18 December 2012

Flying the Twin

I gained my SEIR back in June and was planning on converting it to a MEIR as soon as a twin engined aircraft and instructor were made available to me. There was a waiting list for this, since the flying school administration had decided it was best for students to gain an initial IF rating on one of the four glass cockpit C172R's, then sit around for a while until a slot opened up on one of the two Beechcraft 76 Duchess' that AFS own, and then finish the conversion.

There was an obvious bottleneck problem here, and I know of fellow AFS students who'd waited up to 11 months between completing their CPL and finishing their MEIR. I'd heard a lot of complaining about this issue, with other less crowded flying schools in the country consistently providing the same qualification in approximately 6 weeks. Thankfully, the administration revealed that a 3rd twin engine trainer, another BE76 was to be added to the schools fleet to ease this congestion.

VH-MLM  arrived on the Ardmore apron mid July, and I was looking forward to being one of the first students to fly it, although it wasn't until late September before it had been re-registered ZK-WLS (The CFI's initials) and appeared out the front of our school again.

By this time, I'd taken a hiatus from my training for a parachute drop flying job in New Plymouth so never got to see WLS fly. Just a few days after it had been made available to students, structural damage was detected and it has been away for maintenance whilst the insurance company searched for someone to blame for it's unairworthy state ever since.

© Ardmore Flying School
However, I'd been lucky, and at the end of July, had began my type rating training in one of the two original Duchess', ZK-JED. I'd already sat a two day ground course for the aircraft earlier in the year, so after a few briefings outlining the main differences between this machine and the C172 I was used to, I finally began logging some hours in the Multi Dual column of my logbook.

These mentioned main differences were the CSU governed variable pitch propellers, retractable undercarriage, autopilot systems, engine arrangement and wing position. The two 0-360's give the Duccy much greater performance to the ole C172 that I'd gotten so used to, with everything happening much quicker in the sky. Just for comparison, Va (manoeuvring speed) for the BE76 is 132 knots, Vno (cruise speed) is 154 knots, and Vne (never exceed speed) is 194 knots. Throughout all my AFS training, I don't think I ever went much faster than 120 knots in our Cessnas!

The type rating included turns and stalls, which were easily understandable. Without an engine mounted directly in front of the cockpit, forward viability is great out the front of the Duchess which helped. The rest of the training focused on asymmetric flight (not symmetrical), or in laymen's terms- flying with only one engine working.

Snapped on takeoff by Colin Hunter
The majority of this was done in the circuit, with my instructor simulating failure of either the left or right mixture, and me attempting to keep the 4000lb airplane straight, then banging through the following checks: Mixtures UP, Pitches UP, Throttles UP, Flap Up, Gear Up, Identify dead leg (Left/Right), Verify throttle (Left/Right), Close throttle (Left/Right), If critical- Feather prop (Left/Right)...

This was harder than it sounds. A wind milling propeller creates a lot of drag, and I'll admit I was sweating many times trying to push all my body weight onto the rudder pedal to stop the aircraft from yawing towards it. Especially on the hotter days when it was in the high twenties outside, and the low wing design didn't provide any shelter from the sun through all the perspex around the cockpit!

I had to be competent with flying an engine circuit on a failed engine (it was be closed on climbout) as well as an engine failure on base, and one below Decision Altitude (300ft AGL at Ardmore), which really was a challenge when combined with a busy uncontrolled circuit the constant stream of configuration checks required when flying the Duchess. Cowl flaps, manifold pressure/RPM, flap and undercarriage all needed to be manipulated whilst dealing with the simulated engine out- the highest intensity of multi tasking I'd ever had to do.

Out over the Firth of Thames, I also learnt how to deal with an engine fire, manual landing gear extension and retraction, emergency descents and low flying. Fortunately, having autopilot to hold the aircraft level whilst I consulted the QRH (Quick Reference Handbook) helped shed the work load during these exercises.

Something I wish that I'd photographed, but was way too preoccupied at the time do have done, was the day we ran through an engine failure drill and instead of just simulating a feathered prop, went all the way down with the lever and stopped the blade from rotating. Looking out the window in flight at a motionless and silent engine is something I never want to see again!

Compared with some other student's first multi engined aircraft type rating, I've been told that this was quite an extensive amount of flying to be done just to get my logbook sticker signed off, however, I'm grateful for each of the lessons I'd had. It was reassuring to hear my instructor say that he could tell I respected the aircraft and he wouldn't have let me fly it by myself if he didn't think I couldn't safely handle an emergency.

It was also satisfying to finally feel comfortable in 'the big plane' that I'd wanted to fly ever since joining AFS. I remember being envious of the more senior students as they taxied the Duchess out whilst I was preflighting the Cessnas during my PPL and CPL days. Sitting up higher, having my hands on a throttle 'stack', and the faster airspeeds all made my time in the twin so far quite enjoyable. Thankfully, the flight time was recorded with an air switch, meaning I could take as long as I needed to on the ground to run through my pre takeoff drills and prepare my mindset without worrying about my dollars burning up!

The Duchess panel
Anyhow, I recently returned to Auckland from flying drop planes in the Naki, hoping to chip away some more instrument flying needed to be done in the twin before I could convert my SEIR, only to discover the AFS administration had made some funding changes.

There are two sets of students at the school: those who receive funding from Studylink via the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and those who receive it directly from Studylink. Because the government is cutting student loans for new pilots as of next year, all the NMIT funded students need to have their training entirely completed by April-June 2013 and will get priority bookings of both instructors and aircraft until that time.

Because I do not fall into this category, I've been told that it will be a struggle for me to get any bookings until then, so I'll have to wait until approximately mid next year before finishing my MEIR. Instead, I will be working full time parachute dropping over the summer, then I plan to crack into my ATPL papers when flying becomes less frequent with the skydivers. That's all for 2012, watch this space for 2013!

Articles This Month

The New Zealand Aviation News have published two articles of mine in their bumper December/January edition which is available now from magazine racks nationwide.

The first is a 'Diary of a Dropzone Pilot' on which I've ran through how I managed to obtain my first job in commercial aviation, how a typical flight to altitude is planned, and the differences between flying the jumpship in controlled and uncontrolled airspace. Find it on page 12 and tell me what you think!

The second article is a revised and expanded version of my iPad Aviation Apps blog post that I originally penned in June. The main differences being the addition of two new competing moving map apps to Air Nav Pro; SkyDemon by Divelements Limited and Runway HD by Airbox Aerospace Ltd. Have a read on pages 28 and 29.

Speaking of iPads, the NZ Aviation News can now conveniently be read on portable devices, or your PC with a digital subscription. Individual editions are a mere $3.50, or $33.50 for the year. You can grab the current Dec/Jan special here. Back issues from August 2012 are also available for just $2.50 each here.

12 December 2012

Pearl Harbor Open Day Photos

Every year, the NZ Warbirds Asssociation hold an open day on the second weekend of December to commemorate the WW2 attack on Pearl Harbour. I've attended a few of these before (photos deep in the back pages of this blog), but made a point of getting myself to this airshow in particular so that I could witness the KA114 De Havilland Mosquito fly for the first time.

I'd been away in New Plymouth working when ZK-MOS was unveiled to the public back in September, so it was a real treat for me to watch in awe as Keith Skilling made countless low passes over the crowd line. The twin V12 Merlin's at full tilt were just pure magic- I swear he was getting it down lower than 100ft AGL most times... Each time the roar from the engines would set off car alarms along Harvard Lane. The photos below don't even get close to doing it justice.

As always, there were three display slots featuring a variety of the resident warbirds. It also happened to be a stinking hot, almost cloudless day on the 9th, so it made photography tricky. In order, they are, P-51D Mustang (ZK-TAF), AT-6 Harvard (ZK-MJN), Extra 300 (ZK-XRA), Westpac Rescue BK117 (ZK-HLN), T-9 Spitfire (ZK-WDQ), Strikemaster 70 (ZK-STR) and a silhouetted formation shot featuring the Kittyhawk, 'Stang and Spit' chasing the Mosquito again.

And three yellow ones to finish, AT-6 Harvard (ZK-ENG) and two Corby CJ-1 Starlets with their regos clearly visible.
Snaps from the pros can be found over at Wings Over Cambridge, the NZ Warbirds facebook and NZFF.org.

06 December 2012

Ruawai, Take 2

The original three day Kauri Coast Skydive Carnival that I mentioned I was due to fly at had to be cut short due to heavy rain and a boggy runway the first time our company migrated over from Whangarei back in August.

I don't think I mentioned many details of the event on this blog, but the plan was to venture over to the west coast town of Dargaville to promote the extreme sport during one of our quieter off season weekends. 30 or so skydivers and staff from Skydive Ballistic Blondes, along with the company's C172 and C182 based ourselves at the 680m long grass surfaced airfield of Ruawai. We had a succesfull day of altitude tandem and hop n' pop sport jumping, followed by a display into Selywn Park on the Friday. Come Saturday morning, a large front was forecast to flush us out, so after dropping a single load each early in the morning, me and the other pilot hurried the planes back to the safety of the hanger at home at NZWR.

12,000ft over the Kaipara Heads
Anyhow, plenty of other local punters had signed themselves up for skydives and the company returned at the end of November to forfill the bookings, along with the two aircraft. The airstrip was in a much smoother and drier condition which was pleasant for all, and although there was a bit of an annoying crosswind blowing both days- we managed to fly all day long on both the Saturday and Sunday we were there without any hiccups!

Below is a quick video that features a few skydiver exits and one of my landings at NZRW alongside the row of tents we all camped in for our stay! Filmed of course from the venerable C172 jumpship.

Ruawai Weekend from ardmorepilot on Vimeo.

05 December 2012

Hobbit 777 up close

Air New Zealand has covered ZK-OKP, one of it's new 777-300ER long haulers, in 830 square metres of decal as a promotion for Sir Peter Jackson's latest kiwi blockbuster movie- 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'. 

It took six days to install the largest ever graphic to be applied to an aircraft, and will certainly be eye catching at all the international ports it calls into. Below are a few shots up close of the artwork, taken on the NZAA ramp before it departed south on a rare domestic flightplan, to make a low level flyover of the world premier of the movie in Wellington.

21 November 2012

Missed the Mozzie?

There are unconfirmed reports that Jerry Yagen's ZK-MOS de Havilland Mosquito will be making another unexpected flying display at the next Ardmore open day on December 9th.

I really hope to make it this time as I missed the previous airshow due to work commitments in Taranaki. However, due to my tandem master disappearing over to the World Parachuting Championships in Dubai, I have a few weeks break back in Auckland which coincide with the above date!

13 November 2012

Pax Rides

Whilst down at New Plymouth, I've managed to swindle myself a few blog-worthy flights as a passenger that I may as well mention.

Firstly, I sat in the back of a freshly imported Cessna 206T, ZK-TBO that was reconstructed by the guys at Taranaki Flight Tech after arriving at NZNP in a shipping container during September. A local businessman who is currently training for his PPL with the Aero Club has bought it for private use, and there is talk of potential type ratings for other interested pilots at the field.

Below is a video going for a quick jaunt over the centre of New Plymouth, whizzing along above the main street at 140 knots. 

I also went for a spin with another mate from the Aero Club who was practising for his C Cat instructor rating in ZK-NPL, a 152 Aerobat. It was the first time I'd flown in a 152 since I went for my very first intro flight as a 12 year old in the UK, and it was just good to go for a blat in something other than a 172 for once.

Thirdly, on one of my weekly trips home to visit the girlfriend on board an Air New Zealand Q300, I recognised the first officer as an ex Ardmore Flying School instructor and scored myself a jumpseat ride back to Auckland in the cockpit. He gave me a lot of useful tips regarding progressing with my career as we skimmed the cloud tops and then descended into NZAA just after sunset. It was pretty sweet to see the international airport all lit up from the windows at the pointy end for once, but my iPhone camera wouldn't have done it justice. The only snap I got was early on in the cruise and came out a little blurry:

And finally, just last week, I sat in the back of Air New Plymouth's Partenavia P68B, ZK-ZSP with the same guy who took me up in the 152. He is now training for his MEIR and I followed along on my iPad whilst he flew an arc, several holds and a VOR/DME approach for runway 05 at New Plymouth. It's been a whilse since I've done any IF, so it was good to get my head back in the game and pretend I was a VIP on a private charter flight for a while on a morning off from parachute dropping.

15 October 2012

More Videos

Here are two new vimeo videos from the 'Naki. 

The first is a GoPro recording of an entire drop flight, although sped up at 8x speed so you don't have to sit through 30 minutes worth of semi tedious sound trackless-footage. I'm too chicken to attach the camera to the outside of the airframe yet, but I've seen friends do it on other C172's, cable tieing the case to the strut tiedown point just in case the mount looses suction... another day perhaps!

The second is another collaboration of clips of our tandem passengers and AFF students falling through the sky, put together by our marketing manager. Spot the witty pun in the title!

01 October 2012

Did someone say Mosquito?

The blogasphere has been a buzz over the last four days with the news that KA114, a de Havilland Mosquito out of Ardmore, made its maiden flight since undergoing extensive restoration with AvSpecs. This was special for a couple of reasons- it is now the worlds sole airworth example of the type, but sadly for us kiwis, it will soon be crated up to be sent off shore to Jerry Yagen's Fighter Factory Collection in the USA.

I didn't get a chance to see it with my own eyes, although my old man managed to capture it on his cellphone camera when it stopped into Air NZ tech ops base at Auckland International Airport on the afternoon of the 27th. The sound of the twin Merlin V12 engines is really something to behold, and it's well worth cranking up the speakers on your computer before hitting the play button below. Even at low RPM, these engines sound incredible!

Saturday the 29th saw a commemorative airshow held in the Mosquito's honor at NZAR (as previously mentioned here), with KA114 obviously stealing the limelight. I was busy flying parachutists down in New Plymouth that day, but there are already a great wealth of photos from the event uploaded online. Of note are Gavin Conroy's collection here, the NZFF.org contribution here, and several pages worth on the Wings over Cambridge forum here. This was to be the only public display of ZK-MOS in NZ, so even TV1 news go amongst it to document the day here.

All was not lost for me however, as two New Plymouth based jets that took part in the Ardmore display made a spontaneous beat up over the dropzone when they returned to Taranaki on the following Sunday afternoon. Brett Emeny in Vampire ZK-RVM and Peter Vause in Albatross ZK-VLK made three low level high speed passes over the airfield- much faster than they'd flown over the crowd at Ardmore due to the fact they didn't have to be matching the previously mentioned propeller aircraft's speed! It was magic!

28 September 2012

Skydiving, A Pilot's Perspective

After a full on week of really decent flyable weather, I've had a day back on the ground, which has given me time to throw together a little compilation video of my 'cockpit cam' recordings in movie maker.


The highlight from last weekend, although not featured in the vid, was the other company pilot bringing our C182 down from Whangarei to cope with the extra demand. This was so that on Saturday arvo, I was able to ferry the boss back to NZWR for his kid's birthday party in the 172, and return again on the Sunday morning. I havn't done much cross country flying for a while, so it was a pleasant way to accumulate 4 hours for my logbook.

I also unexpectedly tabbed up 1.3 hours in ZK-CIT, the Ardmore based Citabria on Tuesday. This was due to urgently needing to return to NZNP for work after visiting the girlfriend on Monday night, but being bumped off the commercial flight from Auckland due to it being overweight. An expensive journey for sure, but much more enjoyable flying myself than sitting in the pax seat of a Q300!

15 September 2012

Naki Collage

It's the end of my fourth week here in the Naki, and due to windy pre frontal weather today, I'm on the ground and have time to share a quick collage of some of my GoPro shots taken whilst parachute dropping over New Plymouth. There is much more to follow, along with a fair amount of HD footage that needs to be sorted through and edited down once I have access to a higher spec computer!

Like our fan page at www.facebook.com/SkydiveBallisticBlondesTaranaki for more updates from the team!

06 September 2012

New Plymouth Highlights

We've had a good run of flyable weather and a large amount of happy customers during our first two weeks operating out of NZNP. I've already got tons of cockpit camera footage and GoPro snaps mounting up on my harddrive, but haven't had a chance to sort through them properly as we've been so busy flying!

For now, here's an awesome 3 a half minute mash up of various footage thar our marketing manager has put together which will give you a good taste of what life in the 'Naki is like:

20 August 2012

Taranaki Bound

I was asked a week and a half a go whether I could put my multi engine type rating and instrument conversion on hold for a few months, and then move down to New Plymouth. The reason behind this is the parachute drop company that I work for had received approval to start operating from a dropzone that Skydive Taranaki had been using up untill May of this year when Part 115 came into effect.

Long story short- I quit my week day job, made sure it was ok with my flying school to take a break and secure my student loan funding for the future, then packed my bags. The other company pilot took our C172 down over the weekend whilst I stayed in Auckland for my girlfriends birthday, but as Monday, I'm now calling NZNP my temporary home base.

A major difference will be dropping the skydivers into a controlled aerodrome landing area, where as at Whangaeri, the only section of controlled airspace we ever entered was above 9500 ft.

I'm not sure how frequent, if any, my blog updates will be from now on either- although I do hope to pop up on Air NZ staff travel to do the occasional flight at Ardmore if the opportunities arises. Watch this space!

15 August 2012

Most Exhilarating Flight of my Life

After harping on about the Ardmore based Strikemaster quite a few times on my blog, I was fortunate enough to actually go for a flight in the ex military beast yesterday. It was tee'd up with the NZ Aviation News, for me to write a review the joyride product that Strikemaster Ltd are now offered under their recently acquired Part 115 certificate.

Needless to say, it was the most exhilarating flight of my life. 280+ knots in a jet fighter, 4G loops and rolls, low flying through the mountains... Yeah, there's not really much I need to add to that- the video below summaries the day pretty well actually!

A massive thanks to Brett Nicholls, the owner of NZ6370, Andrew Hope, long time friend and pilot in the left hand seat, and John King, the editor of the NZ Aviation News. Look out my my article in the September issue at your local magazine shop. 

Below are some nice wide angle snaps from my new GoPro HD Hero2 which I'm planning on using a lot more in the future whilst flying. Yep. Awesome. Cheers!

07 August 2012

Tongariro Eruption

The 11.50pm eruption of Mount Tongariro has been widely reported in the media all day long today. This can be followed here. I'm not going to rehash everything that's already been said by the mainstream journo's, but instead just add a little behind the scenes aviation related info to the web.

Firstly, to update the last post, here's what the IFIS (Internet Flight Information Service) and GeoNet websites had to say this afternoon:

In layman's terms, the size of the temporary volcanic hazard zone (NZV312) has been increased from a circle with a 3 mile radius to a circle with an 8nm radius of Tongairo's summit. The upper limit has been expanded from 9500ft AMSL to FL150 (15,000ft AMSL), very close to multiple domestic IFR flight tracks which caused plenty of air traffic routing diversions today. The above NOTAM also indicates that pilots overflying the area must report the location of observed volcanic ash or associated volcanic activity to the CAA.

The red circle on the map below indicates this amended VHZ, with the blue circle showing the size of NZV312 when it was originally formed on 20th July.

Domestic flights bound to and originating from airports such as Napier, Gisborne, Taupo and Rotorua were all cancelled this morning, due to the ash cloud being blown to the east across the island. A few airports did manage to resume operations later in the day, however, Hawkes Bay Airport (NZNR) still remains shut to scheduled commercial traffic.

© Fairfax NZ
Today was the first time I've seen 'Aviation Colour Code: Red' issued (although as of 8:30pm it has been reduced to Aviation Colour Code: Orange), and also the first time I've noticed this unusual remark under the significant weather section of the Napier airport Met Information:

Whilst I find this all very fascinating to me- a disturbance of the earth beyond anybody's control- thousands of people involved with the New Zealand aviation industry where disrupted from their expected routines today due to this act of nature. At this stage, the Wellington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center have forecast for the ash plume to continue off shore in a steady easterly direction and operations should soon return to normal.

Of course, further eruptions have not been ruled out, and the reality of that happening could pose much more of a hazard to everyone in New Zealand aviation. The fine volcanic
ash particles are not
turbine blade, windscreen or fuselage friendly and have potential to cause significant damage if inadvertently encountered.

I'll summarise this post with a quote I heard this morning. "Given the lifespan of the volcano, something is bound to happen again sooner or later. It could be after lunch, or it could be in 300 years... I wouldn't waste my time sitting in front of the TV waiting for it to happen".

05 August 2012

Kauri Coast Skydive Carnival

The parachute drop company that I fly for are holding a 3 day skydiving event out at Ruawai aerodrome (NZRW) next weekend. We flew over a couple of weeks back to plan it out with the local Otamatea Aero Club boys who were extremely enthusiastic about having us to stay. It should be a great few days if the weather holds off- more details can be found here!

29 July 2012

West Coast Travel Snaps

The weather gods that lord over New Zealand haven't been very nice to us this month. In fact, I've only managed to log six flights since June ended and had the last three weekends worth of parachute drop operations in Northland cancelled due to low cloud, wind and rain.

This has left me back home in Auckland, sitting at the computer and having a look through some photos my parents captured whilst on a recent trip to the South Island. I thought I'd share a selection of my favourite snaps of theirs, with my Dad being a bit of an aviation buff, these including a few airplane and aerial pics.

All Blacks A320 wing view
ZK-BXI and ZK-BXH ex Air NZ Fokker Friendships at Christchurch
The Southern Alps on as seen from the TranzAlpine scenic train
Misc. West Coast lake
Water Spout in the Tasman Sea
West Coast Sunset
West Coast waterfall
ZK-EAA Eagle Airways Beechcraft 1900d at Hokitika
Air NZ B737 wingview, climbing out of Christchurch International
And a few seconds later, climbing out abeam runway 11