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

25 July 2012

Air Show to rival Wanaka announced

Today the Herald reported plans are being made for a large scale international airshow for Auckland Anniversary Weekend in January 2013. Originally planned as a free event to be viewed from along the downtown waterfront, lack of council sponsorship means the location has been moved to a ticketed viewing area at Ardmore airfield instead, with cockpit action to be broadcast live on big screens around the venue.

Organiser Peter Newport, the man behind the 'Sky Challenge Air Race' concept that was announced this time last year, is claiming the event will rival Warbirds over Wanaka- a pretty extravagant call seeing as the biannual show at NZWF is widely accepted as the largest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere!

Immediately this sounded like a too good to be true news story, with zero mention of this on social media or around the airfield before this evening. It reminded me of the "Wings and Wheels over Waikato" scam back in 2008 when Kenneth Ross had promised a high-profile USA-based air acrobat team for an airshow at Hamilton International Airport that never happened. Incidentally, it's good to see justice being served for all the people that he put out of pocket in the form of a nine months home detention and 200 hours community service sentence.

However, NZ Warbirds president Frank Parker and NZ aerobatic champion Richard Hood listed as the key people on the 'About Us' section of the official website- reputable names in the NZ airshow circuit. It is also spaced a week in advance from the Wings Over Wairarapa airshow due to be held on 18th - 20th January, so will give those upper North Islanders who are unable to travel a taste of what they may have missed!

More details, including attractions and ticket prices are to be released on October 1st at www.nzairshow.com

24 July 2012

Flying Lesson GoPro Videos

The main purpose I had for creating this blog about my flying activities was to try and give other student pilots in the country an accurate taste of what they were in for throughout their training.

If this is the same reason why you've stumbled upon this site, but you're not in the mood to trawl through a year and half worth of blog posts- don't fret, I've found an alternative source of the same information that is much more visually captivating!

Youtube member 'eyeflyby' has created a series of cockpit mounted GoPro videos, recording his entire flights in the Cessna 162 Skycatcher as he trains for his PPL with Auckland Aero Club out of Ardmore. Below is his first movie, from his trial flight introduction at just under 35 minutes in length.

The rest can be viewed over on his youtube channel. By the looks of it, there is everything uploaded from the climbing and descending lessons, to stalls, turns and circuit work. In the description of each video are links to various segments of the flight which you can fast forward to if you're after an example of a particular maneuver. These sorts of clips would have been of great help to me and it's awesome to see them being shared for other up-and-comers, especially in high definition!

21 July 2012

Tongariro Alert

GNS Science has officially lifted Mount Tongariro's volcanic alert status to Level 1, and it's ICAO aviation hazard status from green to yellow due to a 'sudden rise' in volcanic activity yesterday. This is similar to what happened at Mount Ruapehu last April which still currently sits at Level 1, along with White Island. However, both of these volcanoes are green on the aviation hazard scale indicating a normal, non-eruptive state.

GeoNet has volcanic alert levels ranging from 0 to 5 for frequently active cone volcanoes such at those on the Central Plateau. The status for alert Level 0, which Tongariro was sitting on up untill yesterday morning, reads 'Usual dormant or quiescent state'. Alert Level 1 reads 'Signs of volcano unrest', and is still down at the bottom of the scale, only indicating a departure from typical background surface activity.

Having said that, this is just the second time I've seen the yellow aviation alert code on a New Zealand volcano. The related volcanic earthquakes at Tongariro has been deemed significant enough for a NOTAM to be issued that establishes a temporary 3 mile radius volcanic hazard zone (NZV312), valid until the August 20th 2012. 

Flight within a VHZ requires pilots to operate in VMC by day only, in order to be able to observe any volcanic ejecta or ash plume. Further reading on VHZ alert levels within New Zealand's airspace can be found in AIP Volume 1, ENR 5.3 - 11.

WeatherWatch.co.nz has coverage of the Tongariro seismic events here.
GeoNet's Tongariro activity can also be checked here.

7/8/12 Edit:
Mount Tongariro erupted at 11.50pm last night changing the aviation code to RED. An ash plume stretching up to 20,000ft has been blown eastwards over towards Hawkes Bay, closing Napier airport and cancelling many domestic flights. Follow the events as they unfold here.

17 July 2012

New Ardmore 115 Operators

Brett Nicholls' Ardmore based BAC 167 is now available for public joyrides thanks to the team behind Strikemaster Ltd obtaining their Part 115 certificate. This awesome adventure aviation experience can be booked through the jetfighter.co.nz website and was given nationwide publicity in a well filmed cockpit camera segment on One News last Friday.

The original 2 minute clip can be viewed here, along with an extended 5 minute clip with reporter Kim Vinnell here. Below is another great in flight video of NZ6370 from the Historical Aviation Film Unit, filmed whilst Dave Brown practised his low level display routine for the RNZAF 75th celebrations in March of this year.

Word on the street is that two other Ardmore based warbirds, the 2 seater T.9 Spitfire and P-40 Kittyhawk have also just received their Part 115 certificate to take passengers on joy flights. When this weather sorts itself out, it's going to be a very busy summer at NZAR!

13 July 2012

SkyDemon for iPad

As I recently mentioned in my iPad Aviation Apps post, the reason I initially purchased the device was pretty much solely to use Air Nav Pro whilst flying VFR. However, since writing that article, I've discovered another very strong contending app for air navigation by the name of SkyDemon from Divelements Limited.

In a nutshell, it's a moving-map-point-and-drag flight planning kit just like A.N.P., just without the actual AIP NZ licensed VNC maps. Instead, they have very similar free download of vector drawn charts that are updated each 28 days in alignment with the international AIRAC cycle. In most cases, this means that the SkyDemon vector charts are nearly always more accurate than the printed charts, which are typically updated every 12 months.

SkyDemon also focuses a lot more on the vertical plane of navigation than A.N.P. does. Whilst it's possible to download and display an elevation graph in A.N.P., SkyDemon takes this one step further by displaying TOC/TOD based on your customised rate of climb, then alerts you to whether your chosen flight path will infringe on terrain within a custom set of parameters, eg 500ft over unpopulated areas or 1000ft over urban areas. Alerts are also shown if your flight path comes close to, or actually enters controlled airspace, danger/restricted/hazard area, as well as drawing them on screen in both the lateral and vertical planes as seen in this screenshot below:

NOTAMs, TAFs, METARs, airport plates and hazard warnings can all be tabbed from the left side of the screen, and all your needed flight plan and enroute GPS functions can be accessed from the top and left hand side of the screen both before and during flight. Another neat feature included is winds aloft data that is overlayed on the chart to visually aid holding drift whilst flying, indicated by the blue marks in the above screenshot.

Furthermore, a desktop version for windows and mac is downloadable, so you can do all your flight planning from the comfort of home, then sync it to your device through the likes of dropbox for use in the air. That's one feature I really like over Air Nav Pro.

On the negative side, this all comes at a cost. A rather large cost. After a free 30 day no obligation trial, a subscription to SkyDemon costs NZD $194 in the first year, then NZD $96 to renew in subsequent years. If you wish to use SkyDemon for navigation as well as for planning, the prices are NZD $291 and NZD $145 instead! Ouch!

12 July 2012

Christchurch Scenic Flight

After spending the first week of the current July school holidays up in Whangarei covering the other company pilot who was away on vacation, I took a short trip away myself for the beginning of the second week down to the South Island.

I was catching up with a mate who flies at the International Aviation Academy of New Zealand (IAANZ) based at Christchurch International Airport, who was decent enough to take my girlfriend and I on a scenic flight in the pride of their single engine fleet, a 200 horse power Cherokee Arrow ZK-DUY. 

Seeing the Feb 22nd earthquake damage is pretty humbling, even a year and a half on. At night time, the CBD is completely dark and eerily quiet, but we got a really good perspective of the extent of the damage from the air during perfect CAVOK conditions on Tuesday morning. I'll let the photos do the talking:

The Canterbury Plains and Southern Alp foothills
Christchurch CBD from the East
Liquefaction at AMI Stadium
Plenty of demolished lots along Madras Street
An equal amount of cranes to high rises in the CBD
Cathedral Square
The reopened shipping container shopping centre on Cashel Mall
More demolition in the square
Not a bad ride at all
Cheers Tom!