15 May 2016

Wrapping Things Up

It's been over six months since I gave any attention to this blog, although an email reminder that the domain name renewal was due has prompted me to log on and make this final post.

The initial idea behind starting Stories From The Sky back in January 2011 was to document the completion of my flight training and the transition into the 'real world' of commercial work within general aviation. 256 posts later, I think I've reached a point where I no longer have enough fresh content to warrant keeping the site active and have made the decision to tie things up where they are, leaving the blog available to search and read in archived mode.

2015 was quite a turning point for me, with a delayed transition from survey flying to scheduled operations. The new PA31 job was great while it lasted, but only ended up being a short lived venture due to the company's financial state which unfortunately resulted in them shutting up shop in November.

The positive that came out of that situation was that it allowed me to realise there is more to life than just aviation. Running my own business on the side and having control over when and where I took time off from it were both particularly rewarding aspects to this. However being stuck on the ground was never for me and I was fortunate enough to be offered positions on ground courses for two large turboprop aircraft before the new year arrived.

Fast forward a couple of months of flying a desk at the offices of a well known Auckland based airline, then a type rating in a full motion simulator over in Melbourne, I am now settling back into a scheduled flying job once again. The aircraft type that I am on now is by far the quickest and most complex I have flown to date and definitely marks the beginning of a new chapter in my aviation adventure. That being said, the professional environment of airline operations is distinctly different to that of GA and doesn't translate to the public discussion format of this blog.

All I can think to say now is a big thanks to those of you who have taken the time to stop and browse here over the last couple of years- I hope the content that was put up was found interesting or helpful in some way to the student pilot crowd.

29 October 2015


Another cross country trip that I was fortunate enough to be involved in recently was the ferry flight of ZK-DAK back from her annual winter maintenance visit, from Palmerston North up to Ardmore. This was my first flight on the DC3 since I had finished my type rating, after several scenic and charter opportunities that I had been rostered to fly were cancelled due wx.

I'd pax'ed down to NZPM with the Captain on Air NZ earlier in the morning, filled the mains with avgas and started her up just after lunchtime. Wind gusts of 39 knots were reported on the ATIS, so I was more than happy to let the much more experienced pilot in the left seat get her off the ground before being handing over control for the remainder of the flight.

We were able to zip up to 9500 feet controlled VFR for the stretch home, with the snowy summit of Mount Ruapehu only partially revealing itself from the surrounding banks of CU on our way north.

Auckland's ATIS was playing OVC by the time we were in close enough range to pick up the frequency, so we ducked down through some scattered layers to pop out under the base just south of Raglan, and continue the remainder of the flight low level back into NZAR.

A few currency circuits later, DAK was parked up once again next to the UNICOM tower at Ardmore ready for a busy summer of flying.

25 October 2015

737 Final Call

Looking back through my camera roll, the next bit of excitement came in the form of an unexpected invitation to ride as a passenger on a late afternoon 737 flight just over a month ago.

This wasn't just any old commuter flight however, it was Air New Zealand's final ever passenger carrying flight with ZK-NGI- their last Boeing 737-300 in service- put on for Air New Zealand employees and their families. And it wasn't an A to B flight either, rather a scenic lap around the Auckland region, up at 6000 feet with the thrust levers sitting much further back than they're used to!

I'll let the piccys do the talking:

40 on the Nose

I had finished flying the C310 with the aerial survey company in the Autumn, with the expectation of starting the scheduled passenger run with my new operator come the beginning of winter. However with red tape being what it is, this start date was continually pushed out from 'any day now' to 'just a couple of weeks' and then 'a couple more weeks' as the year rolled on.

Finding myself without steady income, I ended up starting my own UAV company using a small camera drone that I had originally purchased for fun to sell stabilised aerial video footage to real estate agents and land developers. This quickly became a full time gig during my downtime and I had a job request come in from the Wairarapa through a friend of a friend.

As it turns out, this friend was also a pilot and after accepting the job, we flew down to Wellington together to meet the client. This trip was originally planned to be flown in his own PA34, although due to unscheduled maintenance requirements it became unavailable at the last minute and we ended up hiring a C172 from the North Shore Aero Club.

We preflighted the aircraft at dawn with the hopes of arriving in the Capital mid morning, although 40 knot headwinds forecast all the way up from 3000 feet delayed our ETA significantly. The groundspeed was painfully slow at every level we tried, down as low at 52 knots at one stage even with the RPM set towards the top of the green range. If I recall correctly, 45 minutes after getting airborne from NZNE, we had only just passed Port Waikato, and I could still see my house in the distance out the side window!

Fortunately the private 172 was a newer model equipped with the G1000 avionic suite and we utilised the range ring on the moving map to check our what endurance we could achieve with the fuel on board. To start with, it looked like we just stretch it to NZWN in one hop, although that soon became unachievable and we talked about diverting to NZPP for a fuel top up. Half an hour later, that option went out the window too and we ended up dropping into NZWU on the RNAV for a splash of gas a staggering 3 hours and 50 minutes later. Funnily enough this was the first time since leaving AFS that I had the opportunity to make use of the dubious single engine two pilot instrument rating, and with it's decent autopilot system, we actually managed to get clearance to fly a coupled ILS into Wellington upon our eventual arrival.

The rest of the day went according to plan, with beautiful clear skys in the 'Rapa and the lower wind dropping right off. It was dark by the time we got back to the airport for the return flight home, although fortunately we were able to take advantage of the tailwind up high with a non standard flightplan at 10,000 feet giving us 162 knots GS and getting us back to North Shore in 2 hours, 10 minutes including a reversal turn on the approach!

Descending over Tiger Country for Wangavegas
XOX at the WU pumps (try saying that callsign a couple of dozen times!)
On vectors for the approach
Titahi Bay, Porirua
Makara Wind Turbines
Looking over Newlands towards Wellington City
Lining up on runway 34 for our return leg

Bush Bashing in the 206

Another mid winter assignment for the Aviation News was a writeup on MAF's freshly imported C206 that had just arrived at Omaka, designated as a testing platform for pilots wishing to join the organisation and fly humanitarian missions for the organisation in the third world.

With a C206 rating under my belt, I was able to first partake in the local air to air photography flight on a murkey windy day around the Hunua ranges out of Ardmore for the front cover shot, before flying down to Blenhiem a couple of weeks later to be put through my paces in a pseudo flight test scenario for the sake of the article.

Anyone interested can read the article online for a limited time here, but for the rest of you, here are some happy snaps from the day:

ZK-MAF, formerly VH-UBV
MAF electronic check list box mod above the panel
Off airport landing site 1
The Awatere Valley
Off airport landing site 2, previously visited last year
Lake Grassmere salt flats
Cape Campbell airstrip