27 February 2014

View from the Office

Apologies for the well overused aviation clique headlining this update, but it struck me recently that its been a rather long time since I posted any imagery from my place of work. I suppose seeing the same cockpit views day in and day out allow me to take it for granted to some extent, but for the benefit of any new readers to the blog who haven't seen my posts from last summer, here is a little photo collage summarising my 2013/2014 season as a drop pilot thus far:

19 February 2014

Night Hour Building

As the Air NZ recruit to group minimums now have a firm 25 hour night requirement, I have recently taken the opportunity to borrow a privately owned C172 off a friend to add some after dark flight time to my logbook.

Like most students from AFS, I finished my training with the bare minimum needed for an instrument rating, just 10 in total, leaving me to self fund the following 15. However I was fortunate enough to be able to ferry ZK-LQA up from Ardmore to Whangarei on Boxing Day 2013 to start chewing away at the necessary hours that would see me tick all the Eagle Airways potential candidate check boxes.

The owner of -LQA was was holidaying in Northland at the time and planned to use the aircraft during the daytime for leisure, conveniently leaving it available for me after I finished work each evening. The other pilot who I work along side of at SBB was in the same predicament as me so we split up our night flying half and half, where by I would fly to KK or AR and land, then we'd swap seats for the return journey to WR, or vica verca. It meant pulling some really long days- flying daytime VFR from 8am to 7 or 8pm parachuting- then waiting until ECT hit at 9.15pm before we could go wheels up from the runway to legally count the flight time towards the night column of our logbooks.

Fortunately enough we had plenty of clear weather over the three weeks we had access to the aircraft and enjoyed a few direct track cross countries down to the bright lights of Auckland up at 6500ft controlled VFR. We also managed to wrangle some of our skydiver friends in to cost sharing the rides, and one occasion our manifest girl even bought along hot drinks and homemade in-flight snacks which helped greatly with the lengthy amount of concentration required that particular day!

Anyhow, none of our cameras could really capture anything with much clarity due to the lack of light and airframe vibration, but below is a sampling of grainy unedited snaps from my trusty old iPhone from the above mentioned flights:

The photos really don't do any justice to the night time scenery, but the stillness of the night, quieter radio frequencies and lack of visual distractions really add another element to flying that I can't quite articulate. At the time of writing this, I still have eight odd hours to knock out before I reach the magic 25, and am planning to polish them off in the same aircraft in the not too distant future. Watch this space!

10 February 2014

Ex-Cyclone June

Readers of this blog who have followed it from the inception may remember a short post I wrote covering my fascination with meteorology and the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Wilma over New Zealand back in 2011.

It has been a good three years since a summer storm anywhere close to the magnitude of Wilma has affected the country, however it looked as though we were due for the return of a similar strength system with forecasts indicating a Category 1 TC that had formed mid January to the south east of the Soloman's was due to track straight over Northland on January 21st.

My bookmarked list of aviation weather forecast sources all yielded the same outlook, with significant spiral cloud formations, heavy precip. and high winds seemingly imminent. The relatively cooler waters surrounding the North Island would reduce the intensity of Cyclone June compared to its track over New Caledonia that reportedly caused loss of life- however it was certainly a day to secure the outdoor furniture, hanger the planes at work, and enjoy a guaranteed day indoors off VFR ops in Whangarei.

As you can see in the WR TAF, the centre of the system passed over us between 2am and 10am, bottoming out at 985 hPa. As the eye moved away to the south east, the ground winds swung around to a south westerly and were gusting 40 knots between 7am and 10am, followed by visibility low enough to cancel scheduled IFR flights in and out of the airport. I don't remember any damage more than fallen trees and power outages annouced on the news, but it was awe inspiring as always to witness the strength of mother nature as she breezed on through!