28 June 2012

Once in a Lifetime

$25 to see the only airworthy De Havilland Mosquito in the world fly- KA114's only public display before it gets shipped off overseas. Facebook fans of Avspecs Ltd are coming to Ardmore from as far away as Denmark and the United Kingdom for the day, so it will be well worth the ticket price it seems!

18 June 2012

Four from Wednesday

Last Wednesday, a friend had a spare seat going in a C172 for an hour building cross country flight which I was happy to fill as ballast. The weather was beautiful and the visibility exceptional- I reckon I would have got some killer shots with the DSLR, but forgot to grab it as I was leaving home in a hurry. These four snaps below are off my phone camera instead:

Smoking permitted?!
Aviation rules were obviously a little more relaxed in the 1970's when this placard was made!
ZK-DSH, Michael Thorp's C182 that I did my type rating on, parked up at NZGB
Crystal clear water off Medlands Beach, the iPhone really doesn't do it justice!
A very secretive looking "$45 million Taiwanese language school" on Landlyst Road, Waihi.
It reminded us somewhat of a cult head quarters!  Does anyone know anything more about this place?

13 June 2012

iPad Aviation Apps


I've owned an iPad for just over a month now, long enough to download myself a bundle of aviation apps and properly test them out to see whether having an electronic tablet in the cockpit genuinely aids my flying or is just an expensive novelty. Short answer? Yup, I think it's great and just love it!

I've been happily using both the iPod touch and iPhone for the last wee while and felt familiar enough with the Apple iOS  to introduce a new big brother for my family of i-devices. The variant I've ended up with is the
iPad 2 Wi-Fi +3G (I originally purchased the cheaper Wi-Fi only model, and planned to tether it to my iPhone if I wanted to use 3G data, but it doesn't include an inbuilt A-GPS chip, which is crucial for the purpose I intended to use it). The newer iPad 3 has a faster processor to power it's higher resolution retina display, however, my iPad 2's 1024 x 768 pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch still looks crystal clear to my eyes, and didn't warrant me spending an extra $150.

The CAA's stance on using the iPad is as follows, paraphrased from AC91-20:
"The iPad is commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) electronic hardware that is not approved or certified by the CAA. However, it can be authorised for use by a flight examiner if it meets the EFB criteria discussed in this advisory circular. For air operator certificate holders, and operational approval via Op Spec must be issued to authorise the use of EFBs.

For part 91 operators, CAA authorisation for use is not required. The use of an EFB in lieu of paper is the decision of the aircraft operator and/or the pilot in command. FAA AC 91-78 and this Advisory Circular contain guidance on replacing paper products, including aeronautical charts, with an EFB.

Operators transitioning to a paperless cockpit should undergo an evaluation period during which the operator should carry paper backups of the material on the EFB. During this period, the operator should validate that the EFB is as available and reliable as the paper-based system being replaced."
Below is a rundown of my favourite aviation related apps that applicable for the skies over New Zealand. There are hundreds of others out there, although unfortunately most of them are for use in the USA only at this stage.

Air Nav Pro ($64.99 + in app purchase of $54.99 for 125:000 VNC maps)
A must have. The reason I purchased my iPad actually, after playing around with this app on a few friends devices in the air. Not only does it have a moving map that is pinch-and-zoomable, ultra clear, that uses legally current VNC charts with overlayed airspace boundaries for VFR navigation; but it auto rotates the whole chart if you desire, as well as all the VRP reporting point names! This comes in real handy when you are approaching the likes of 'Ngongotaha' from the north, with your map orientated south, and you need to make a position report and would otherwise attempt to read it written upside down.

Exact distances and direction to any point, be it aerodrome, VRP, nav aid, or custom waypoint are also easily displayed. It has a 'direct to' function just like a Garmin 1000, as well as the ability to record, save and playback your flight tracks. Another bonus is the detailed flight planning system that allows the creation of multi leg routes that will even calculate ETA's, fuel requirements with customisable inputs for cruising speed, fuel flow and wind speed / direction. Who needs to pass PPL theory exams to going cross country anymore?!

The features are endless, but I'll just quickly list four more of my favourites: Elevation data can be downloaded and plotted on screen below the main map. Instruments such as Altimeter, CDI with a rotatable OBS can be displayed in a variety of ways, along with bearing / distance / altitude / track / groundspeed at various places on the screen. A four finger swipe to the left or right of the screen pulls over a transparent 'scratch pad' for writing down any notes / ATC clearances with your finger or stylus (worth getting) mid flight. And finally, the app can be connected to various flight simulator programs (FSX / XPlane) via Wi-Fi if you want to test out and competently learn all its features before leaving the ground. This beats the pants off folding crumpled old VNC charts up and drawing lines with pencils and rulers any day.

MotionX HD ($2.59)
Just an upgrade of the iPhone app which I've already harped on about quite a bit on this blog- very easy to use GPS software with direct bearings to customised waypoints and for recording flight tracks capabilities. A neat touch is it's ability to summarise data such as distance, time, average / minimum / maximum speed, minimum / maximum altitudes, all calibrated in knots and feet. I still personally prefer to record my flights through this app than I do with Air Nav Pro.

EFBNZ (Free!)
Forgot lugging around bulky and heavy AIP volumes, when you can download and save everything you need from Vols 1,2,3 and 4 in .pdf format inside this app. You can even list your favourite airports and only download particular plates that would be of use to you. There's an easy to find icon which checks for updates and resaves either selected new plates, or every single new plate if a newer version was released during the last AIRAC. Brightness is adjustable for night flying, which I found very handy upon returning from recent IFR cross countries unexpectedly after dark.

Airfields NZ ($5.29)
I've been rocking this one on the iPhone for a while. It's another app for downloading and storing AIP plates offline, although isn't as tidy looking as EFBNZ. One main feature it trumps the above mentioned app on is it's inbuilt location database of all the AIP published aerodromes and nav aids, which will draw you a straight line over an opensource terrain map (needs to be downloaded before flying or will eat up your data units), but also utilizes the GPS chip to give you altitude, distance to, ground speed, ETA and track info). Not bad for a fiver and also has a favourites folder for your local aerodromes.

Aeroweather Light (Free!)
Enter ICAO codes from all over the world (only NZAA, NZWN and NZCH work in NZ) to quickly source the latest METAR and TAF. A handy option included is to flick between raw data or decoded plain English language. As most of my flying has been out of Ardmore, I've been using this app for years on all my Apple devices. A pro version is available but only has more features for US pilots.

Quickoffice HD ($24.99)
Not exclusively an aviation app, but has worked wonders for me due to the fact it can open, edit and save excel files. This comes in handy for viewing and updating the electronic version of my logbook I keep on my PC (download the template for this here), as well as weight and balance excel sheets for my 115 job. It has seamless dropbox integration which is a big plus, although the app also creates a folder in itunes for dragging and dropping when the iPad is plugged in with a USB cable.

Hold Here ($2.59)
Rotate the inbound radial of a hold, select right hand or left hand, then rotate the inbound track of your aircraft around the hold to figure out which entry procedure you will have to make. This helped me when I first started instrument flying and was getting confused between the parallel, offset and direct entries, and couldn't quite mentally picture it in my head. This one is a classic example of the clique saying "there's an app for that" but it cost me less than $3. Granted it's originally designed for the iPhone but works well enough on 2x enlarged mode on the iPad as well.

FlightRadar24 Pro ($4.19)
More for plane spotter types than pilots, but I still think it's quite cool. This app picks up ADS-B signals and displays air traffic in real time on a world wide map. In NZ, that equivalates to aircraft from ATR 72-600 size and up, as well as private jets and the occasional light twin or helicopter with an expensive transponder. It also has an alert for any aircraft worldwide that squarks 7700 or 7600, which happen far more regularly than I ever imagined!

There is also a free lite version available that works on both iPhone and iPad and is useful for following loved ones on flights around the world. Another work around is to just load the flightradar24.com website in your PC internet browser.

Safari Browser (Built in)
Checking facebook the weather forecasts, NOTAMs, filing flight plans through IFIS and watching the rain radar becomes heaps more clarified on a larger sized screen than it ever was on the iPhone. Plus the fact that it's portable and can be done in flight (assuming you have credit on your dataplan and 3G coverage) seals the deal for me!

The iPad is also a perfect platform for electronic checklists, however, I haven't found an app that I like for this yet (I'm open for recommendations!). Then again, I haven't really needed to either, as for all the two pilot crew flying I've done thus far, I've been in the left seat, and the instructor / testing officer in the right seat have had their own laminated paper checklists in hand.

Kneeboard wise- if you plan to use your iPad exclusively for flying, there are holders that include leg straps on sale at Downunder Pilot Shop here and here. Or, if you're like me, I still like to surf the web, play games and watch movies on it at home too, so purchased a regular Cygnett fold / stand cover instead. My girlfriend made me an elastic leg strap with Velcro fastenings that can easily be fed through the back of the normal case and around my thigh to hold it in place. I've seen other aircraft with iPads mounted on yokes and windscreens- but for the mean time in the C172, this suits me perfectly!

12 June 2012

Instrument Flight Test

Yesterday morning I sat and passed my SEIR flight test. It was good to get this one knocked off, especially as the testing officer was the same person who’d failed me first time around when sitting my CPL in 2011. It felt rewarding to come full circle and prove to him, and myself, that I’d satisfactorily progressed in my flying since the last time we’d met.

I was scheduled for a 9am start, so was out at Ardmore at 7.30 sharp to ready my aircraft. All the forecasts had been indicating a south westerly wind, so for the previous few days, I’d been mentally preparing myself to be tested on runway 18L approaches down at Hamilton.
I must have checked and printed out the weather a good 5 times before finally sitting down in the briefing room;  the Hamilton ATIS was showing runway 36R in use with a surface wind of 330/10 until around 10.00am. However, the testing officer was caught in traffic and arrived an hour late, by which time, the wind had swung around to favour the south facing runway. I was very thankful for this, as it reduced my mental workload a little and put me at ease now that I had a good idea of what to expect in the air.

The ground part of the test was nothing compared to the hour long drilling we had before the PPL or CPL tests.  The theory questions I was given were as follows:

•    IFR currency requirements?
•    IFR alternate requirements, and alternate requirements if making a GPS approach?
•    Could we nominate NZPP as an alternate?
•    Can we make visual departures at night?
•    Could we make a visual departure out of NZNV at night? If so, how?
•    Non published alternate aerodrome minima for non precision / precision approaches?
•    What do we need in sight to continue below MDA?
•    Fuel requirements and alternate fuel requirements?
•    What would I do if the PFD failed in flight?
•    Difference between fly-over and fly-by waypoints? Examples of both.
•    Loss of comm procedures (In IMC on the climb out, on radar vectors, approaching the aerodrome)?

I knew the flight would be NZAR – NZHN- NZAR, but was next told I could plan whatever route I’d like to get there, then to complete a RNAV STAR, a hold, an approach, and missed approach, followed by at least 30 degrees of arc, a VOR/DME hold, and a VOR/DME approach, a circling approach to join downwind, and then vacate VFR back to Ardmore.

Leading up to my test, I was told by my instructor to either expect the VOR/DME at Hamilton and RNAV back at Ardmore, or the above scenario for my test. We’d practiced both and I was confident on all the procedures, so planned myself a SY3G SID with the LAKES1A RNAV STAR that had just been updated on the last set of AIP amendments (an altitude restriction had been removed from the plate).

Having not flown the Garmin 1000 variant of the C172 much at all before starting the IFR course, I’d had trouble getting the ‘flow’ of the pre start and pre takeoff checks to begin with, but after a lot of practice- especially at home in FSX, I didn’t miss a beat as I prepared to line up after running the engine up and setting up all my COM and NAV frequencies.

Just before I taxied out to the runway holding point, the testing officer asked if I had the hood to cover my eyes ready within reach on the back seat... Bugger! I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten to grab one from the front desk. I was almost certain it would be a straight fail, however the testing officer said it was him who’d forgotten to include it on the little checklist he’d written on the whiteboard in the briefing room before we went out to the aircraft, and that it wasn’t a big deal. Phew! After this, I quickly taxied back to the apron and radioed base to get an instructor to run one out to the airplane.

Back in the zone, we pumped through the final checklists and got airborne. The SID was completed without any issues, and I then asked my copilot to request the LAKES1A STAR from Auckland Control. We were given it, and after passing the Surrey NDB, completing the top of climb checks, and identifying the Hamilton VOR/DME, we went direct to LAKES.

The wind at 6000’ was in the 30 knot range, so I was holding a lot of drift, and I knew briefing the first approach would be pretty tricky without autopilot. Just as I whipped open the plate and began reading, the testing officer offered to act as autopilot and fly the aircraft for me whilst I finished the briefing. Magic! If only I’d known this throughout my training, it would have made things so much easier! The little old 172 that gets buffeted all around the place even when you’re devoting all your attention to maintain a straight line of tracking on the best of days so this was a massive help.

We next received clearance for the approach, via Tayla. I made a direct hold entry, but wasn’t required to complete a whole lap, just ran through the approach checks and began our descent. I asked my co pilot for altitude and distance read outs to keep me on profile, which worked out near perfect. We were handed over to the tower at the FAF, weren’t given any nasty surprises, and completed a nice and simple missed approach on the 176 radial, where we were then handed back over to control.

For the VOR/DME arc, I asked my copilot to request the 12 DME arc join from the inside, first tracking back overhead the HN beacon, then on the 320 radial outbound. Piece of cake. Once on the radial, the testing officer once again held the aircraft steady for me as I briefed the approach, then we intercepted the arc at 5000 feet, and flew around to the right towards Tayla again. This time it was a parallel entry to the holding pattern, followed by 1 lap to descend for the approach. With the wind hammering me from the left hand side, I made sure I held a decent chunk of drift, however, I was watching my XTK value on the MFD and found myself pretty tight compared to my normal distance off the inbound side. Anyway, we were soon established in the hold again, and handed over to the tower without any dramas.

The circling minima for 18L at Hamilton is 660ft, so the testing officer simulated a 700ft base and got me to keep my hood on all the way down to that altitude. We’d been cleared to visually overfly the runway, then break off for a low level right hand downwind overhead the tower. I had a 40ft window of altitude to keep myself in, which is harder than it sounds, especially with the windshear and low level turbulence. I think I may have slipped above and below the limit slightly, but apparently it was still worth an 85%+ mark on my results sheet, so it can’t have been that bad!

Downwind, we requested to vacate back to Ardmore VFR, and were given clearance out the control zone below 2500ft. At this point the test was officially over, and all I had to do was hit the ‘Direct To’ button on the Garmin to take us back to base. I chatted with the testing officer about parachute operations, which he’d done some 1000 hours worth of back in the 1990’s, before he remembered flying unusual attitudes was part of the flight test criteria.

That meant I had to put my hood back on briefly as we tracked through the training area and completed three fairly standard recoveries. Next came a left base join for 21 at Ardmore- the runway EOL was considerably reduced due to a new taxiway being constructed, but I told him I’d completed performance calculations before takeoff for a MAUW landing, and we had plenty of room. He was happy with that and the landing wasn’t any different from usual.

Back at school, I was asked to debrief the flight in front of my instructor. I ran through each step as I have here, mentioning it was pretty choppy up there but I believed I’d followed all the correct procedures and not deviated from track or busted airspeed or altitude restrictions.  Following this, I was then given the handshake and told I’d flown a good test and the rating was signed off. I’m very happy with that, as my IFR KDR’s all expire next Friday and I wouldn’t have had much time for a resit! The testing officer also commented that my flying had improved greatly since we last was in the right hand seat next to me and couldn’t offer any criticisms except from saying something along the lines of focus on the task at hand during IFR, as I’d asked him a question about how to log the hours to this flight which had popped into my mind whilst on initial approach, where he’d rather me devote all my brain power to sticking on profile and maintaining good speed. 

It was the first time I’d received a solid 85%+ for every single aspect of the test, apart from ‘personal preparation’ section, which I was only given 75% for. I later found out this was because I’d decided not to wear a tie- turns out polished dress shoes, a new shift and cuff links aren’t quite enough! :P

The next step on my flying agenda is to convert this SEIR into a MEIR, which includes a type rating on the Ardmore Flying School BE76 Duchess’. I believe there is about a 4 week delay before I can get started on that, and I don’t know too much about how the conversion takes place, or whether I will have to chance to include an ILS and NDB endorsement with it. Having said that, I’m still quite excited about flying in the larger twin engine aircraft and will report all associated updates right here on the blog.

07 June 2012

Ardmore Airshow Photos

Last weekend was a goodie. Flying parachutists up in Whangarei on the Saturday, and then half studying, half watching the air displays during the NZ Warbirds D-Day open day out at Ardmore on the Sunday.

Photos below, from my Dad's DSLR which I'm still learning the ropes on, are as follows: Roaring 40's Harvard team, Andrew Hope in the Miles Messenger, Dave Phillips' heart stopping Tiger Moth aerobatic routine, Doug Brooker in his MX2, Dave Brown in the Strikemaster, the Antarctic Orange DHC-2 Beaver, JEM aviation's recently restored Yak 3 (ZK-VVS) up from Blenhiem, T-28 Trojan, L-39 Albatross, the Auckland Mini Club, Frank Parker's P-40, the Dak and a dead man + a few other military dress up types that were lurking around the place.

More photos from the pros can be found here and here.

EDIT: And for those keen to see the KA114- soon to become the world's only airworthy de Havilland Mosquito, I've just been emailed to say the date for the only planned public showing in New Zealand (at Ardmore) has been changed from Sunday 23rd September until Saturday 29th September. Those twin Merlin V12's will be amazing to hear roaring down the runway!