requested on display in one of the hangars, along with some information boards all about the trip. I had been excited to oblige, it was always fun to talk about the flight! I arrived a little after seven to taxi Planey around to Hangar 4, and get the displays set up. Others were already at work in the hangar, setting up a record-breaking motorcycle as well as an aircraft from the Ardmore Aero Club, and various radio control modelers.

The round-the-world display

People started to show up in dribs and drabs a little while before the official opening time. A couple of the earliest visitors were police officers on airport duty, and we chatted for quite a while about the adventure before they moved on. More and more people started to stop by and talk, and look over the display that I’d put together; big posters showing the map of the trip, some of the key information, and most of the required tools and equipment laid out on a table.

Inspection by the long arm of the law

There were a wide range of historic military aircraft on show, all of them still flying. Apparently, this was one of the best turn-outs they’d had in years. One highlight was a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, which sadly met with some bad luck on arrival; a cylinder cracked and as it taxied in, gallons of oil poured onto the tarmac. It looked like the poor old Dauntless would not be going anywhere for a while, but at least it had made it in safely!

Perfect weather


Radio control boat club

In the afternoon, I took a break from manning the Planey display, and went for a walk around the rest of the show. There were all kinds of exhibits and displays, centered of course around aviation but also classic cars and muscle cars, old military vehicles, and more. Back at the 182, plenty of people were still coming by to chat, including an oceanic controller from Auckland control! Marnie was kind enough to invite me over to visit the control center before I left on the final leg of the trip, and introduce me to the controllers. I eagerly accepted in advance!

The Ardmore-based DC3

A Yak


"Plonky" the TBM Avenger

P51 Mustang

T-28 Trojan


Another Yak!


Harvard display

American muscle

Isaac's Fury II

WW2 vehicle display

Final Harvard display

Meeting the oceanic controller!

The event wound down, and I took Planey back over to parking at Hangar 2. A drink in the Warbirds bar finished off a great day at Ardmore!


The final day in New Zealand was spent having a final sort-out of the aircraft. I got together a box full of extra items that could be sent back to home base, as well as the spare engine cylinder that was a leftover of the engine rebuild in Australia. Oceania aviation were good enough to help out again with a couple of spare boxes and packing supplies, and even sent me on my way with a couple of key-rings. I was already looking forward to stopping in and seeing them again on my return to New Zealand! For now, it was time for a long airline flight, and a long lock-down thanks to the rapidly unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. When the flight could restart was anybody’s guess.

Hours so far: 273
Distance so far: 35,735 miles (57,510 km)
Countries so far: 30
Airports so far: 115
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Nice pictures. Your "Dauntless" is a TBF or TBM Avenger. The SBD was a dive bomber, not a torpedo bomber. Otherwise, great pictures. When this COVID-19 stuff ends it will be great to see the rest of your trip around the globe.
Nice pictures. Your "Dauntless" is a TBF or TBM Avenger. The SBD was a dive bomber, not a torpedo bomber. Otherwise, great pictures. When this COVID-19 stuff ends it will be great to see the rest of your trip around the globe.

Oops, thanks!
Interesting. So from NZ back to Australia and then down to Tasmania?
Not much else to say here...
...and he’s in Tassie, now!
So, any updates from our fearless traveler?

COVID continues to stop play, but we're taking the aircraft out of preservation this week to get it flying again. The Australian government just announced a relaxing of border restrictions and New Caledonia has mandated vaccination - hopefully Pacific borders will open up soon and I can finish off!
COVID continues to stop play, but we're taking the aircraft out of preservation this week to get it flying again. The Australian government just announced a relaxing of border restrictions and New Caledonia has mandated vaccination - hopefully Pacific borders will open up soon and I can finish off!

Thank you for the update and wishing you Blue Skys on your continuing adventure!
Well, the longest ever round-the-world flight is ramping up to continue. Since my last update of October 2021, we discovered that the newly replaced camshaft and lifters were already failing in less than 1 year, and 260 flying hours. 5 of 6 exhaust valves were also shot. The manufacturer reviewed the engine monitor data and the parts, and determined that I had done nothing wrong, so all parts were repaced under warranty.

It took a year, with part shortages, to get everything rectified. In November of 2022 I returned to Australia and flew 90 hours around the country again over 3 weeks, making sure the engine was good to go. That’s written up on my website so I won't repeat it here; but there's a few hundred hours flying in total written up on there since my last write-up here of July 2020.




I thought I'd write a bit about the preparation for the Pacific crossing, to give an idea of why the bureaucracy and funding is the hard part of a round-the-world flight. The flying is easy.

First, the route:

I'll talk through the preparation in sections, for each leg of the route.

Part 0: in Australia
  • Before departure, the ferry fuel system needs to be dusted off and tested. I can do this myself. The HF radio also needs to be re-installed and tested; I've organised for it to be mailed back to the guy whose hangar Planey is in, so it's ready for me to install when I get back down there.
  • I’ve also obtained a device that reads marine traffic AIS (ADSB for boats) and plots it on Foreflight, in case one gets into trouble in the ocean. That needs to be tested in the plane.
  • I am currently on “international” insurance, which excludes the US (you guys are in company with the other excluded countries such as Iran, Somalia, North Korea, and similar. Read into that what you will). I need to get US insurance lined up for my return. American Samoa is a challenge; international insurance regards it as the US and excludes it, and US insurance regards it as foreign and excludes it.
  • I’ll carry out an oil and filter change at a local field before departure, but allow a couple more flights after that and before the first oceanic leg to be 100% sure there aren’t any leaks.
  • Most Pacific countries (as well as Australia and NZ) require arriving aircraft to show proof of dis-insection in flight. The aircraft specific insecticides are a pain to find. I am hoping to pick up a couple of cans from an FBO at Brisbane if their shipment comes in time.
  • Finally I need to reactivate the Garmin InReach for tracking and messaging and ensure it’s operational.
Part 1: Brisbane to New Caledonia

One has to depart from Australia from an international airport; Brisbane International is the closest to New Caledonia.
  • Brisbane is a slot controlled airport, so you have to contact the slot coordination team to have these allocated.
  • Once landing/departure slots are issued, you contact airport ops to get a GA apron parking allocation.
  • Separately you need to contact Australia Border Force and submit a request for an "Off Terminal Clearance", so they will come to the apron to clear me outbound. Without this it would be a $500+ payment to a handling agent to drive me around the airport a couple of times. Documentation needed at this stage includes a General Declaration (GenDec) and a NIL Cargo Manifest; pretty straightforward.
  • Finally, it's best to call the fuelers in advance to check availability of Avgas, and ensure they can meet you at the GA apron. The fuel load required for the flight to New Caledonia puts me over max landing weight, so I can't fuel up at the local GA airport before hitting the international.
  • The international flight plan then needs to be filed 24 hours in advance, including en-route times to the FIR boundary etc etc.
  • For arrival in New Caledonia a GenDec and Passenger list need to be provided. Self-handling is allowed, and the airport authority are pretty responsive, so this is an easy arrival.
Part 2: New Caledonia to Fiji
  • There is no Avgas at the international airport in New Caledonia; only at the local airport in town, which is not international. The fuel load for the flight to Fiji is heavy enough that it puts me well over max landing weight, so I can't refuel and then reposition to the international to clear customs. Therefore a request for departure from the local airport, Magenta, needs to be lodged and approved with immigration. There's no apparent way to contact them, so this is done through the international airport management; nobody at the local airport answers their emails.
  • The Fiji AIP is not available online without paying $350+. Most countries make it freely available. Luckily I manage to get a copy from someone on a UK flying forum. Handling is mandatory at Nadi airport and the only company on their list charges $1,000 base fee. I managed to find someone who can do it for $500; bargain.
  • As I’m paying the handler, I may as well use him; I sent my Certificates of Airworthiness, Registration, and Insurance so he can get going on the various permissions and clearances. They also need a GenDec.
  • It’s a $750 customs charge if you arrive after 4pm, or on a weekend.
  • The fuelers at Fiji will only accept payment through a “fuel release”. This needs to be done through a company such as World Fuel Services. Why they can’t just accept a credit card or bank transfer is anyone’s guess.
Part 3: Fiji to American Samoa
  • On this flight, the international date line rears its head. American Samoa is a day behind Fiji, which can cause confusion for things like hotel bookings. I will depart from Fiji on a Tuesday and arrive in Pago Pago on a Monday.
  • Fuel in Pago Pago is only available from drums, and availability is not guaranteed unless you buy in advance. I bought mine a little over 3 years ago and it is apparently still waiting for me. One needs to carry ones own bung wrench, pump, filter funnel and fuel hoses as availability of these is not guaranteed.
  • I have a handler here too (the fuel supplier), so I’ll have him handle the paperwork.
Part 4: American Samoa to Kiritimati
  • Kiritimati is east of Pago Pago. However it is part of the Kiribati island chain, the majority of which is well west of there. To avoid one part of the country being a full day behind the rest, the international date line here has been stretched out to loop around Kiritimati. This means that I will take off on Thursday and land on Friday despite no overnight section.
  • Kiritimati is even more remote than the islands so far. Once again, drums of fuel need to be ordered well in advance so they can be brought in by boat. My fuel apparently “expired” in 2021, but in sealed drums AVGAS is effectively immortal.
  • Flight notification needs to go to the airport manager at least a day ahead. Otherwise the permit side seems simple. The latest version of the AIP is from about 1992 though so who knows for sure?
  • The 4 towns in Kiritimati are called London, Paris, Poland and Banana.
Part 5: Kiritimati to Hawaii
  • The date line, yet again. I arrive a day before I depart.
  • There’s the typical CBP/EAPIS stuff to sort out for the international arrival. The toughest part is often actually getting through to someone by phone to confirm the day ahead, as well as trying to conform to a 15-minute arrival window that they want. Hopefully they’ll show a bit more flexibility given that it’s a 10+ hour flight.
Part 6: Hawaii to California
  • Domestic flight, so no CBP to worry about!
  • Given that the ferry tank will be full, an overweight Special Flight Permit (SFP) is required.
  • The Hawaii FSDO has been very helpful with that. The guy I’m dealing with is very responsive and pleasant. He’d never done one before so it’s been slow, but that’s fine as I started very early. I do think his experience with light aircraft is limited; he kicked back my W&B calcs saying I needed to use 6.7lbs/gal fuel weight and not “round it down” to 6!
  • The FSDO is on Honolulu but I depart from Hilo and they say that once the permit is issued I am not allowed to carry out any flight other than the one it is for. So they don’t know how I can fly from Honolulu to Hilo. This clearly can’t be the first time the issue has arisen so I am waiting for them to figure it out.
  • Here more than anywhere one has to stricly follow Oceanic procedures which are a whole new world. The key issue is that one needs a successful HF check to be allowed to continue out of VHF range. I *think* this can be done on the ground; I really don’t want to get 100nm out and then be told I have to return and burn off fuel for 10 hours before I am light enough to land again.
  • This will be an overnight flight. Probably about a 3pm departure, leading to about a 10am arrival in CA.
  • I’ll carry out an oil and filter change here and once again do a couple of internal flights before the big oceanic leg.
After that it’s just crossing the US, easy.
In Hawaii, can you position the plane at Hilo, travel to Honolulu and do the paperwork for a Hilo departure?

That would also cause a change in fuel availability to Hilo.

Best wishes for an enjoyable flight from Australia to the USA.
Will you spend any time in Pago Pago? It's been a long time since my last trip, but it's absolutely paradise. And the friendliest people.
Will you spend any time in Pago Pago? It's been a long time since my last trip, but it's absolutely paradise. And the friendliest people.
At a minimum, one should get his national park passport stamped while there. It would be a shame to find your book full other than American Samoa NP and have to go back someday.