Monday 20 May 2013 02:14 UTC
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If you are going to NZ, check out Ardmore, about 10 mi SE of Auckland Intl airport.
A friend, seeing these pics, said "Nah - that's Wellesbourne" and he wasn't far out.
Ardmore is NZ's biggest GA field and has numerous flying schools, or 'aero clubs' as they are called there. Most people travelling to NZ for flying use accompanied flying arrangements but it is possible to make solo rental there and Ardmore is the place to do it. You need to allow around a week to complete the formailities although the response from different clubs varies and I suspect some are not too keen on this type of trade.
You need a car (and a sat nav!) to get to Ardmore. There's no nearby train or even bus service and a taxi from Auckland would cost $$$. It's just off the Southern Motorway at the Botanical Gardens exit. Clubs vary from very impressive to quite small and personal. I chose a smaller operation, Airline Flying Club, and they could not have been more helpful.
Home at last! Taxying in to Airline flying club at Ardmore.
Aircraft in NZ tend to be fairly basic, although I did see some respectable 172's at more up-market schools. If you want something to take away, it's likely to have little or no nav equipment since instrument flying does not feature strongly in the NZ PPL syllabus.
Ardmore is uncontrolled although there is a very helpful 'unicom' who will give runway in use, wind direction, flight plan opening / closing and other services. Apparently this Unicom used to be a FISO type operation before financial stringency intervened.
Ardmore is very close to the Auckland CTA and any checkout from there is likely to major on getting back in! The circuit is *very* busy and it's essential to learn the various VRP's. Fortunately these are clearly shown in SkyDemon. You join overhead and descend 'Non traffic side' (NZ for 'Deadside') for 03/21. There is a parallel grass runway and pilots hearing a faster aircraft on final behind them will switch to the grass to allow the faster plane to land beside them. There is also a 07/25 runway but use of this, intersecting the main runway, is best left to the experts!
To fly solo means getting a validation permit (or NZ PPL) and the time/complexity of this may frustrate a one-off visitor's schedule. I was able to get it all arranged in advance with the club and the NZ CAA (and everything went as planned) but an alternative plan might be just to turn up at Ardmore (with logbooks, licences etc.) and ask around the various schools.
The NZ permit application is available online and you can complete most of it (and submit the payment) from UK to get the ball rolling. You will need a BFR (90 min flying plus in my case quite a lot of ground), but beware a potential issue is a further requirement for 5Hr 'terrain awareness ' training, which some of the schools argue is mandatory. The worst outcome would be some very enjoyable and instructive accompanied flying. And while you are there, you can see some amazing sights - like genuine full size DeHavilland Mosquitos under construction, for instance.
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