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September 19, 2010

Mount Cook Ski Planes With Landing On Glacier

Mount Cook Ski Planes With Landing On Glacier

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Where is Aoraki/Mount Cook?

It is in South Island of New Zealand, it is the highest mountain in Australia/NZ. Accessible by a flight to Christchurch or Queenstown and 3 hours drive. Mount Cook itself have an airport served by Mount Cook Ski Planes and helicopters. However, no other schedule commercial flights operates there currently.

About Mount Cook Ski Planes

Mount Cook Ski Planes is the only company licensed to land in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park on the Tasman Glacier. The Tasman Glacier is the longest glacier in New Zealand and the closest scenic glacier landing site to Aoraki/Mount Cook.

All landing flights allow you to experience the thrill of a Ski Plane glacier landing with 10 minutes on the snow to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Southern Alps. After landing on the snow the engine is shut down so you can enjoy the natural quiet of the mountains.

15 Aug 2010

The morning of the day was very foggy until 11am. I was in the hope of getting the sightseeing flight take off but this was later pushed back to 1:30pm. The fog finally lifted around noon and the Ski Planes (Cessna 185 and Pilatus Porter PC6) were busy taking dayskier up to the glacier. After the fog lifted, the day was gorgeous with deep blue sky. The 1:30pm departure have a total of 5 pax including myself and my girlfriend.

After requesting the “jumpseat” with pilot, my girlfriend was able to sit next to the pilot and me behind in the 2nd row. I was particularly relieved to learn that the company will use Pilatus PC6 to operate the sightseeing flight instead of a Cessna. Both planes have Ski fitted to the wheels, just like how we ski !
The flight is approximately 15 minutes each way with 10 minute break at the glacier, it operate up to 8000 feet above sea level.

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Mount Cook Airport @ 11am. Still some low cloud before completely lift up by noon.

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At 1:30pm all passengers boarded, my girlfriend sitting next to the pilot.

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Flight begins in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

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As you can see the photos, the proximity of the mountains and valley is very close to the wings of our Pilatus PC6. It is extremely scenic the whole way up to the glacier and return. Obviously, having a sunny day definity would have enhanced the viewing pleasure.

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Pilatus PC6 Turbo itself is a very steady, fast climbing but slow cruising plane (around 100kts speed). A type introduced 50 years ago, the one I’ve flown ZK-MCN was built in 1978.

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Fly the full length of the Tasman Glacier, passing Aoraki/Mount Cook before landing on the Tasman Glacier,
the longest glacier in New Zealand.

The Glacier Landing

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You can see a company Pilatus on the Glacier below us.

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The landing feels sturdy, not soft, just like landing on a runway. It turned on the “snow appeared” ground is actually ice. I should of knew this earlier, it is on a glacier as the brochure said! I enjoyed the glacier landing with panaroma view from the window. The Glacier is sloped , we land from the top and gently ski downward to a stop and park next to another company ski plane.

A landing video of the Ski Plane (Recommend to view)

While we are on the ground, the ice is very slippery so my advice is to wear Anti-Ice skiboot so you have the mobility to walk far and snap a shot of the plane from far. It is very quiet there with a feeling of miles away and very tranquil ! Everyone seizing the opportunity by taking pictures on the ground.

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While we are on the ground, another Ski plane taxi past us and took off rolling down the slopey airstrip on Glacier.

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The next is our turn, you really can’t feel the lift off since the plane is going against downhill slope by accelerating and try to stay afloat.

Please see the inflight video on the effortless takeoff scenes:

Once airborne the flight home features the spectacular Hochstetter Icefall.

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After passing Hochstetter Icefall, we’re leaving the mountains and returning back to Mount Cook Basin and the airport.

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On final approach to Mount Cook Airport

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Our Ski Plane resting in front of the terminal awaits another mission to the Glacier.

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To conclude the sightseeing flight, it is an awesome and enjoyable experience and remain one of the few affordable experience of landing on a glacier in the world. The South Island of NZ offers so much nature with excellent access. This is not your everyday flight for sure. Who knows where else a plane can land after landing on runway tarmac, landing on water and now landing on glacier…….