Wellington Airport is built on land that was lifted out of the ocean in the 1855 earthquake. (Coincidentally, my morning started when I was shaken awake by an earthquake in Christchurch.) It has water on both ends, hills on both sides and, even on a calm day, acts as the perfect wind tunnel. As you know, Windy Welly doesn't have many calm days.
Adding to the general discomfort, the runway is also short and only for the smaller jets. One 747 that had to make an emergency landing here a few years back had to be crated up and shipped over to Australia. Approaching aircraft fly hard by houses on the hills.
Yeah, it's a scary kind of airport.
To be fair, though, while I've picked up many ashen-faced passengers, I've not really had that many problems landing in Wellington. Well, by the sheer law of averages, today was my time.
Damn. The wind was howling in off the Cook Strait, with gusts so strong they nearly knocked Amy over when she was crossing the street - and, no, I'm not calling her fat. As we started our initial approach and saw the white-capped cauldron of the Strait we knew we were in for a rough one. The wing dipped dramatically first one way then the other, the engine howled as if trying to catch up. Nervous glances were exchanged.
Adding to the general terror was the fact that the flight from Christchurch is so short there is no alcoholic beverage service. Yes, it was that kind of bad.
We were tossed about by angry gusts, not just bumped by your average turbulence. Still, the pilot controlled everything marvelously and landed as best he could. There was no applause. This is New Zealand, after all.
But when the flight attendant said over the PA, "That landing deserves a DB (a beer made in New Zealand)," everyone laughed loudly in relief.
I believe more than a few of the passengers took her up on her suggestion. Then again, maybe she was talking to the pilot.