28 February 2011

City Scenics

Before I'd even started my flight training at Ardmore, I'd flown as passenger on quite a few 'City Scenic' flights with other pilots keen on sharing the enjoyment of recreational flying with me. It's a real neat feeling, sailing through the sky above the country's busiest city, with everything below you looking small and insignificant. Very peaceful.

Auckland is a extremely scenic region to fly above actually, with its sprawling suburbs, countless beaches, endless coastline, multiple harbors, 50 something volcanoes and dozens of islands littering the Hauraki Gulf. It felt like a right of passage for me, to go fly some City Scenic's as PiC, so the week that I got my PPL in the mail, I began taking my mates up.

This is the general route I fly- you can zoom in follow the flight path and click the camera icons to see some my photos:

[Click here to view a larger map]

Out of Ardmore, I hang a left and head north towards Whitford over the countryside. As I, and most the mates I take up, are from East Auckland, I do a few circles over the Howick area to let the passengers find their houses from the air, then track over the Tamaki Estuary towards the CBD. I usually do one right hand orbit, make a 180 degree turn over Devonport, and then go back round to the left, ending up facing Rangitoto Island. I fly right over the summit, as the lava flows and Pohutakau forest look pretty unique from the sky, then cross over Motutapu and Motuihe Islands- watching out for inbound/outbound Great Barrier Island traffic, before following the nothern coastline of Waiheke Island back towards the Clevedon Valley, which lines me up perfectly for either joining long finals for 21 or non traffic side of 03! A total flight time of about 0.9 hours and a distance of around 90 nautical miles (I only found this out once I'd put the example track into the GoogleMap above- seems surprisingly long!)

Sometimes I deviate from this and shoot up the transit lane along the coastline of North Shore City and back, then call up Auckland Tower and request transition over the international airport on the way back to Ardmore. I've only been denied this once, but depending on how busy it is, I'm usually allowed to track right overhead the terminals and look down at all the big jets!

Note: The photos on the map above over NZAA were on a special flight in ZK-CIT where we actually got clearance to fly low level along the 23L/05R runway, as the instructor had requested this from his mate who was controlling the tower that day. Not usually allowed- I was very lucky! 

25 February 2011

Christchurch Update 3

Above is the updated Christchurch No Fly Zone, increased in size yesterday due to the noise from overhead aircraft interfering with the urban search and rescue teams' high sensitivity microphones inside the collapsed buildings listening for any signs of life from survivors.

The area in red shows 'TEMPO RESTRICTED AREA NZR903' and the surrounding area in blue now shows 'TEMPO RESTRICTED AREA NZR922' (Christchurch City Sector), both from the surface up to 2500 feet.

As of 7am this morning, 103 people have been confirmed dead and 226 people have been reported as missing. 70 have been rescued alive since Tuesday by 10 international rescue teams in the city consisting of 559 personal. 2000 people have had treatment of injuries and there are 452 residents staying in the 5 welfare centers set up around Christchurch.

Apart from the main base of operations at NZCH, NZAA has also seen a share of the earthquake relief effort air traffic with a Singapore Air Force KC135 arriving in Auckland late on the 23rd that departed this morning at 8am, and a Japanese Self Defense Force 747-400 that arrived yesterday, due to depart tomorrow morning. I'm sure MRC Aviation will have further updates on this, as well as photos from the apron down at NZCH.

Something that bought this all closer to home was hearing my Dad, who works at NZAA, say he saw stacks of empty body bags being loaded onto Air New Zealand aircraft heading down to NZCH two days ago. Fortunately, all the people I know down in Canterbury are ok, but this isn't the case for countless others. If you can afford to, please donate to the Red Cross 2011 Earthquake Appeal by clicking the logo link on the right hand side of the page. 

The Waitemata Bar at Auckland Aero Club down at Ardmore Airfield is also donating 50c per beer sold to the Red Cross until Wednesday 2nd March. Get amongst it.

23 February 2011

Christchurch Update 2

It was very sad to wake up to the news of 38 confirmed dead whilst search teams still hunt through the rubble trying to find survivors. This is very upsetting for everyone, but I don't want to make this blog personal, just use these updates to keep a record of aviation related actives associated with the relief effort.

At this stage, Christchurch International is still closed to most flights:
Air New Zealand are providing domestic services from any point in New Zealand to/from Christchurch for $50 one way. These discounted bookings are available through until 8am Friday morning. Air NZ will also be providing a return flight today with a 747-400 which departed Auckland at 10.30 and will arrive at 11.50. It will depart Christchurch again 13:20, arriving back in Auckland at 14:50. They will also operate a 777-200 from Christchurch to Auckland this afternoon, departing CH at 15:50, arriving into AA at 17:10. Additional Air NZ A320 and 737 flights will connect Christchurch to the capital. Tickets can be bought here. Later in the day RNZAF C-130 Hercules will also begin evacuations to Wellington with their 757's on hand to create a sky-bridge.

Early this morning John Key announced the acceptance of help from the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, as well as Australia- with the Aussie SAR guys arriving overnight and already getting to work in the city center. 

Ambulances are on the tarmac at Auckland International Airport waiting medivac flights from Christchurch. It's all very close to home. A fellow NZ aviation blogger has been keeping track of specific aircraft movements on his site here, which include an exodus of rescue choppers from all over the nation heading to Canterbury. 

The New Zealand Red Cross has set up an Earthquake Appeal. To help the cause, call 0900 73327 to make an automatic $20 donation, text a message of hope to 4419 to donate $3, visit www.redcross.org.nz/donate or electronically transfer funds to Kiwibank account 38-9009-0759479-00, account name RED CROSS.

More updates as they happen.

22 February 2011

Christchurch Update 1

The latest from the IFIS shows there is potential for TIBA situations to occur in upcoming days due to expected aftershocks, delays within the Christchurch control area, potential for VFR operations to be prohibited, an increase in the size of local Mandatory Broadcast Zones and a temporary restricted area being created for rescue operations in the CBD.

Christchurch Earthquake

As if the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch on September 4th 2010 wasn't bad enough, the city was again hit by a very shallow 6.3 magnitude quake again this afternoon causing widespread destruction. Multiple fatalities have been reported. The force of it was felt nationwide, with shaking lights reported as far away as Pukekohe and Waiuku just south of Auckland.

The Pyne Gould building where 150 people are thought to be trapped- Stuff.co.nz
Not much is known in terms of deaths and causality numbers at this time but news reports show a lot of collapsed buildings in the CBD.

The Deputy Prime Minister said in a press conference that multiple international offers of aid and search and rescue teams have been accepted, so an influx of foreign aircraft can be expected in the country over the next few days.

Christchurch Airport is currently closed, with reports of nationwide airspace being shut down. Normally the Internet Flight Information Service (IFIS) run by Airways NZ, based in Christchurch, would provide updates on this, but as of 4.50pm the only related NOTAM's being show on the website is this below- presumably the headquarters building has been evacuated.

The following information for passengers was also uploaded to the Jetstar and Air NZ websites: 

Earlier I heard reports on the radio before from a women who landed whilst the earthquake was happening saying trucks were bouncing around on the tarmac at NZCH. However, Air Ambulance aircraft have been able to make it out with patients, and the Prime Minister is also enroute in an airforce aircraft.

More information on the situation at Christchurch airport can be seen here. Detailed coverage from the scene can also be followed here.

19 February 2011


On my 20th birthday, my parents gave me a skydiving voucher to jump from 12,000 feet out of Cessna 185, ZK-CMW, above Mercer. I'd wanted to do this for years and it was just awesome- words cannot describe it. So instead, I've made this collage of photos with Picasa which I've recently downloaded:

A video from a skydiving cameraman can be seen here, as well as on the Video Gallery page.

Flying in a RNZAF Iroquois

At the gates of the Whenuapai 2009 Airshow, slips of paper were given out as the crowd walked in which could win you a flight in an Iroquois at the end of the day if you filled your name out and dropped in at a booth at the other end of the airfield. I did just that and somehow managed to win the competition out of the thousands of attendees. I don't usually enter contests, let alone win them, so this was a real treat for myself as a 19 year old aviation fanatic!

Along with the three crew, a police officer scouting the departing crowd traffic jams, and two winners of a radio station competition joined me on the flight. I got to sit on the lefthand side seat of NZ3015, loosely strapped onto a canvas bench, usually covered by a sliding door. This flight though, the entire cabin was kept open to the elements with the door pinned back the whole time which really added to the experience, being able to dangle my legs out the side of the chopper 2500 feet above the city as we went on a 30 minute scenic cruise down to the Hauraki Gulf and back.

I'll let the picture's do the talking:

Good times- felt like I was in Vietnam. Hope the pictures were found interesting for someone other than myself! There a few clips from this flight on the Video Gallery page also.

Whenuapai Airshow 2009

The last major airshow I've been to was back at Whenuapai in March 2009, recent enough for the display programme to still be up on the RNZAF website listing which aircraft preformed when.

The big new differences with this show were the appearances of a USAF C-17 Globemaster, and the RAAF F-18's 'Formation Thunder' team, since they had retired the old F-111's that they usually bought over from Australia for Airforce open days.

The C-17 was pretty cool, had amazing STOL capabilities for such a big piece of gear. The reverse thrusters on the runway in front of us nearly deafened me, so much so that I missed a call out on the public address system saying that I'd won a competition to go for a fly in a RNZAF Iriquos chopper after the show! (Thankfully I also got a voicemail message alerting me to this, as well as a tap on the shoulder from a mate, so I still got to redeem my prize after all. I'll post photos next blog update!)

Anyhow, this particular C-17 airframe was based at Elmendorf, Alaska, but was in NZ temporarily to help supply the US scientests down in Antarctica. It's a badass looking machine, pretty much a jet powered upgrade of a Hercules. Sadly, another Elmendorf based C-17 (00-0173) crashed just over a year later killing four on board whilst rehersing for a simular airshow routine.

Civilian Performers

The Globemaster

RNZAF Machines

"Pride of the Fleet"

P-3K Orions

I missed the last part of the show whilst getting a briefing for the Huey flight, but there a plenty of great shots from other photographer's here and here.

18 February 2011

Shoreham Airshow 2008

I spent the later half of the 2008 on a break between high school and uni traveling around Europe. My friends and I stayed in Brighton nearby where I grew up in England, and whilst there, I took the opportunity to check out Shoreham Airfield's (EGKA) annual Battle of Britian airshow. I'd been once before as a kid, and also taken the controls of a Cessna 152 for the first time as my 12th birthday present there, so it was a bit of a nostalgia trip.

The show ran over two days, and I chose to go on the Saturday where I got extremely sunburnt with temperatures reaching 27°! The next day was overcast and thundery, but whilst chilling out at a nearby beach, we still got to see all the display aircraft holding low overhead waiting for their slot to display.

Highlights this time were the collection of genuine Spitfires and the sound of their Merlin engines, Lancaster Bomber flyby, a dutch B-17, and a RAF Chinnook. 


 Team Guinot Wingwalker Stearmans

RAF Jumpship and Parachutists

Christian Moullec and his formation of geese


Yakolev's from the Ukraine

Token Montage