26 December 2013

More Floatplane Photos

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I've recently been doing some work for the NZ Aviation News with Auckland Seaplanes.

Firstly we flew an air to air flight with the magazine editor for the feature article on the Beaver floatplane in the current December/January summer holiday issue.
Unfortunately our preferred camera ship was unavailable and we had to formate with a slower cruising Piper Cub which made positioning difficult with the photographer. Below are a sample of his snaps which turned out great despite the airspeed issues:

© John King
© John King
© John King
© John King
© John King
I was also able to visit the team on my rostered day off in Auckland last week and took a second flight in the Beaver out to Man O' War Bay at the far eastern end of Waiheke Island. Whilst the other pax deboarded for some wine tasting at the beach front vineyard, I waded out waist deep in the water to grab some promo pictures for the company to use in 2014. I've uploaded a few of my favourite results here, including some aerials from the trip out, which hopefully do the DHC2 and her surroundings justice!

18 December 2013

C-17 visits NZWR

A quick video filmed by one of my workmates when a RAAF C-17 Globemaster thundered into Whangarei out of the blue yesterday. The aircraft had taken off out of Whenuapai, and then visited NZWK, NZWN and NZHN before surprising us in Northand on a training sortie.

Another one of my workmates also managed to get his camera out just in time to capture these great snaps of A41-207 on one of it's low approach and overshoots:

03 December 2013

SIGMET Decoding

As of November 2013, SIGMET advisorys for GA pilots using MetFlight for weather information are now issued solely in latitude and longitude coordinates, replacing the much easier to decode place names reference.

I've found a simple way to visualise the SIGMET coverage area is through Skyvector.com, with world VFR selected as map type. For example, today's "NZZC SIGMET 14 VALID 022306/030306 NZKL- NZZC NEW ZEALAND FIR SEV ICE FCST S OF S3516 E17355 AND N OF S3700 E17448 FL120/230 MOV S 25KT NC=" shows up as this box between Kerikeri and Auckland International:

The CAA have also released this .PDF file of all the WGS-84 coordinate reference points that will be used in the SIGMETs, comprising of airfield locations, NDB/DME's and prominent mountains/capes.

21 November 2013

Ardmore Open Day (Nov 24th)

Ardmore Airport is also opening it's gates to the public this coming Sunday for a special 75 Years of Harvards airshow. 

Nelson Airshow

Nelson Airport is celebrating it's 75th anniversery with an open day for the public on the 30th November.

The RNZAF Red Checkers will be performing at both 10.30am and 3.15pm, along with the Avro Anson and Nanchang mentioned in the flyer above. 22 other aircraft will be on display, including some local classics.

Sadly this will also be the last chance for members of the public to catch a flight on Southern DC-3 ZK-AMY before the aircraft is put on permanent static display at the Ashburton Aviation Museum. Scenic flights will be priced at $100 for adults, with children under 15 free. Seats can be booked by calling 0800 323 359!

20 November 2013

Northern Joyrides

Having relocated to Whangaeri for the summer again (see the map insert to the right of the blog indicating my current base), I've managed to nab myself two joyrides over the course of the week during my down time between flying the parachute drop ships.

Ride number one was in Gyrocopter KIW, based at WR and flown by a local pilot 'Rusty' who has got to be one of the most enthusiastic aviators I've ever met! I'd always been keen to experience open cockpit flight, but up until this particular day I'd been rather apprehensive about jumping into a seat that wasn't shielded from spinning rotor blades above my head.

I also wasn't familiar with the technical operation of AutoGyro aircraft types, and was surprised to learn than the forward travel of the machine was provided solely by the 'push' propeller at the rear, with the horizontal blade assembly above the cockpit spinning freely with the oncoming airflow acting like a giant circular wing.

After takeoff from the airport, we headed out over the low flying zone towards Ruakaka Beach and made several approaches to land on the sand, which was another first for me. The Gyrocopter cruises at around 85 knots, but can be stopped in next to no distance at walking pace, making it an extremely versatile aircraft.

After a few touch and go's in different directions, we climbed up a little to cross the harbour entrance to Mount Mania and hugged the hilly terrain all the way back along the peninsular towards Onerahi. I've logged a few hundred hours flying at a higher altitude around the same area, so it was brilliant to get down low and see the contrasting view that only a gyrocopter can provide. Being open to the elements was exilerating, although I only had my iPhone in hand as a camera and was rather hesitant to take too many photos in case I dropped it over the side...

Ride number two was a jumpseat in an Air Nelson Q300 on my rostered day off back to Auckland. The captain was an ex- Ardmore instructor who was keen for me to observe the short twenty minute sector that the 50 seaters are now providing in lieu of Eagle's 1900d 19 seaters.

Whilst the day had been CAVOK conditions in the 'Rei, thunderstorms were seemingly brewing everywhere south of the city, and quite a few track deviations had to be requested to advoid CB build ups that topped much higher than the cruising level of 10,000 feet!

Tauranga had been set as an alternate airdrome, with conditions at NZAA looking marginal, and Hamilton covered with lightning bolts and hail at time of arrival. A steep descent of 2400 ft/minute had to be made to punch through the cloud as quick as possible, reminiscent of VSI readings in the 182 I fly for Ballistic Blondes, and great fun to observe from the pointy end of the Dash!

Beaver Floatplane

It was a few months ago that a fellow aviation blogger stumbled across the aucklandseaplanes.com website and sparked my interest in the arrival of a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver float plane in my home city.

Through the NZ Aviation News, I was fortunate enough to meet the crew who are now operating ZK-AMA on scenic flights and private charters from the Viaduct Harbour, and tag along for a flight in the right hand seat over the Hauraki Gulf at the end of last week.

The feature article I've written on Auckland Seaplanes will be available for reading in the December/January summer holiday issue when it arrives in stores soon- but to tide you over until then, I've uploaded few of the photographs below that I managed to snap whilst on board.

The editor of the magazine was flying in a Piper Cub which we formated with over the water for some air to air publicity photograph opportunities. Once I have receive the results of his efforts via email, the images will duly be making their way onto this blog in another update as time permits! 

CEO Chris Sattler, and his aircraft
Chief pilot Steve conducting pre flight checks
Unusual throttle stack arrangement
Auckland waterfront on takeoff
The float paralleling Auckland harbour bridge
Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island
Palm Cove, Waiheke Island
Nani Island, on the northern coast of Waiheke
Slowing down for air to air shots with a Piper Cub
The short wake trail showing the Beavers stopping distance
EDIT: The article can now be read online for free here.

01 November 2013

China Southern 787

China Southern Airlines replaced their daily A330 Guangzhou to Auckland service with their brand new Boeing 787-8 this week, making the company the first to fly a scheduled Dreamliner airframe in and out of New Zealand.

Whilst out at NZAA on Thursday, I caught the colourful B-2727 arriving on runway 05 under a murky grey sky:

And also some of the local narrowbodies going about their business:

Cessna 206 Type Rating

Another new entry into the front of my logbook this week was a Cessna 206 type rating. I've always liked the look of the 206, and having spent quite a bit of time flying the 182, saw it as the logical next step up in the Cessna family of aircraft to take. 

I'd spotted ZK-NOC visiting Whangarei over the summer, and it turned out that one of the Ardmore instructors is very friendly with the owner and was able to organise another instructor to take me up in it.

Differences between my current steed and the 206 include a larger IO-520 Continental engine (300hp max, 285hp continuous), longer fuselage with an extra row of seats and two rear cabin doors, and a heavier all up weight of 3600 lbs compared to 2950lbs of the 182N.

Handling wise, it's noticeably heavier on the controls, although the trade off between the larger engine and greater mass of the aircraft results in not too dissimilar feedback through the yoke than the 182. Performance was remarkable with just 2 POB to start with, especially the 20 degree of flat max performance takeoff we made from Ardmore's grass runway- although I also got to fly a few circuits with a full load of passengers to experience how the aircraft responds at that weight. Go arounds with 40 degree of flap, 6 POB and the nose trimmed for landing are known to be dangerous, and I was briefed on this before carrying one out on the second to last approach of the day.

Unlike the 172 and 182 aircraft, the 206 also has a fuel selector that only goes LEFT/RIGHT/OFF. No both tank failsafe- definitely something to be concious of whilst operating, thankfully NOC is fitted with a ringing timer you can set before takeoff to remind you to switch over tanks to keep the contents balanced after 30/60 minutes.

During the flight, I had to demonstrate stalls in clean and landing configuration, increasing the glide range with the pitch lever for a simulated engine failure, steep turns and some low flying along the coast at 500ft with the manifold pressure up at 25 inches- lots of fun! I'm not sure when I'll next be back in the cockpit of a Stationair, but am definitely keen for some more hours in one in the future!

NDB/ILS Endorsement

In July, I sat and passed my initial Multi Engine Instrument Rating issue flight test, for VOR and GPS navigation aids. Yesterday, I added the NDB and ILS endorsements to my MEIR, finalising my flight training with Ardmore Flying School.

The plan was to have this done the in the fortnight following my first MEIR test, but as per usual at Ardmore, instructor/aircraft availability resulted in a delay of three weeks before I was offered a re currency simulator session. This was followed by a few more ground sims, to get my NDB tracking and intercepts up to scratch, and a further two practice flights in the Duchess before I was able to get myself the test flight.

The test date got bounced around a few times due to the testing officer I'd been booked with having other work commitments on a roster that kept changing. Eventually I got paired up with the school CFI on the Wednesday of this week, and even though there was an aircraft change last minute due to unscheduled maintenance, I was finally able to go for my final flight.

The route I was given was: AR - SY3G - HN (NDB/DME 18L holds, approach, missed approach)- BUDEN 1 - HN5A - EMRAG - AA (ILS/DME 23L approach) - VFR AR. Estimated time off blocks was 0900 local, with the flight time expected to be a little under two hours cruising at 150 knots.

However, the new aircraft we'd been assigned, ZK-JED had an inoperative cabin heater, and with the freezing level being 1000 ft lower than our cruising altitude of 6000 feet down to Hamilton, the testing officer elected to taxi down to the mechanic's hanger to try get it sorted before takeoff. This is when problem number two occurred, the right hand engine's bendix drive was having trouble engaging and it took a good 10 attempts to get it started. The mechanics couldn't fix either of the issues in a hurry when we visited them either- so we just had to make do with cold feet.

IFR clearance was requested and received, pre takeoff checklists ran, and I began rolling. Simulated engine failure #1 was on the runway, #2 on the SID, and then I proceeded as normal. The flight was straight forward enough until we were approaching the Hamilton NDB, when we got vectored out of 090 and descended from 6000 to 5000. A few minutes later we were told to head back to the beacon and rejoin the hold which changed the entry from a offset to a parallel one. On the first lap we were cleared to descend to 4000 to expect the approach, but on the inbound, told to climb back to 5000 and continue to hold due traffic. Engine failure #3 was on the second lap, following by another descent to 4000! Engine failure #4 was on the base turn for runway 18L, which remained failed for the rest of the approach until passing the beacon. Apart from calculating my TOD point a little too early and levelling off briefly on the outbound leg of the approach, I managed to hit all my profile altitudes squarely with one engine inoperative.

We then tracked back north after climbing out from Hamilton, following the HN5A STAR towards EMRAG, in IMC for the duration of the cruise at 5000ft. Auckland was busy, and we were cleared number 5 for the ILS. We were told to reduce speed to 110 knots, then vectored through the centreline for 23L to the north, before being bought back around to the south west for a 231 inbound. The testing officer reckoned my corrections were too much and too often, even though I'd been making a concious effort to keep them tiny, however it was still within flight test limits and at DA we broke off for the 8 mile VFR leg to Ardmore over the Manukau Harbour.

It wasn't a perfect flight test, and I'd made some mistakes hitting 'ALT' on the autopilot panel rather than 'VS' and 'ALT' together to hold the rate of climb, however it was still a pass that I was satisfied with. I'm just glad that after months of waiting, I can finally call myself fully instrument rated (well 2 pilot at least), and can head back to Northland to bulk my hours parachuting dropping over the summer!

30 October 2013

Life on the Flipside

Earlier in the year, I had helped my boss at Skydive Ballistic Blondes write a company proposal for the Westpac Northland Business Excellence Awards. There were several category for which local companies could enter themselves under- one of which was the ACC Workplace Safety Award which we were stoked to hear we had won at the award ceremony last Friday night!

Here's what the official press release said about us:

Kelly and her team impressed the judges with their ongoing commitment to health and safety, particularly in looking after the welfare of what is sometimes a transient workforce. They celebrate success as a team that is seen as a close - knit family and have had no major incidents since their inception in 2005. St aff are given ambitious training plans to take them to increased levels of competency e.g. that of instructor, and this is given through different methods of training, including CAA safety days and risk - based scenarios for pilot training. Skydive’s commitment to their customer’s safety was also evident from the strict selection criteria adhered to for ‘less fit’ clients. Well done Skydive. Keep up the great work and we wish you well for future years. The judges recognise you have been proactive towards health and safety and congratulate you on the work you have done. This includes the investment you are putting into your staff with regard to training and taking them to higher levels of responsibility. You allow your workers to attend voluntary CAA safe ty days and continually look at ways of improving your knowledge. We are impressed how you celebrate success in your business and involve everyone in what appears to be a ‘close - knit’ family.
Anyhow, as a thank you, I was given a special tandem skydive experience by the team, and got to jump out the C182 I usually fly and freefall in formation with five of my workmates on the Monday of Labour Weekend just gone.

It was fantastic to experience the adrenaline pumping rush that the guys I've seen jumping out my plane door hundreds of times before have, and I now fully understand why they keep coming back and spend all thier money doing it over and over! It's one of those activities that no amount of words on a computer screen will ever do justice too, so thankfully the skydivers put together this special video for me to document the day:

11 September 2013

Wild WX

The South Island got a battering from mother nature yesterday, with a low pressure system in the Southern Ocean creating some of the strongest winds I've yet to observe on the MetFlight weather charts.

The upper winds were up to 90 knots at 10,000ft over much of the bottom end of the country, with gale force strength (34–40 knots) at ground level in Dunedin causing a Jetstar A320 missed approach and diversion to Auckland, a Virgin Australia 737 diversion to Christchurch, plus seven other arrivals as well as eight departures cancelled.

High winds rolled a truck just north of Dunedin © George Heard

04 September 2013

Free September Issue

The editor at the NZ Aviation News kindly chose one of my photographs to be placed on the front cover of this month's issue to accompany the article I wrote about the SOFIA 747's visit to our country this winter.

As a one off special, you can actually download this month's digital edition of the magazine from the NZ Aviation News website for free, using the discount code 'SEPTGIVEAWAY' which is valid until the 25th September. The magazine usually retails for  $6.00 in book stores, or $3.50 online, so go grab it from this link whilst you still can. My piece of writing can be found on page 12!

25 August 2013

Night Current

As an excuse to upload this long exposure photo above, I may as well also mention that I recently became night current again. This occurred following an after dark visit to Ardmore with a photography friend that reminded me it had been well in excess of 90 days since I had made three take off and three landings after ECT!

However, I only managed to achieve one circuit at Ardmore with a B Cat beside me in a 172, as just as we'd lined up on runway 03, another aircraft in the downwind advised us low cloud was spreading below the 1300 foot night circuit altitude. The B Cat decided to give it a bash anyway, and I ended up levelling off closer to the daytime circuit height of 1100 feet, although still managed to pull off a half decent landing to get the tick.

When the wx improves, I'll start chipping away at some more night time flights with what's left of my student loan as I still need 14.3 night hours before meeting Air NZ's minimum requirements!

23 August 2013

Ardmore Restricted Airspace

Something for fellow pilots flying VFR in to Ardmore on 03 days, and departing to the south on 21 days next month is NZR294. The temporary airspace restriction is detailed below, and can also be found in the latest AIP Supplement effective as of August 22nd.

Edit: Video of the Transpower UAV's in action now online here

20 August 2013

My MEIR Story

I managed to be able to sit and pass my MEIR initial issue flight test at the end of July, and now I can finally say that I'm legal to go and fly a twin engine aeroplane in cloud. The process took a lengthy three months in total to complete- which was Ardmore Flying School's idea of "fast tracking" students like myself who already have a single engine instrument rating. I obtained my SEIR June of 2012 before taking some time off to fly parachute drop aircraft full time up until April of this year. 

Disregarding the fact that I had to take an eight month sabbatical from my flight training, it still took me four years in total from my first flight in a C172, to obtaining my multi engine instrument rating at AFS. And out of the sixteen students who started the pilot license ground course with me in 2009, only four others of them have obtained an MEIR to date, with just seven of us making it as far as a CPL.

In 2012, the majority of the schools twin engine rated instructors left to work elsewhere, leaving a waiting list of 100+ students who were ready for MEIR training. This led to AFS having to request past instructors, now working in airline positions, to come in on their days off and take on some students part time.

Since my original single engine instrument rating was due to lapse in June of this year, I made sure I phoned the school at least every two weeks during the summer to remind them of my situation, and request that an instructor could be organised for me when I returned to Auckland at the beginning of April. It wasn't until May 7th that I was finally assigned one- a 737 pilot on sick leave with a broken leg, to run a series of ground simulations in the school's Frasca TruFlite trainer to get me current for the cross country IFR flights in the Duchess aircraft.

Up until this day, I'd been told that like every other student that had done the SEIR to MEIR process, it would be done using the same two navigation aids from our initial instrument rating, the VOR and GPS. However, on my very first briefing with the new instructor, I was told that actually I was to be trained for all four navigation aids, including an NDB and ILS endorsement as well.

I was buddied up with another student who had the same ratings as myself, so that in the simulator, we could co-pilot for each other seeing as the school had also made the decision this year to only train students for a two pilot ratings, rather than single pilot rating. We were given six alternating simulator sessions each that took until the end of May to finish.

Our sim instructor then passed the two of us over to one of the full time B cat instructors, and told us to ride in the backseat during each other's Duchess flights to observe and learn whilst the buddy was at the controls. It was 25 more days before I was given my first flight booking, even though I'd made myself available full time without any other weekday commitments as requested by the school. To prioritise my MEIR flying, I even un-enrolled from the school's ATPL ground courses that the admin staff had suggested I start.

It turned out that AFS had recently established an IFR cross country flight syllabus set in place for students making the SEIR to MEIR conversion, which is goes follows:
Flight 1: AR-HN-AR (NDB, VOR, GPS)
Flight 2: AR-GB-WP-AR (NDB, VOR, GPS)
Flight 3: AR-GB-WP-AR (NBD, GPS, ILS)
Flight 4: AR-HN-WP-AR (NDB, ILS, GPS)
Flight 5: AR-WP-GB-AR (VOR, ILS, NDB, GPS)

02 August 2013

C182 Meat Bombing

When the weather has been fine, I have continued to fly the parachute drop aircraft up in Whangarei at the weekends.

Back at the beginning of June, my younger brother surprised his girlfriend with a tandem skydive voucher and came up from Auckland with her to watch the jump. As a second surprise to him, my parents also made the journey and up revealed once everyone was at the dropzone together, that he'd also be going up for a skydive at the same time, as an early 21st present!

I've posted plenty of photos and videos from inside the cockpit from the Ballistic Blondes planes, but for this blog update I've got some ground based photos of the aircraft and passengers that my Dad snapped whilst I was at the controls.