20 June 2011

Skyhawk NZ6254 Photos

In 2001, the Labour government completely removed the RNZAF air combat capability by dispanding No. 2 , No. 75 Squadron (A-4 Skyhawks) and No. 14 Squadron (Aermachhis MB-339's) as well as canceling the purchase of 28 F-16 Fighting Falcons. The Ohakea based Skyhawks were flown to Woodbourne for storage in October, pending a new buyer.

It wasn't until 2005 that NZ government announced that the surviving A-4's and MB-339s, (17 of each type) were to be sold to a private American company, Tactical Air Systems, for jet training use. However, red tape in the U.S. State Department halted proceedings over concerns of two private squadrons of combat jets operating in U.S. airspace. 

The Aermacchi fleet is still in flying condition (according to wiki) but the A4 fleet was covered in protective latex and moved to outside storage at NZWB in 2007. It would have cost an estimated $34 million to restore the fleet to an airworthy state, deemed to be too expensive by the current National government. Instead they have been given away to museums instead.

The RNZAF Musuem at Wigram was the first to receive an aircraft, Skyhawk NZ6254, arriving via truck last week. It took three days to be reassembled, but now looks magnificent. NZ6254 is displayed alongside another composite Skyhawk painted in RNZAF colours, although never actually flew in New Zealand. (All the parts were imported from the USA). 

Our man on the ground, Marty Henry, has sent these photos up from Christchurch: 

In a few months, Skyhawk 05 will also be joining NZ6254 at Wigram. Currently however, she is still wrapped in plastic up at Blenheim. [Gavin Conroy photo]

18 June 2011

Having to pay for MetFlight

Well this sucks. Ever since I began flying in New Zealand, the Metflight GA online weather service was free to access as it was sponsored by the CAA in order to promote safe flying. Metflight's briefing includes METAR's, TAF's, ARFOR's, rain radars, aerodrome webcams, synoptic and prognostic MSL charts, all very handy information for flight planning. Especially cross countries.

However, as of 1st August 2011, private pilots will need to pay the following fees if they wish to subscribe to the Metflight Service in and receive the forecasts. 

NZ$95 plus GST for an annual subscription (= 30 cents/day over the subscription period)
NZ$65 plus GST for a 6 month subscription (= 41 cents/day over the subscription period)
NZ$35 plus GST for a 1 calendar month (= $1.34/day over the subscription period)

This is a quote from the CAA in 2004 when they first made Metflight GA free:
"The CAA considers that the cost of providing an enhanced and free-of-charge weather forecasting service for the recreational and training GA community is significantly less than the cost of weather-related incidents and accidents.”
And this is a quote RadioNZ re the CAA's new descion on the 9th June 2011:
"The cost of the forecasts has been covered for seven years, to prevent pilots taking risks, but the Authority says it can no longer afford to provide the reports and wants aviators to pay for the information themselves." 
Double standards much? Apparently the annual cost of running the Metflight GA service is $95,640 per year, which I've read is less than the average CAA employees salary! Surely the cost of just a few search and rescue missions out to inaccessible bush terrain is going to be more costly than the 95K figure. This seems ridiculous as the government still freely funds marine forecasts for boaties and similar snow forecasts and reports for trampers and snowboarders etc.

The official Metservice announcement on the new funding can be read here. I am yet to locate a website to pay for my own subscription, but will be doing so when I find it. I always like to keep an eye on weather trends from home both the days and hours before I plan on going flying but now only have the option to do some from my flying school computer.

16 June 2011

Misc Updates From Me

I had been without internet access for about 10 days earlier this month, hence the lack of updates to this blog. Since our new modem arrived, I've quickly posted some New Caledonia Snaps, info on the Spitfire Nose Over and an aviation summery of the Cordón Caulle Volcanic Ash. Now it's time for a final generalized summery of my flying/life/RC activies. 

Firstly, the Stories from the Sky page view counter has rolled over to 8000+ hits which I'm pretty stoked about! I never really expected to get more than just a few hundred views when I first decided to begin blogging back in January. However it seems than an average of 59 readers per day, from countries such as Australia, the United States, the U.K, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Russia seem to find what I write interesting. Thanks for all the feedback so far!

Unexpectedly, the top three blog posts with most views have been: New Vincent Aviation Livery, NH90 in RNZAF colours and Classic Fighters Airshow - Part 1!

Secondly, as I've previously mentioned a few times, I bought a little keychain camera to record in flight videos from my RC Piper Cub plane. Turns out that even when I pad the camera when attaching it to the foam fuselage, the vibrations from the electric motor are much too strong and distort the recorded image. 

You can see this in this test video below from when I flew it around Macleans Park in Auckland. The quality is pretty average at full throttle but bearable at other times when I use less power. You'll see a few nose overs as sticking the little camera on with a load of velcro and electrical tape threw the C.o.G out rather noticeably which I wasn't expecting...


Anyhow, some more exciting news. A few days later, a mate of mine who knew I was into the RC craze very generously gave me an unwanted Christmas gift of his. A Great Planes PT-40 gas powered wooden plane with a 1.5 metre wingspan. Score!

This machine is worth quite a bit, with the price sticker on the box for the engine alone reading $580! Turns out it he payed the hobby shop to build it, but never actually flew it and just had it sitting in his garage for the last 5 years!

I took it over to a RC instructor/engine-rebuild-genius from the Roskill Modelers Club who got it running for me, and pretty much overhauled the model. He had to adjust the idle timing, shift the C.o.G around, fix fuel tank pipes and servo throws amongst over things before it was good enough to get airbourne.

Because of it's size, speed and potential to cause damage, gas powered RC planes can only be flown at certain places with certain people. We met up a few days later at Highbrook Model Airfield and managed to take it on it's maiden flight which was awesome. The instructor took it off and landed it, but let me fly around for a while at an altitude of 200 feet or so in between. Was good fun, and similar to the process of learning to fly a real '1:1 scale' aircraft. 

I found out that the 'PT' part of the PT-40 model name stands for Perfect Trainer, and accordingly it's handling characteristics are nice and docile. When I have more spare time that coincidently occurs with light winds, I'll be back down to Highbrook for some more flights with it. It will make a perfect rig for the little keychain camera too!

My CPL flight test is also on the horizon. I was meant to have sit it mid May but bad weather has pushed it back to the end of this month, along with a long queue of other students from my school. If I actually get around to sitting and passing the test before 1st July, it will mean I won't have to spend more student loan $$$ on gaining the 10 hour terrain awareness requirement that the CAA are introducing for next month. More moaning about that if it actually comes around to effecting me!

And finally to top off this update, here's a shot of a ominous looking sky overhead Ardmore airfield I snapped whilst on the ground at the weekend. Brooding as:

15 June 2011

Cordón Caulle Volcanic Ash

The large eruption from Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex in Chile on June 4th has been hot topic in New Zealand this week. 

Volcanic ash was erupted approximately 50,000ft up into the atmosphere, and then carried eastwards by strong 'Roaring Forties' winds. It traveled across the Southern Atlantic and Indian Ocean over both Australia and New Zealand as the spectacular graphic from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology shows above. It reached our airspace in it's heaviest concentration on Sunday.

Even though the ash particles are extremely tiny (50 microns or 2 hair widths each), they can still cause significant damage to aircraft turbine blades, nozzle guide vanes, windscreens and fuselages. British Airways Flight 9 enroute London - Auckland found this out the hard way back in 1982.

Qantas, Pacific Blue and Lan Chile canceled all trans Tasman operations on Sunday, and Jetstar canned all domestic, trans Tasman and even Singapore flights, still remaining grounded as of midday today. Air New Zealand reduced their domestic airspace cruising levels and outgoing international routes down to 20,000 feet but are yet to cancel any flights.

The IFIS still shows volcanic ash reported from FL150 to FL380, which can also clearly be seen on a satellite image of New Zealand provided by NASA from Monday.

I'm glad I've not got any travel plans in the near future. The ash does not effect general aviation flying of course (Although a recent flight test question was: Will the Volcanic Ash affect us today?) and I've managed to have a good few handling flights this week already. Passengers at San Carlos de Bariloche Airport in Argenina haven't been so lucky though... 

See news.com.au
More updates as/if they happen, although the forecast is for a slow disperse. See the VAAC Wellington website for more info.

14 June 2011

New Caledonia Snaps

My parents recently took a trip to New Caledonia. Below are a few aviation/aerial photos I've nicked which may be of interest to piloty people... I'm unsure of some of the locations, however picture 2 is The Amédée Lighthouse on a coral island 24km off the coast of Nouméa. Pictures 3, 4 and 5 show La Tontouta International airport (NWWW).

05 June 2011

Ardmore Open Day Pics

Today was a stunner. Unusually sunny warm weather, a lot of noisy aircraft, cold beer and hot wedges from the Aero Club cafe. I actually think I enjoyed this Ardmore open day more than the recent Classic Fighters airshow I attended!

I'd talked to the organisers and got my brothers Mini car club to display on the ground along with the static aircraft, so that saved my family $40 on entry. Got down there about 11am, had a perv at the Warbirds parked out on the apron, then sat back and enjoyed all the aerial displays.

From memory it went, Doug's MX2, Simon Gault in the Thunder Mustang, Harvard ZK-WAR solo display, Strikemaster 70 flown by Dave Brown (with an impressive loop rumored to be 4000' high). Lunch break. Andrew Hope in a long and low Miles Messenger display, pulling some pretty steep turns at what looked to be only a few hundred feet. ZK-DAK DC-3 dropped two sets of parachutists, then then 6 Harvards, a BF109, the Currawong P-40 and Doug's Spitfire performed the traditional airshow mock-attack finale. The Spitfire buzzed real low and fast over the Aeroclub at the end- definite highlight. Quite a few of the other aircraft approached the runway from behind the crowd, sneaking in low over the hangers which I don't really remember seeing before at any shows.

Took the ole handheld point n' shoot along. Nothing special, and I'll try my best to find links from proper photographers and link them from the blog in the near future.

Yak 52
ZK-STR Strikemaster
ZK-WLM Albatross, unfortunately it didn't fly
The only Thunder Mustang in the world to fly aerobatics...
... And a mini RC version
MXT in a flat spin. Amazing!
Masterchef departing in TMG
ZK-WAR low over the crowdline
The highest level of zoom my camera can handel
STR taxing past
The Auckland Mini Club
EBE, the first aircraft I flew in NZ, missing a few panels
The ZM sponsored Extra 300
Chipmunk Closeup
ZK-CMM Miles Messenger
DAK minus it's cabin door
Harvard team run-up's
DAK rolling
Meat bombs

And again
Low angle on the Spitfire
ZK-PBY Catalina
DAK again at the end of the day

02 June 2011

Mini Super Cub Modifications

This isn't really relevant to my student pilot lifestyle, but more to do with my new found RC plane hobby.

This post is a collaboration of recommended medications (pulled from many different sites across the internet) for the Hobbyzone Mini Super Cub RC aircraft that I own. When I first bought my plane, I was hoping to find a website listing any recommended mods that I could work from. As there is not one, hopefully this will help other new owners in future google searches!

#1. Reinforce leading edges [Source]
Use clear packing tape (eg the 3M or Sellotape brand) found at most supermarkets. I took the wing off and ran it along both the leading and trailing edge, as well as both wing tip ends just for extra protection to the foam during inevitable crashes. One long strip each side will do, however, little rectangular sections will need to be cut and overlayed over the tips to follow the curved cutout shape. The photo below shows this if you squint.

I've also done this on the horizontal stabilizer and vertical stabilizer, leading edges only as the trailing edges are movable control surfaces.

#2. Reinforce the fuselage
I'd also personally recommend wrapping the tape around the rear of the foam fuselage, immediately prior to the tail section. I've crashed my Cub twice at high speed, nose first into the ground. Apart from bending the prop shaft, the tail section took all the stress and snapped both times. Definitely worth reinforcing. 

However, be wary of adding too much tape. Tape = weight, and the original weight of the aircraft is just 200g. I've just double layered it mostly.

#3. Popsicle stick strengthening [Source 1 and Source 2]
The wing sits in a saddle groove in the top of the fuselage. Everytime you strike a wingtip when landing or crashing, this shunts the whole wing section either left or right, pushing back into the foam creating dents and grooves which leads to the wing sitting offset from true centre. In flight this will make the aircraft want to roll in one direction rather than fly straight. 

Reinforcing the wing saddle with a popsicle stick cut to the width of the fuselage either glued or taped into the back of the saddle keeps the wing nice and centered, even if crashed, and keeps the Cub stable in the air.

#4. Add a screw to the controller [Source]
As the manual says, you can change the sensitivity (or throw) of the control surfaces by unscrewing the thumbscrew attached to the control horns and moving the screw into one of the two other slots below the horizontal stabilizer that connect to the elevator and rudder.

I've put mine on the medium sensitivity setting. Max sensitivity is too tricky for me with just a months experience on this plane. However, to make things easier, I've gently screwed a household screw into the right hand stick on my controller and wrapped it with tape (do it to the left hand stick if using Mode 1). Now when I use my thumb to push the elevator and rudder, there is more distance to travel on the control stick thanks to the longer 'arm', therefore reducing sensitivity but still allowing maximum deflection. 

#6. Upgrade the landing gear
The wheels that come with this aircraft are pathetic if you want to actually take off and land from grass. I first tried some larger 1.5 inch foam tires given to me for free from another pilot, then put on much wider and deeper 2.5 inch DuBro Super-Lite (18grams) wheels. There's a good selection for purchase here

Because the diamter of the hole in the centre of the wheel is larger than the stock wheels, I've cut thin strips of packing tape and wrapped them around the axle about 3 or 4 times so that the wheel fits and still spings freely without wobberling everywhere.

I've also used a hollow 125mm section of irrigation pipe from the garden to act as a strut between the two sides of the landing gear wire that hold the wheels on. First I cut a slit with a knife on each end, then slid the wire gear into the pipe and taped it tight with electrical tape. This makes the landing gear unit firm, and stops it bending forwards on landing, which previously caused the Cub to have a nose over tendency.

Next I ran some epoxy along the crack the fuselage infront of the battery box where the gear sticks in. Before I'd done this, they used to pop out all the time on landing.

Finally, I cambered the wheels a little. This was a recommendation from a friend, so I unscrewed the wheel caps, took the Super Lite tires off and used pliers to just angle the axles up about 10 or so degrees. This keeps the Cub running in a nice straight line on the ground.