Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wow. That was fun!

I think I have found a new fun thing to do in aircraft [alongside strip flying, of course!]. It's this night flying thing, which, on a night like last night [a very gentle breeze, good visibility and no cloud] is just about the perfect way to spend an evening, even a series of circuits around the airport!

One of the best things about night flying is the lack of traffic. There were only two circuits with any sort of holding [plus a couple where we extended downwind for runway 34]. The rest of the time I was getting my touch&go or landing clearances when I called downwind. Nice :-)

The evening started with me arriving a bit early to fuel and preflight the aircraft [WAC's Cessna 172N, ZK-FLT] in daylight, then a short wait until it got dark.

The first few approaches were a little stink [it has been a long time since I overshoot the centreline... grrrrrr], but with good instruction [thanks James] and a bit of practice they seemed to come about right. Normal circuits, simulated electrical failure [so flapless landing], and the PAPIs were off for one approach also [not sure how that got organised without me knowing ahead of time :-)]. We discussed procedures for handling an actual electrical failure [could I divert to PP with an electrical failure? No... because I need the radio to turn on the lights at PP etc etc].

After an hour of dual circuits, I was sent off on my first night solo for another hour. Yep, there were a couple of landings where I gently bounced, but nothing dangerous or evening frightening. Did I mention just how much FUN this is?? It's nice just how much clearer the stars are when you're just south of all the city lights.

What a way to spend the early night time. I could get used to this. There are no photos [I was busy...!], but I am looking forward to some more circuits. Combine that with the dual time I already have, plus a "diversion" to Paraparaumu so I can see what it is like to approach and landing at an unfamiliar aerodrome at night, I should be close to done for my night rating. Can't wait - I've been trying for a few years, but that's another story :-)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another flight today

It has been a good weekend as I managed to get another local flight in WAC's Cessna 172N, ZK-FLT. Unlike yesterday which where I did some turns, a FLWOP and some circuits, this one was all about having a bit of fun.

Grant [another Club pilot] and I went out to Palliser Bay for a look around. As you can see in some of the photos, the weather was hardly what you'd call sunny, and there was some low cloud [around 1100' in places] and rain, but there was still plenty to see, including waterfalls along the Rimutaka Ranges. We also headed out to the Pinnacles [rock formations on the eastern side of Palliser Bay] before returning to Wellington. All done in 1 hour. Easy!

Anyway, here are a couple of photos from Grant. The first is rounding Turakirae Head at 1000', the second is over Lake Onoke at 1500' with Ferry township in the centre-right looking south-east.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A nice enough day to go flying

Today was a nice enough day to go flying. Not perfect, but not rubbish either.

Considering the northerly breeze at Wellington, I had expected some turbulence when heading out the Palliser Bay in the southern Wairarapa area, but there was very little.

The only weather-related stuff I did encounter was a line of cloud at about 1100' up against the eastern side of the Rimutaka Ranges. Photos follow of ahead, beside and behind me. Apart from this, the cloud was nothing to be concerned about.

Heading back to Wellington, I completed a couple of circuits just to keep the skills up. I think I managed ok :-) although after experiencing the manual flap last weekend, I have come to realise just how slow the manual flap is in ZK-FLT... :-(

Last up is a nice picture of Air NZ's Airbus A320-232, ZK-OAB, landing at Wellington.

Now I just hope the weather is good enough for me to go flying tomorrow also. May as well make use of the fine weather we're having in Wellington these days!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Odds and sods

Ok, I couldn't resist... one more post, although this time of the random photos from the weekend.

Some of which are pretty impressive :-)

First up is an Air NZ Airbus A320-232, ZK-OXB, which was taxiing in as I was waiting for the Sounds Air departure.

Next up is a fairly random picture from inside the Sounds Air Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, ZK-SAA, on the trip over to Woodbourne.

Omaka aerodrome is home to some fairly fancy aircraft.

Among the best of them would have to be the Avro 652A Anson, ZK-RRA [ok, the Flug Werk FW190 A8/N, ZK-RFR, is cool also, but no good photos of that!]. Also on display was this Cessna 195, ZK-BEB, and a line-up of Nanchang CJ6's. There were many other aircraft, but I didn't stop to get photos of them all :-(

Monday, October 13, 2014

Strip flying... the wrap up

Well, that's it for the strip flying course.

What an awesome weekend! Did I mention that any other time?

Now for a couple of "administrative" things. With the weather the way it is this time of the year, we made the sensible suggestion to fly between Wellington and Blenheim on Sounds Air. It turned out to be a great day both sides of Cooks Strait, but I reckon this was still the best way to go. It's quick, cheap [cheaper than I have seen on Air NZ], relaxing and meant we could have a beer at the end of the day :-) The pilots are friendly and the windows large.

I'd never been to Woodbourne aerodrome before. It's combined military/ civil and I was surprised how busy it was on a Sunday evening. Aside from "our" Cessna 208 Caravan [ZK-SAA, Sounds Air], there were two Eagle Airways/ Air NZ B1900's, an Air Nelson/ Air NZ DHC8-Q311 as well as a Fokker F27 Mk 500 Friendship, ZK-POH of Airwork Freight Operations. In the back you can also see an RNZAF C130H Hercules.

Would I recommend this? Yes! I'll probably do some more some time early next year [still summer in NZ for all your Northern Hemisphere types :-)], and I'd definitely recommend it, even if you just want a quick introduction to this type of flying. You can get the MAC contact details here.

Anyway, a couple of photos from Woodbourne, plus a repeat of my landing at D'Urville Island... after all, that's what it was all about :-)

Strip flying... yeah, still day 2!

Ok, so we get towards the end of day 2 of the strip flying course at Marlborough Aero Club.

After D'Urville Island we headed back towards Omaka. It's amazing how after just a few hours of training, I started seeing all sorts of little airstrips around the countryside! There are few photos from this flight as I was sitting in the back, nice and comfy, enjoying the views :-) One I did get was of Woodbourne AD [joint military/ civil] as we flew past.

I don't recall the last airstrip we flew into. It is one of the most advanced airstrips that MAC take people into, and if anyone is looking for a name, perhaps "Scenic and fun but almost undie changing" might be an apt description!

The most abiding memory of all of the circuits [including the two I flew] was of a windscreen full of grass on approach and plenty of hillside above me. Takeoff was apply full power and shortly afterwards the ground drops away :-) Around 250 meters for landing, and 150 meters for takeoff from memory.

The view once you are all the top of something to behold though! You get to see all over the Marlborough region from about 1300' AMSL [above mean sea level]. Just magic. So here are the photos. The last one Nick took on left-base for the airstrip. The airstrip is in the centre of the photo and our approach had us well below the top of that hill ;-) No closer picture or any of the takeoff... too busy flying, concentrating and enjoying ourselves!

Strip flying, still day 2, off to D'Urville for lunch!

After Port Gore, the next place to fly to was D'Urville Island airstrip. As I had flown in there before [a few years ago], my instructor, Nick, was kind enough [brave enough??] to let me fly the first approach in. ZK-OMK had landed a few minutes earlier and reported no wind. When I landed we had a slight tailwind, but it was still safe and comfortable. The breeze did pick up a little and that's another lesson learnt - the weather can change very quickly. Not a problem today... just something to keep in mind when out and about.

D'Urville Island was not the hardest airstrip of the day [or maybe we were getting better at this stage!] but I'd still want to be a wee bit cautious... I suspect in the wrong winds it would get rather nasty.

D'Urville Island is a nice place for a quick lunch, and then we were into the circuits... well, figure-8 patterns really. take off to the north, left turn, overhead the field, right turn in to land. It was on one of these that the benefit of manual flap was reinforced - I was floating a little bit, but carefully dumping the flap meant I nailed the landing :-) After Charles and I had done a few, Nick let us go up for a solo circuit each. that was a highlight :-)

Anyway, here are the photos. First up are the students in front of ZK-OMK [Me, Charles and Charles... not a typo], then our instructors [Sharn and Nick - BTW guys, I do have another picture of you two I could publish :-) ha ha], then the aircraft doing their thing. The last photo is one of me landing... a bit flat... but safe after my solo circuit.

I have a couple more posts coming up [yes, day two was full on fun!].

Strip flying, day 2. Off to the Marlborough Sounds

Much like Saturday, Sunday dawned with barely a gentle breeze, a few clouds and lots of sunshine. It was clear that day 2 of the strip flying course at Marlborough Aero Club [MAC] was going to be a stunner!

We arrived at MAC at Omaka airfield Around 9am and after pre-flighting both aircraft and packing the essentials [which included a portable BBQ and food for lunch!] we headed out to a private strip at Nopera in the Marlborough Sounds.

To say the weather was perfect would be an understatement! Very little wind, the surface of the water was smooth and crystal clear... just perfect! We headed out over Koromiko airstrip and a few minutes later arrived at Nopera. the approach is over the water and is not really that hard at all. We flew overhead first to check the surface out [especially checking there were no sheep in the paddock] before heading in. Not a bad landing if I may say so! I got a couple of takeoffs and landings in [including with the land owners] before handing over the controls so Charles [one of the other Wellington pilots] could have a go. Here are some of the photos:

As you can see, there's a wee bit of slope... the main thing though is the terrain behind the camera which you can't see :-)

Next up was an airstrip at Port Gore. This was a really step up for us, although once we were shown how to handle it, it became quite doable. It seems an important step is to always do an approach and overshoot or fly-by first to ascertain the state of the strip, and, having phoned ahead for permission, we were all good to go.

You'll notice from the photos that this airstrip has a slight [!] slope on it from about half way along... what an amazing airstrip though, and again, once shown what to do, it was well manageable in the great conditions we had on the day!

As for the photos, you a look at the one I took from the back seat, at the top of the airstrip. Yes, it really is that steep [and I might add, awesome] :-) For a guy who hasn't done much of this before, it was both a bit weird and huge fun to be sitting at the top of a hill about to go to full power :-) So much fun, it should be illegal [but it's not!] :-) The second photo is of ZK-OMK taking off [BTW - see if you can see the wire]. Did I mention it was fun?

That's it for this post... the next one will include D'Urville Island and the final strip back near Omaka.

Wow! What an awesome weekend! Strip flying with Marlborough Aero Club!

Yep, the headline pretty much sums it up!

Last weekend I went to Omaka, along with two other Wellington pilots for a course in strip flying with Marlborough Aero Club [MAC]. I knew it was going to be fun and I wasn't disappointed at all!

The course was split into two days. this post will cover day 1 and, you guessed it, the next couple of posts will cover day two.

Firstly, I was flying MAC's Cessna 172E, ZK-OMR. Another pilot was using their C172 taildragger, ZK-OMK... you'l see photos of both of these in this and the next couple of posts.

ZK-OMR is one cool machine. Although an older machine, it is in great shape, fun to fly and is STOL kitted with drooping leading edges and wingtips, wing fences and, my new favourite feature, a manual flap [I'll explain why later].

With two pilots undergoing training, we were able to get plenty of flying in but also to be able to sit back an observe which was really really helpful and just added to the value of the whole course. In other words, hint # 1 for this course is to go with someone. Share the flying. Apart from anything else, this is way too cool to not share!

Day 1 consisted of an intro to stable approaches with about 30 minutes each of circuits at MAC's home airfield of Omaka, firstly on the main strips, followed by touch-and-goes on the 300 meter strips mown in beside the main strips. We then landed out on a nearby [barely out of the circuit] hill top strip for a look around and a chat before heading off to the Awatere Valley to try out hand at landing on some farm strips.

The Awatere Valley was where the fun started. The first strip was slightly up hill with a big bend in it. You'll see this in the following pictures. We're also landing with a tailwind, but that was no drama at all. With two people on board you can get airborne well before the bend, with three on board and limited experience, we were going around the bend, but still no drama!

Next up was was a strip that was long and straight, just with a few trees at the end and an interesting water feature near one end that resulted in a wee bit of turbulence and sink. This is where we we taught about dumping flap on landing and putting some in on takeoff.

This is also where it started to hit home just about useful a manual flap mechanism can be. Not only is it simple with no electrics to fail, but it is also very quick to extend or retract - a definite bonus when time is of the essence!

I think the following photos show the terrain quite nicely :-) The runway is centre of the first photo.

Unfortunately, this is where the photos stop for day one. We did end up at two more strips before heading back to Omaka for the evening. One of them straight but with a few lumps in it, the next straight, flat but hidden behind trees until you turned onto short final :-)

Sunday, October 05, 2014

So much for the wind...

It was supposed to get very windy earlier today, but it looks like the wind is only just kicking in now. Oh well... I did have a flight booked, but I'll get it done another time.

I did get a couple of photos today. The first, a Virgin Australia Boeing 737-8FE, ZK-PBA, was taken from outside the Spruce Goose cafe, The second is an Air NZ Airbus A320-232, ZK-OJR, with the photo taken from the Aero Club.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Well that turned out better than forecast

Sometimes it pays to ignore the weather forecast... and book the flight anyway.

Today's weather was forecast to be fairly rubbish... and for a while it was. While the low cloud and rain stayed away, the winds were there; up to 22 across the runway at times. This is a bit too much when you are at an airport that is surround by high terrain.

I was booked in at 12:30 but delaying the flight to about 2:30 meant I had fairly good weather for the flight. The surface winds were still dancing around a bit, but it was smoother than I had anticipated and the C172 [ZK-FLT] behaved itself. The trip around to the Palliser Bay and the Southern Wairarapa was not rough at all and even the lonely CB hanging around late downwind back at Wellington had moved on before we got there.

Anyway, that's another flight done. I'll be flying again tomorrow [if the forecast winds do not arrive], but if they do, then next weekend I'm off to Omaka for some strip flying training. That'll be loads of fun for sure!

Today's picture is from the Pencarrow Arrival procedure, approaching Baring Head. Rhys "Marshaller" Brown took the photo, so thanks Rhys! Wellington airport is located under the clouds in the centre of the picture.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Looks like it's had a paint job since last I saw it...

Today's photos are of Boeing 737-8FE, ZK-PBG, of Virgin Australia Airlines departing Wellington on another trip across the Tasman. The last time I saw this aircraft [back in January] it was in the very faded Pacific Blue livery.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A wee bit of exciting news

Today's wee bit of exciting news is that I am heading off to Omaka [Blenheim] in two weeks time to undertake some strip flying training with Marlborough Aero Club. Looks like it is will be a fun weekend with 3 or 4 of us from Wellington Aero Club heading over and back on Sounds Air with 5 hours of training flights each over the two days.

I do remember doing a couple of hours of strip flying training a few years ago, and that was great fun. This should be pretty much mind blowing, with some training at Omaka aerodrome then off to find some of the many strips/ paddocks in the local area! I'll be using one of their Cessna 172's, so at least I'll be competent on the aircraft before I start. I suspect I'll be MUCH better at it by the time I finish!

The only thing I am a little nervous of is the weather. I really hope the weather cooperates so the training can go ahead... else it's an expensive trip to Blenheim for the weekend :-(

There will certainly be some photos to share afterwards... especially of any scary looking strips...

For those that might be interested... here is a link to the MAC website page: Marlborough Aero Club: Strip Flying Introduction

At the end of this, I hope I'll be competent to venture off to some of the more challenging and very scenic locations like D'Urville Island airstrip with a bit more confidence.

Mum - don't read this. Too scary. Oh, too late? :-)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another good day detached from the ground

Yep, I got to go flying again today, although it almost didn't happen.

I was scheduled to take up a couple of passengers today, but with some rubbish weather not moving through as early as expected and it all looking rather non-scenic and potentially a bit rough, I thought it was better to pull the plug on that flight.

Instead I spent a fun 48 minutes flying out to the Southern Wairarapa area in the Club's Cessna 172N, ZK-FLT, doing a few rate 1 [shallow] turns, a simulated forced landing and then flew back.

As it turned out, there were quite smooth flying conditions, although still fairly gloomy and clouds down around 1700-1800' in places. Good enough for me though and perfectly safe. I even managed to pull off an awesome landing - especially compared to my last flight a couple of weeks ago :-)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Old tail-cam footage from an Air NZ B737-200 flying into Wellington

I stumbled across the following awesome footage [from 1996] of an Air NZ Boeing 737-200, ZK-NAT, flying a visual approach into Wellington. What you see in the video is the aircraft joining right-hand downwind from just west of Island Bay, continuing over the city then a right turn in to land.

Just a pity the current crop of Air NZ aircraft don't have tail [or nose] mounted cameras :-)

Anyway, enjoy the video!

Unusual visitors

I popped out to the Aero Club today, only to see some unusual visitors to Wellington on the ground and in the air.

The biggest surprise is was an Air NZ operated Boeing 767-319, ZK-NCK! It has been a long, long time since I have seen a B767 at Wellington.

Next up is a Piper PA38-112, ZK-FJR, from Canterbury Aero Club, which was parked in the old engine run-up bay. Next to this was a Cessna 180K, ZK-JCW, from Canterbury Aviation Ltd. The final picture is of the underside of Cirrus Design SR22, ZK-FMN, registered to an Auckland address, during an overshoot.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Air New Zealand retires its last Boeing 747

The big aviation news from New Zealand over the past few days is that Air New Zealand has retired the last of its Boeing 747-400's, with the final revenue flight one from San Francisco to Auckland.

I wasn't at Auckland to see the arrival of the last flight, a Boeing 747-419, ZK-NBV, although many other sites have some good information, such as this post from MRC Aviation which has a brief history of the type with Air NZ and an old Air NZ promotional video featuring the type.

As for my pictures, these include two photos of ZK-NBV on approach to Auckland back in January, reproduced below, which are my last photos of this particular aircraft.