24 April 2012

April Update

Things have been busy with me this month.

My IF simulations haven't been moving through as quickly as I was expecting. This is because I've been buddied up with two other students, so each session, one of us flies the sim and logs the hours whilst the other two help with the planning and co-pilot checks enroute. I also work a 10 hour non aviation related shift on Mondays to be able to afford petrol for my weekend job, which limits me to a maximum of two sim flights that I can actually log during each Tuesday to Friday rotation. This isn't ideal- I currently have a total of 23.4 simulated instrument time but need 40 all up before I can sit the SEIR flight test.

On Saturday mornings, I've been driving up to Whangaeri airport for my drop pilot job. This is still in the C172 at this stage, although our company also own a larger C182 capable of carrying five passengers. As the CSU engine management is more complex than the C172's fixed pitch system, the boss hasn't started me on it immediately, bearing in mind the only hours I've logged on the type were for my initial rating. Thus far, I've cleaned it, fueled it, taxied it, done run ups, and had a ride to altitude kneeling in the back whilst the other pilot talked me through specific parachute drop procedures that I need to be aware of for the model.

Because of the sometimes challenging autumn weather conditions, I'm still sharing the workload with the more experienced pilot at the dropzone, but am gradually building up my hours and earning weekly pay checks. We either drop from 10,000ft or 12,000ft, and have landing areas at NZWR, Ruakaka Beach, Ocean Beach and Paihia North Beach. In fact, we're the only operator in New Zealand that do tandem beach landings which is pretty cool.

Another time I'll add more detail of how I go about each parachute run, but for now, here are some iPhone snaps out the window of my office in the sky- mostly taken whilst in the back of the C182.

Last Thursday, I also took an AFS Garmin 1000 C172 on an hour building flight down the country, in an attempt to deliver a friend and his girlfriend to Palmerston North, where he was picking up a car he'd just bought online. Beautiful clear anticyclonic conditions made controlled VFR at 8500 feet a breeze down the line, although I was forced to divert to New Plymouth by low lying cloud covering my way into the Manawatu as I passed by Ohakune. This wasn't that much of problem however, as my mate managed to grab a rental car for the rest of the way south, and I was able to refuel and continue back to Ardmore at 6500 feet, clocking up 4.2 on the hobbs before lunchtime. Below are some more iPhone snaps from that day.

05 April 2012

Backseating the Duchess

After two weeks of solid simulator sessions, I took a break today and jumped into the back of one of AFS's BE76 Duchess' whilst a friend of mine went on a cross country flight preparing for his ILS/NBD endorsement. 

It was a pleasant change from the classroom, and a good chance to see some real IFR flying in action- I followed along with my volume 2 and 3 plates whilst we flew laps of the hold overhead HN, preformed two teardrop approaches for 18L at Hamilton, then nipped up to Whenuapai for a 03 ILS approach seeing as Auckland International was unavailable for training today.

It was pretty choppy up there, something like 50 knots up at 6000 in the Waikato, although the skies were clear enough to snap a few photos. They are posted below a GPS track recorded on my iPhone, although I only remembered to start the app up after we'd crossed the SY NDB about 20 minutes out of Ardmore! Click here to see a larger zoomed out version of the entire flight.

'Actual' IFR in the clouds
NZHN from the hold
Vectored over Piha
On the ILS at NZWP
Going missed approach at WP
Having a perv at the demonstrator Cessna C208B back at Ardy

01 April 2012

The Best of Both Worlds

This is regarding my last update with a job offer at Whangarei and continuing my flight training at Ardmore for my instrument rating. I've been incredibly fortunate enough to be offered the position as a drop pilot at the weekends over the Winter season (from now until September-ish), going full time up there over the Summer.

I'm obviously stoked about this, to be given the opportunity and then be accommodated in such a way that I can finish off my IFR rating. I was due to start flying with Skydive Ballistic Blondes this weekend, and was up at the dropzone at 8.30am yesterday morning- however, as is all too often the case in aviation, the weather crapped out. 

The cloud base was sitting too low for me to get up with the other pilot and do the few hours introductory practice with some 'sportie' jumpers, a requirement I need to complete before I'll be allowed up to drop tandem parachutists on my own. Instead I ran through some local area groundwork and was given the tour of the airport, then drove over to the boss's place to fill out some paper work. Fingers crossed for an improvement in the wx over Easter!

As for the IFR at school, I've been paired up with a good mate who started out in the same theory course as me back in 2009. We got our CPL's around the same time and both need the rating complete before our exam credits expire mid year. After having not really looked at our instrument flying notes in a long time, we've been dropped in the deep end and have spent each morning learning how to track VOR's with wind, fly holds with various entries procedures and various wind scenarios, fly DME arcs and GPS approaches with wind. It's been a pretty steep learning curve, particularly for me having not flown the Garmin 1000 very much before this simulator, but now we're building hours towards our rating through simulated cross countries flight plans, with SID's, routes between way points, missed approaches and STAR's. 

I have to admit, I've found altitude holding in the sim quite a challenge with the trim wheel unable to reduce any apparent pressure of the weight of the control column. It's incredibly easy to over pitch or suddenly climb or drop away from your preselected altitude- especially whilst your concentrating on things like approach briefings, all though I'm sure that's the excuse everyone gives their instructors. Admittedly, the autopilot function on the school's BE76s for those doing a MEIR instead of SEIR would get rid of this, although flying a twin engine aircraft introduces a myriad of other problems I won't even begin to list!

In other news, the RNZAF held it's annual airshow down at Ohakea Air Base which I was originally going to attend before knowing about the drop pilot job start date. I'd applied to land a AFS C172 at NZOH as per the AIP supplement instructions on the 1st of March, however, the reply I received indicated 120 aircraft had already registered and filled up the available general aviation parking slots. This caused me to plan an arrival into Palmerston North instead and ask an old friend to give me a lift into the show- which seemed like a reasonable plan at the time. 

The 70,000 other attendees also thought this to be a good idea, which resulted with a 55km long traffic jam on state highway one between Palmy and the base. Many people missed the flying displays all together, or gave up and turned away. The Herald posted this story on the gridlock, which I've screen capped below. Notice the caption labelling the F-18's as Spitfires. I'm unsure if this is just shoddy journalism or an April Fool's day joke...

A decent collection of both professional and amateur photographs from the event can be found at the Wings Over New Zealand website here.