Joan reports from her trip to New Zealand….
In November we were touring north island New Zealand and also visiting my sister for her 60th birthday. We planned to visit Taupo GC for a flight.
Taupo town is on the edge of Lake Taupo, a large lake covering 625sq km which was formed by a volcanic eruption 1800 years ago. Taupo GC is on the outskirts of town close to the horse racing course and Formula challenge car driving track. To the east of the gliding field is a big hill that was once a volcano it’s name is Mount Tauhara.
We arrived at the airfield about 12noon to find only one person there -Rod, a trainee pilot who was camping there for the week. Soon the manager and tug pilot, Tom Anderson arrived followed by the instructor, Gordon. We opened hangar one. Inside were a Pawnee tug plane a K21 and a Twin Astir. We got out the tug plane and K21.
Tom explained that they had an AE (Air Experience) flight, then when that was done, we could fly. Tom is quite old and uses hearing aids. In the tug he uses an assistive listening device to help him hear the radio.
The weather was sunny with a bit of a cross wind. A few cumulus clouds could be seen. Dave had his flight, then it was my turn. Unfortunately, the tug would not start. After fiddling around for a bit they decided it needed an engineer to fix it. We agreed to return the following afternoon for my flight.
Next day, the weather had changed, it was very windy 20knots of crosswind from the east. It was mainly sunny with some cloud. I thought we might not fly but we did. Procedures are a bit different at Taupo GC. When you come off tow you turn right; the altimeter is set to QNH, which is 1500ft at Taupo; no parachutes are worn; radio is used a lot because there is an airport nearby.
My instructor in the K21 was Gordon. We arranged communication signals -: stick shake by Gordon for handing over control; when Gordon took control, I would raise both my hands so he could see that I understood and had let go of the stick. When I was flying the glider, Gordon would push the stick right or left if he wanted me to turn that way.
Gordon did the early part of the tow and the approach and landing because of the turbulent conditions. We had a 3000ft tow. It was quite a bumpy aerotow! It was strange to see the altimeter reading 4500ft as we pulled off. We climbed 500ft in 4 up in a straight line to cloudbase.
There were fantastic views of Lake Taupo and top of Mt Tauhara. We tried some thermalling but it was hard to stay in lift due to the turbulent conditions. After about 30 mins we returned to the gliding field.