Lord Howe Island (Aus) to Palmerston North (NZ)


18/06/2008


The refueller collected me from the hotel in the morning and I was checking over the plane in less than 10 minutes. Soon the tanks had been filled and I made a call on the satellite phone to Garry Goodman at Palmerston North. He was not there but I left a message giving my estimated arrival time. (Palmerston North is 1 hour 30 minutes ahead of Lord Howe Island, and my planned departure from Lord Howe at 08.00 would be at 09.30 Palmerston North time. The satellite connection was much better than when I had tried to contact my friends Ian and Barbara last night.

The winds would be against me today and the flight would be around 7 hours duration for the 972 nautical miles. Thankfully the wind was more or less straight down the runway and I was quickly airborne at 07.57 local time. Contacted Brisbane Centre on HF radio on departure and was soon at 9000 feet cruising level for the flight. I was well above the cloud at this level but there were occasional breaks allowing a view of the sea below.

The radio calls were minimal, more or less amounting to a call on the hour every hour to report “operations normal”. The hours passed and I was eventually requested to transfer to Auckland Radio as I neared New Zealand. A transfer to Christchurch Centre followed, and finally I was passed to the Palmerston North airport frequency for the landing. My first sight of NZ had been the snow-covered peak of Mount Egmont from about 50 miles out. This dormant volcano is almost 8300 feet high, but I was south of this and the approach to PN was over the flat lands of a wide valley.

I was given a choice of an instrument or visual approach and, as visibility was good, chose the latter, which allowed me a straight-in approach to land on runway 07, after a flight of exactly 7 hours. I was met on arrival by several people, including Garry (CEO at the airport), Roy (Operations) and Alane, (Customs). They all seemed pleased to meet me and the conversation indicated that they regretted the loss of permanent custom facilities there and were only too pleased to have been able to make the arrangements for me. I certainly appreciated all the help, as I would otherwise have had to continue the flight to Wellington to clear customs.

Friends Ian and Barbara, who live close to Palmerston North airport, soon arrived and drove me to their home, which I had last visited almost twenty years earlier on a brief business trip to NZ.

Flight Data: 972 nautical miles in 7 hours 0 minutes.