Auckland (NZ) to Nuku Alofa (Tonga)


26/06/2008


When I landed at Auckland two days earlier, I had engaged a handler, Skycare, to take care of the paperwork and help me though the formalities to enter and leave Auckland. I had planned to stay for two nights, hoping to have a look around Auckland, but somehow there just wasn’t time. Raynor at Skycare was very helpful and I made use of the time to plan the next couple of flights. The next leg to Nuku Alofa in Tonga was a long one of approximately 1100 miles and I wanted to make sure that I had fully prepared for this.

I also met up with an aviation buff in Auckland, name of Mike, who had contacted me by email earlier in the week. He is a keen “watcher” of aviation activities and has met quite a few pilots who have been on round-the-world flights over the years, and we found that we had a lot in common. He also put me in touch with a very experienced ferry-pilot, Rob, who gave me some valuable advice on making the Pacific crossing, having done so some 150 times himself.

I had planned an early departure to ensure that I reached Nuku Alofa in daylight hours, and Raynor collected me from the hotel around 06.30 – it was less than 10 minutes to the airport. There were the usual customs formalities but they were quickly completed. On checking over Romeo Tango, I decided that a few more litres of fuel could be squeezed into the tanks and arranged for this – this is perfectly normal, it takes some time for the fuel level to settle and, although it had been filled after landing, there was room for another 32 litres. I wanted as much as I could take.

In the end, departed an hour later than planned – the time just disappears when trying to depart from a busy airport. The flight itself was enjoyable and uneventful, with beautiful cloud scenery all the way. I flew at 11,000 feet to avoid using oxygen and this kept me out of cloud except for a few minutes early on – the weather at Auckland itself had been gusty with storm clouds on departure but I was quickly away from this.

Communication for most of the flight was on HF, but I was also monitoring the VHF frequency which is used for air-to-air communication between aircraft flying over oceans. Suddenly I heard another aircraft calling me. I responded but got no reply, but made contact a few minutes later. It turned out that the other aircraft was on a medical evacuation task, flying in the opposite direction, and Raynor at Skycare had asked them to check on my progress. That was a nice touch, and I felt a bit emotional for a few minutes, alone out here over the Pacific.

As I neared Tonga the clouds gathered and I descended through them to make a landing on runway 11, going through some rain showers on the way.

Flight Data: 1103 nautical miles in 7 hours 20 minutes.