27 December 2011

Cape Reinga Flight

Now my CPL is out the way, I need a total of 50 hours cross country PiC time logged before beginning my instrument rating. I had around 40 before yesterday, deliberately leaving myself a few 'worry free' flights without the stress of an impending test coming up, to enjoy after passing my commercial licence.

I booked myself a C172 for Boxing Day, when they skies are usually much quieter than usual, and planned out a 485 mile route: From Ardmore up to Kaipara Flats, then overhead Dargaville and the famously clear Kai Iwi Lakes, up to Kaitaia for a full stop landing and leg stretch, then up along the Ninety Mile Beach to Cape Reinga, and back down the east coast to Kerikeri, Whangarei before returning home.

My passenger for the day was my girlfriend, who'd been on a few long distance flights with me before, and hadn't ever thrown up due to turbulence- the perfect candidate! The wind was a steady easterly, between 15 to 20 knots at 2000 feet, so I was expecting rough air along the lee side of the hilly ranges on the first half of the flight. It turned out to be quite lumpy indeed, so I altered me route just off shore as we tracked north to avoid the worst of it.

I was planning on using my iPhone to play music through the AUX plug of ZK-TAN throughout the flight, but for some reason I couldn't get it to work. We'd been in the air for about 20 minutes when I remembered I had the MotionX GPS tracking app installed which I could log the flight route on, and switched it on overhead Orewa.

Below is the result of 4.9 hours worth of flying- not 100% accurate as we ended up crossing over to the eastern coast of the Aupouri Peninsular about half way along Ninety Mile Beach to advoid lee side turbulance around the heads. The flight path also shows a weird line right to the runway back at Ardmore, so I'm guessing these two variances from my actual tracks must have been due to loosing GPS coverage.

Oh yeah... I forgot to press 'STOP' on the app until I was sitting at the traffic lights in the car half way home from Ardmore. If you zoom in really closely, you can even follow the roads we drove on after landing! Anyhow, here are a selection of photos from the flight itself, mostly taken by Mrs. Ardmorepilot: 
Following the transit lane past Takapuna
Random heart in the bushland
Kai Iwi Lakes #1
Kai Iwi Lakes #2
Hokianga Harbour
Downwind at Kaitaia
Lunch break!
Both coasts visible on the Aupouri Peninsula
Ninety Mile Beach, looking north
Ninety Mile Beach, looking south
Spirits Bay
First view of Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga #2
The Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meeting
Cape Reinga #3, lighthouse, tourists and coaches visible
Cape Reinga #4
A chocolate coloured river
Pristine beaches on the Karikari Peninsular
Anyone know what's going on here?
Sediment at the Mangonui Harbour entrance
Urupukapuka Island
Approaching Cooks Cove
Beautiful clear water at Cooks Cove
Oneroa Bay, Russell
Russell town, once known as the 'Hellhole of the Pacific'
One of our friends' holiday home
Car ferries at Opua

20 December 2011

CPL Pass

Today is a good day- I finally passed my CPL Flight Test after putting it off for nearly half a year :D

If you've been following my blog for a while, you may recall this post where I explained how I hadn't passed first time around due to botching up my Precautionary Landing back at the end of June. The following day, the CAA's CPL requirements changed to include a minimum of 10 hours mountain flying before a resit was possible. 

This created a botteneck like problem, with many CPL students needing to log these hours before they could book themselves in for a test. Unfortunately limited certified instructors who could teach it, as well as limited weather conditions when the terrain awareness lessons could be taught slowed down everyone's progress. Days with the 2000 foot wind at more than 15 knots were a right off due to turbulence.

It took me untill the end of September to obtain my mountain flying hours, during which time, instructor #6 had swapped me over to instructor #7 due to him having to leave to teach C Cat students instead. I'd also become pretty disheartened about the whole flying scene and was feeling more and more unmotivated each time I went for a flight. I didn't seem to be making any headway, repeatedly made the same mistakes and couldn't seem to shake my negative attitude towards building myself up ready for a test resit.

During this mentioned time in limbo, I'd began working an unrelated job at Auckland International Airport assuming I could fly on my days off- starting out by doing 4 days at work, then having 3 days off to fly each week. In my head I thought I could easily could carry on my training part time, but in reality it was terrible. The job hours were way too long, I was always physically knackered, and I actually admit that I began hoping that when I woke up on my days off, the rain radar would show cloud and showers all over the Ardmore area so that I could stay in bed and have a lie in.

However, my family and girlfriend continuously encouraged me to not give up on my dreams every time I complained about flying, and my new instructor wouldn't take no for an answer. By November I was working less hours and properly back in the zone, feeling ready for my CPL. I had a good friend who was also in the same mindset as me, both on the verge of quitting, but them I saw him pass his CPL and it really inspired me to follow. My test date was originally booked for the 6th- but got put off a week due to bad weather. The following week was even worse, so it was pushed back until the beginning of December so I could at least get a bit of currency before the big day. 

A large low pressure system out in the Tasman didn't agree with my plans however, and threw front after front of rain and gusty northerlies at the country keeping me and every other student pilot stuck well and truly on the ground. This gave me ample time to study for the theory part of the test, and I hit the books much harder than I had the first time around, really getting to know my CPL Law and Tech and AIP volumes.

This time last week, it was looking like my test was going to have to be put off until February 2012 with the main area testing officer booked out until Christmas, then away on holiday for January- however, my saviour came in the form of an ex Bay Flight CFI, now an ASL testing officer based in Wellington. At the request of the school, he came up to Auckland for 4 last minute CPL tests, the third being mine.

The rest is history really- I rocked up at 7am this morning, pre flighted my aircraft (ZK-TAV), then entered the briefing room. I was given a simple theoretical Air Transport Operation to flight plan for: Ardmore - Thames, pick up 2 passengers and a bag, then return to Ardmore. Simple as. He gave me ample time to complete the paper, 45 minutes, and upon return, didn't even check the figures I'd calculated, he just wanted to know the procedure I'd taken to arrive at my answers. 

I then braced for a deluge of general questions, hoping the subjects I'd studied in depth such as emergency procedures and Part 135 operations would be included, but was only asked about 5 simple questions on AFROR's and auto metars!

Next we walked out to the aircraft, and conducted a walk around together. Mr ASL listened as I described each preflight check, and only interjected twice mentioning the play in the trim tab due to a loose hinge and that once the tanks had been filled, it takes 15 minutes for any water in them to reach the bottom strainer area. 

We climbed aboard, I gave a passenger brief, started up TAV and taxied out to the run up area. Things had been going smooth the whole morning and I felt pretty confident. All the many hours of flight training came together and I managed to rattle out my short field takeoff brief, run up checks and TWOP speil without a hitch.

Light and variable winds for the first time in months helped me big time, and he didn't once ask me to repeat a manever as we took off and worked through the syllabus. From memory, the order was: Instrument Flight full panel, climbing/descending/turning, limited panel: climbing/descending/compass turns/unusual attitudes, Steep turn left/right, Max rate left/right*, Basic stall, Advance stall, Slow flight dirty, Wind drop stall, Slow flight clean, FLWOP, Steep Gliding Turn left/right, Low flight: Coastal Reversal Turn left/right, Precautionary landing**, EFATO***, Flapless landing, and a Precision landing.

*I dropped around 50 feet in my Max Rate turn to the right, and volunteered to redo it. The testing officer said it was 'fine' but if I wanted to, I could. I managed to nail it and hit my own wake turbulance the second time which made it worth it!

**I was nervous about this one, and had been practising simulated precationarys in all sorts of uphill agriculutral stips with hilly surronds over the last few days. However, for the test, we were out in the low flying zone and Mr ASL told me to pick three boat moaring poles sticking out the sea in a line and pretend it was a runway, then to conduct my pattern around them at 300 feet. Piece of cake!

***The engine failure after takeoff was done over the water at the low flying zone (L266). My only option was to land ahead towards the beach shoreline and shallows. Because of the light winds, I took my first notch of flap earlier than usual, to keep my aim point constant, although during the debrief, the testing officer reckoned I didn't need to.

Once I shut the aircraft down back on the AFS ramp, I was given a handshake and told congratulations. It was hard not to let my grin overtake my face as I hung around school for a little while filling in the necessary paperwork. This pass couldn't have come at a better time, as I'd already planned two holidays- first up north to the Bay of Islands over New Years, then back to the motherland for January. This long update serves as a substitute for me neglecting this blog over the last few months, which will hopefully become much more interesting with all the flying activity I've got planned for 2012... Watch this space!

30 November 2011

Dreamliner in Auckland: Photos

When N787BA visited Auckland a few weeks back, Air New Zealand allocated a few hours to its employees for an exclusive walk over of the airframe whilst it was parked up outside their maintenance hangers. The photos below are supplied courtersy of Alex Upperton, one of those fortunate enough to have a look around the futeristic airliner, and far supecede the low res. iPhone snaps I took from the fenceline:

09 November 2011

Dreamliner Visit Deets

Air New Zealand issued the following press release yesterday relating to Saturday 12th:
"Air New Zealand’s Chief Pilot Captain David Morgan will be onboard the 787-8 test aircraft, joining more than 30 Boeing staff testing the aircraft’s performance as it makes its journey non-stop from Seattle’s Boeing Field Airport.
Air New Zealand is hosting the aircraft at its engineering base at Auckland Airport for two days.
The aircraft’s flight path over Auckland will depend on weather and wind conditions on the day but its arrival at Auckland Airport is expected at approximately 10am.

Expected flight path if landing on runway 23L to the southwest:

The aircraft will approach Auckland from the northeast over Browns Bay at approximately 9.50am before tracking to Whenuapai then turning left to fly at lower altitude over the harbour bridge and past the eastern beaches before turning right for a normal approach over Manukau City to Auckland International Airport.

Expected flight path if landing on runway 05R to the northeast:

The aircraft will approach Auckland from the northeast between Waiheke Island and Motutapu Island at approximately 9.50am, turn right over Browns Island and fly at lower altitude down the harbour over the harbour bridge towards Te Atatu before turning left for a normal approach over the Manukau Heads towards Auckland International Airport.
For those wanting to see the aircraft leave for Sydney on Tuesday 15 November, the aircraft has a planned departure time of 10am that day.

The 787 aircraft coming to Auckland is the first test aircraft produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes and the cabin interior is fitted only with test equipment.

Branded the "Dreamliner" by Boeing, the structure of the 787 aircraft makes significant use of lightweight high-tech composite materials to deliver operating efficiencies and customer comfort, including higher humidity levels and a more comfortable, lower cabin altitude.

04 November 2011

Articles & Birthday

Just a very quick update to note that my second Mountain Flying article is now published and out in stores in November's NZ Aviation News (Can now be read online here). I've also recently heard back from the editor on a Flight Simulation article I've written that will be printed in the bumper December/January issue. Watch this space!

Although not strictly aviation related, but still a 'Story from the Sky': I was fortunate enough to compleate the Auckland Skytower Skywalk and 2 Skyjumps from the 630 foot high walkway of the Southern Hemispheres tallest building as a 22nd birthday gift from my girlfriend. Here's proof:

Whilst up there, I was looking down at C130's landing into Whenuapai and choppers on approach and departure from Mechanics Bay. Bizarre- and one of the most awesome adrenaline filled days of my life thus far!

26 October 2011

MOTAT Skyhawk

The Auckland Museum of Transport and Technology, locally known as MOTAT, is due to receive it's first RNZAF Skyhawk fighter jet from Woodbourne this Friday.

The NZ6206 airframe has recently been disassembled to fit onto separate trucks and transported by ferry and road some 600km up the North Island to be put on display.

Between the 28th and 30th October, visitors to MOTAT's newly opened multi million dollar Aviation Display Hall have the chance to see the Skyhawk being assembled in public, with a team from the RNZAF on hand to answer any questions from the public. An interesting fact to note is that NZ6206 was the only RNZAF Skyhawk to have a fired a shot in anger. 

Gavin Conroy of Classic Aviation Photography down in Blenhiem caught these images of the aircraft just before it departed on its long journey yesterday:

I hope to go have a geeze myself when I get some free time over the summer. Read more info on MOTAT's website here.

19 October 2011

787 Dreamliner to visit Auckland

Air New Zealand will play host to the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner test aircraft at its engineering base at Auckland International Airport from November 12th - 14th.

This was announced today in the Herald and is big news in NZ, being the first of it's kind to make the visit down under. I expect the three day stay will prove a good test to see how the airport is capable of handling this new type of aircraft, with Air NZ having ordered eight 787-9s back in 2004.

Theses 789s are a stretched variant of the 788, with a longer fuselage, higher seating capacity, range and maximum take-off weight, yet still with the same 60m wingspan as the 788.

Air New Zealand is the launch customer of the 789, originally expected to be put into service late 2010. However technical delays involving 'construction and fabrication techniques' have now put delivery of the first airframe back until late 2013, with All Nippon Airways only receiving delivery of the first 788 last month!

If the exact arrival time of the test aircraft from Seattle is made public- I'll do my best to share it here. Stuff.co.nz reports it will make a low pass over the CBD so it will most likley be in daylight hours. I'm sure dozens of plane spotters will be out to capture it whilst on our shores anyhow.

Another big announcement today was that Air NZ is spending $340mill on 12 new ATR72-600 for its regional service. The first two are expected to arrive from France in October and December 2012. More deets here.

14 October 2011

Vintage Fly By This Sunday

TO THE SKIES: A special commemoration of the flying feats of Jean Batten is held this Sunday. Photo supplied.

VINTAGE aircraft are taking to the skies to mark the 75th anniversary of a pioneering aviator’s record-breaking flight.

A formation of planes are assembling at Ardmore Airport this Sunday to commemorate the day that pilot Jean Batten completed the first direct flight from England to New Zealand.

The aircrafts, including a Percival monoplane like Jean’s, a Dragon airliner and de Havilland Moths, come together at the airport at 11am.

At 1.15pm, the formation takes off and flies westward along the shoreline from Maraetai to Howick, Eastern Beach and Musick Point, then along the waterfront from St Heliers to Kohimarama and Mission Bay.

Aviation enthusiasts at the Viaduct Basin can look skyward at 2pm to catch a glimpse of the planes before they continue on to Point Chevalier and Te Atatu. At 3pm, the Percival monoplane will fly above the

Kiwi icon’s statue outside Auckland International Airport’s Jean Batten Terminal.

For more information on the anniversary flight, email clapshaws@xtra.co.nz, or phone (09) 576-9099.

13 October 2011

Astrolabe Reef No Fly Zone

The only thing in the news this week, apart from the rugby of course, is the stranding of MV Rena that ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef last Tuesday. Since then, the hull has cracked open and the 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel on board have began leaking out into the ocean, creating a 5km long oil slick. 

© Andrew Gorrie / Dominion Post
Oil and containers have already began washing up along the Mt Maunganui coastline, creating New Zealand's "worst ever environmental disaster" according Environment Minister Nick Smith. 

The CAA have created a no fly zone around the vessel whilst helicopter aerial sprayers attempted to diffuse the oil slick. News choppers have also been operating heavily in the area, footage from which can be seen here.
The zoomable map below shows the NZR288 in red, roughly 14nm north east of Tauranga City.

View Rena No Fly Zone in a larger map

On a personal note, I've now been moved on to instructor #7 at AFS whilst the guy I was training with before has gone off to teach C Cat school. The rough spring weather has kept me grounded on all my days off this week, so here's hoping for better luck next in the next few days...

Also, Part 1 of my Mountain Flying article series (from the September issue of NZ Aviation News) can now be read online at their website. Part 2 is due to be published next month!

03 October 2011

Cover #2

The October issue of the NZ Aviation News is out, with my mug on the front cover again. I reviewed the Tecnam P2008 which can be found on the centrefold pages this time around.

Reviewing aircraft for a magazine I've been a regular reader of for many years was something I never saw coming but am extremely grateful for having the opportunity to do so. Next month my final Mountain Flying article will also be published in the NZ Avaition News.

I've completed all the new terrain awareness lessons needed as a pre requisite to sitting a CPL flight test, and am now just brushing up on my handling skills before booking a date in theory. My instructor took me up for some max rate and steep turns on Thursday and after a few practices, said my manoeuvres were all still within limits of passing.

In the mean time, I've had a minor operation on my foot and the doctor has ordered a few days rest whilst it heals (ie, not stamping on rudder pedals). During this time, on a new computer system I recently purchased, I've been exploring the virtual New Zealand skies in Flight Simulator X. You can have a look at some screenshots from my little tiki tour featuring addon expansion packs to make NZ look as realistic as possible here. I'll probably compile them into a slide show in Picasa once I'm done.

22 September 2011

Waitemata Harbour Airshow

According to todays AIP suppliments, there will be an RNZAF air display over the Waitemata Harbour between 6pm and 6.30pm on both Saturday 15th and 16th October. This will be followed by another display on the 23rd- Rugby World Cup final day, at the same time.

On all three days, at 8pm, second simular shows are planned overhead Eden Park. Restricted airspace exists untill 8.30pm.

19 September 2011

FL350 over the Southern Alps

The week before I went to Dunedin for $2 return with Air New Zealand Grabaseat, I scored the same deal on flights to Chirstchurch.

I only went for 1 day and 1 night, to catch up with friends and see the earthquake damage, but managed to snap a few iPhone photos on the return flight over the Southern Alps from the lefthand side of the B737 I was flying on. A recent heavy dumping of snow + clear anticyclonic skies = a beautiful view. Well worth the $2 alone!

This final photo, if you can't reconise it already, is Manukau city centre with the Westfield shopping centre on the left and Rainbows End themepark and TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre at the top.