24 January 2013

Scrub Fires & Volcanoes

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know that other than my main interest in aviation, I'm also fascinated by unusual weather and natural phenomenons. Occasionally the two of these meet and make for a newsworthy item that I feel I should write about.

Firstly, the harsh dry January conditions have led to an outbreak of large bush/scrub fires both here in NZ and over in Australia. Of significance is the blaze on Great Barrier Island on the boundary of Claris Airport (NZGB)- the main link to the outside world for the community there- which has been closed since Tuesday 22nd:
Great Barrier Airlines have been operating selected services to Okiwi Station (NZOX) in the northern part of the island, although road restrictions between the airfield and the rest of the townships are currently in place. Updates on the situation and flight schedules can be found on the GBA website news page, where I discovered the two images below, showing how close to the airfield the flames have come:

One News reports that over 100 hectares of land near the Okupu Ridge area has been decimated, although fortunately at this stage, no injures have been recorded nor homes destroyed. Elsewhere, 200 hectares of conservation land on the Pouto Peninsular, not far from Ruawai in Northland has fallen to the same fate. I suspect that is why we've been an influx of out of town registered aircraft refueling at the pumps at Whangarei this week, on monsoon bucket duties. This final photograph below was captured by Brock Evans. More of the same can be viewed on the TVNZ site here.

Australia has had it far worse of course. A heatwave over the South East of the continent with temperatures over 40 °C coupled with two previous years worth of abundant grass growth (thanks to two La NiƱa wet winters in a row) have turned the
plentiful vegetation in Tasmania and New South Wales into perfect bushfire fuel with well over 40,000 hectares of land being burnt between the two states this month alone.

The atmospheric effects from these monstrous fires were even apparent over the North Island of New Zealand the last week, some 1400 miles away. The smokey ash and dust particles must have been carried over the Tasman Sea with in the upper westerly winds creating a fairly thick haze that lingered at low level for several days. This shot below was taken on Sunday 20th whilst I was flying northbound at 5000ft, although an Air Nelson F/O I'd been speaking with earlier that day said visibility was also restricted to just 20km even up at 20,000ft as far south as Wellington.

Now onto the volcano part of this post. White Island, 48km of the coast of Whakatane, has had it's aviation colour code upgraded to orange, which means the "
Volcano is exhibiting heightened unrest with increased likelihood of eruption."

If the island pops it's top and does explode, it will be exciting to watch- from a distance. Hopefully there won't be a negative effect on airspace over mainland New Zealand, although I suppose it will depend on the size of the plume and wind direction on the day, it it actually happens. You can get the most up to date information from GeoNet on White Island here.


05 January 2013

Location: NZWR

As of late December 2012, I've relocated myself to Whangarei to fly parachute drop planes full time over the summer season.

The days are long but whilst the weather's been good, the views from the cockpit have been amazing. Our company has some really unique dropzones on the along the eastern coastline, from Ruakaka Beach, Ocean Beach and NZWR to Paihia Beach in the Bay of Islands.
Infact, we're the only skydive operator in the country to offer 'off airport' beach landings which I reckon is pretty neat!

This snap below that I caught on my GoPro made it to Ones News as their 'shot of the day' on New Years Day. If you squint, you can see the sandy fringe of Ruakaka Beach just to the right of the wing strut under the blue text box.

With the exception of another week down at New Plymouth mid January, I'll be hour building in Northland for the foreseeable future with Ballistic Blondes. Between two aircraft and three pilots, I think it's going to be a busy but enjoyable few months!