Tackling Terrain Terror, Part 1
Flying|April 2018

NEW ZEALAND CHALLENGES AN AIRLINE PILOT

Les Abend

“You OK, Honey?” I asked immediately after the 172 had taken a respectable shot of turbulence. The Cessna responded with a quick 30-degree roll to the right before I could correct.

After a second or two of silence, my wife replied over the intercom, “Yeah, I’m fine.” Even though she was seated directly behind me, out of my field of vision, I knew she was gripping her seat cushion with both hands. Carol has been subjected to far worse rides in our own airplane, but I felt bad.

Did the turbulence foreshadow our flying over the next eight days? Although I read the electronic brochure and had marveled at the stunning snowcapped photos of Flyinn’s adventure (flyinn.co.nz), a bit of naiveté was involved. Certainly, mountain flying would only be a small part of the experience, with the rest of the tour over mostly benign New Zealand countryside spanning the magnificent South Island. Right? Wrong.

Matt McCaughan, owner and operator of Flyinn, chief flight instructor, tour guide, sheep farmer and all-around delightful guy, grinned with a twinkle in his eye. He apologized to my wife in his calm but enthusiastic New Zealand twang, assuring her that he would do his very best to avoid such encounters. I was almost convinced. And quite frankly, Matt made good on his promise — well, with a little bit of help from the wind gods.

Before our engagement with Flyinn, my good friend Jay and I were required to send pilot experience information and complete New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority forms. The purpose was to obtain the equivalent of an FAA Private Pilot License (PPL). In addition to an FCC Radiotelephone Operator Permit (which I haven’t possessed for years), we were required to present copies of our FAA licenses and medical certificates. And we were asked to show evidence of a “type rating” in a C-172, which for me involved a search through dusty logbooks. Jay owns a 172, so he was a bona fide, current type-rated pilot.

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