Yep, the headline pretty much sums it up!
Last weekend I went to Omaka, along with two other Wellington pilots for a course in strip flying with Marlborough Aero Club [MAC]. I knew it was going to be fun and I wasn't disappointed at all!
The course was split into two days. this post will cover day 1 and, you guessed it, the next couple of posts will cover day two.
Firstly, I was flying MAC's Cessna 172E, ZK-OMR. Another pilot was using their C172 taildragger, ZK-OMK... you'l see photos of both of these in this and the next couple of posts.
ZK-OMR is one cool machine. Although an older machine, it is in great shape, fun to fly and is STOL kitted with drooping leading edges and wingtips, wing fences and, my new favourite feature, a manual flap [I'll explain why later].
With two pilots undergoing training, we were able to get plenty of flying in but also to be able to sit back an observe which was really really helpful and just added to the value of the whole course. In other words, hint # 1 for this course is to go with someone. Share the flying. Apart from anything else, this is way too cool to not share!
Day 1 consisted of an intro to stable approaches with about 30 minutes each of circuits at MAC's home airfield of Omaka, firstly on the main strips, followed by touch-and-goes on the 300 meter strips mown in beside the main strips. We then landed out on a nearby [barely out of the circuit] hill top strip for a look around and a chat before heading off to the Awatere Valley to try out hand at landing on some farm strips.
The Awatere Valley was where the fun started. The first strip was slightly up hill with a big bend in it. You'll see this in the following pictures. We're also landing with a tailwind, but that was no drama at all. With two people on board you can get airborne well before the bend, with three on board and limited experience, we were going around the bend, but still no drama!
Next up was was a strip that was long and straight, just with a few trees at the end and an interesting water feature near one end that resulted in a wee bit of turbulence and sink. This is where we we taught about dumping flap on landing and putting some in on takeoff.
This is also where it started to hit home just about useful a manual flap mechanism can be. Not only is it simple with no electrics to fail, but it is also very quick to extend or retract - a definite bonus when time is of the essence!
I think the following photos show the terrain quite nicely :-) The runway is centre of the first photo.
Unfortunately, this is where the photos stop for day one. We did end up at two more strips before heading back to Omaka for the evening. One of them straight but with a few lumps in it, the next straight, flat but hidden behind trees until you turned onto short final :-)