Sunday, October 28, 2012

What a lovely day for a flight!

A month after my last flight [and dual at that], today's weather was good enough for me to go for a solo flight to refresh my skills in the Club's Cessna 172N, ZK-FLT. The recent winds died down, and the cloud was high enough to not only go for a flight, but to also carry out all the manoeuvres I wanted to - Stalls, turns, simulated forced landings, slow flight, followed by a few circuits back at Wellington. Total time was 1.5 hours of fun, and it's amazing how little power a C172 needs to keep flying with only one person in board!

In other excitement, two business jets arrived today. I'm not sure of the details of who and why, but I'm sure that will come out soon enough.

The first aircraft is Boeing 737-7JF BBJ, P4-LIG. It appears from internet searches that this aircraft may be owned/ operated by Petroff Air, a Russian operator which appears to register its aircraft in Aruba.

The second is an FAA registered Bombardier BD-700-1A10 Global Express, N264A, and registered to a finance and leasing company. Interestingly, FAA records show that this aircraft is classified as Experimental and a category of Research and Development and an airworthiness date of 20/12/2002. Hmmm... any ideas?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Philippines Airlines Airbus A330

Thanks to MRC Aviation blog and their heads up on this Philippines Airlines Airbus A330-301, RP-C3333, which arrived at Wellington today. MRC Aviation is well worth a visit, and it appears from that blog that the aircraft was carrying the Philippine President and others.

It's certainly nice to see something this big in Wellington once in a while! There's just one photo this evening - unfortunately I am unable to wait for the departure to get a better shot. If anyone does get a good photo, you're welcome to submit it :-)


[on another note - thanks for all the comments and emails regarding the CAA Medical Unit situation. Click here for the post and keep them coming - I am very interested in your viewpoints, as are others!]

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A very disappointing situation...

I have been thinking long and hard about this post.

I have held off making a post for quite some time, but no longer.

I am not usually one to get too worked up, but there is something happening that is really getting me annoyed!

Recently, the Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] went through a funding review [CAA website: funding review], and, cutting a long story short, has decided to raise many/ most of the charges that are levied on industry.

What has really got a lot of pilots riled up though, is the imposition of a brand new fee for the issue of pilot medicals. This has nothing to do with the evaluation of an applicant for a medical certificate, but is simply, for the vast majority of pilots, an administration fee - that is a payment for the CAA to file the paperwork [and irrespective of whether a medical is granted].

OK, so that simplifies things somewhat, and there is no doubt that the CAA medical unit does more than just file medical reports, but when compared to other jurisdictions, you really begin to wonder what they do to justify such a large fee, or whether in fact they are just an inefficient monopoly supplier that has no incentive to improve its practices.

Anyway, this brand new fee will be [from 1 November 2012], NZD$313. This is a new fee and in addition to the charges by the medical examiner for the examination itself, which tend to start around the NZD$200 mark.

Compare this to Australia, which, according to the CASA website [CASA website: medical certification FAQS, accessed 21 Oct 2012] levies an AUD$75 fee for the same sort of services, or the FAA website [FAA website: pilot medical cert Q&A, also accessed 21 Oct 2012] which shows that there is no fee set by the FAA.

Now, nobody I know objects to paying for the medical itself. In fact, from my perspective, there is a definite personal benefit in getting the medical, and the costs are not too unreasonable. However, paying a large admin fee is another story...!

The particularly galling part of this is that the attitude of the CAA appears to be that a medical [and the associated administration that they claim to do] is purely a private benefit, and therefore should be fully funded by pilots [and incidentally, air traffic controllers].

To some this may seem reasonable on the surface, except that the benefits of robust medical certification [and some would argue whether or not we have this...] extend well beyond the pilot community!

Think about this for a moment: every time you fly on an airline, YOU receive the benefit of medical certification! Every time an aircraft flies over your town or city, you benefit from knowing that the pilot(s) are unlikely to die and crash into your house or workplace! Every time you take your friends or family for a flight, they benefit also. Economically, the country benefits greatly from a robust medical certification system, because crashes due to medical incapacitation, particularly in airliners, would have immediate and very serious consequences for the airlines, air transportation in general [if people don't trust the airlines, they don't fly...], and therefore for the country as a whole.

Nobody is arguing that pilots shouldn't pay their way, but imposing full "cost recovery" on pilot,s claiming they are the only ones to benefit, is somewhat disingenuous.

One consequence of this new fee will likely be a reduction in pilots [particularly private pilots] continuing to maintain their medicals, and it will likely dampen the inflow of pilots into the system in the future - why would you get into aviation when the costs are so high?

My belief is that there will also be a movement over the next 2-3 years into the less-regulated side of flying with sport aviation [microlights/ ultralights]. While this is fine in and of itself, the safety record and standards of some microlight operators is worse than for general aviation [GA] using certified aircraft, and so I imagine this "hidden" cost will begin to show itself in due course.

Unfortunately, this is just a continuation of what some people would consider to be a drop in the safety-first attitude from the CAA [the met info issue is another very clear example]. I'm struggling to find any concrete examples of how CAA have engaged positively with GA over the past year. It all seems to be about pushing costs [and risk] onto others, irrespective of the outcome for this nationally-critical sector of the economy.

There's a great poster that can be downloaded or ordered from CAA from their website [CAA website: posters]. Click on the one that says "Aviation Safety Needs You". It has a great by-line in it which says "Aviation Safety is Everyone's Responsibility". It seems unfortunate that this "everyone" is starting to exclude one of the key "partners" [I use the term "partners" loosely!] in aviation... the CAA.

Well, as I stated above, these are just my thoughts. If you see anything that is blatantly wrong, please let me know and if I agree with you, I'll change it.

You may agree with me, or disagree with me - I don't really mind which.  Feel free to drop me an email [contact details are on my website], or leave a comment to this post. If you're looking at this on FB and want to leave a comment... would you consider leaving it on this post, not on FB? That way we can all share in your wisdom. I do not tend to censor comments, unless they are off the topic, defamatory, or encourage stupid or illegal activity, so keep it on topic and clean and it'll stay up, even if I disagree!

This extends to the good people at the CAA [and many of them undoubtedly are good people doing a good job]. You're welcome to comment also.

Lastly, there's a very interesting FB group that relates to this. If you're interested, take a look:

Another blustery day in Wellington...

... and unfortunately that meant no flying for me today.

Mind you, looking at the effort having to be put in by the airline operators, I'm quite happy to have been on the ground. Photographs don't really do justice to the amount of work that the pilots were putting in today, but what you will see at least is that it was a "dark cloud day", which, combined with the wind, usually makes for a bit more "fun".

Anyway, here are the photos. Top to bottom are:

Cessna 208, ZK-TZR, registered to Sounds Air
Piper PA31-350, ZK-MYS, registered to
Aerospatiale-Alenia ATR72-212A, ZK-MCA, registered to Mount Cook Airline [part of the Air NZ group]
2 x Boeing 737-838, ZK-ZQA, registered to Jetconnect [part of the Qantas group]. Note the graphic on the nose of the aircraft, designating this as the 75th Qantas Boeing 737 aircraft

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A quick visit to Omaka

Today I was given the opportunity to go on a quick trip to Omaka aerodrome, to look at a Nanchang CJ6 that is in the process of being repainted. We went over in a Piper PA28R-201 Arrow, ZK-EIF, which was the first time I had been in an Arrow in a long time, and from memory, since ZK-EIF was given a big birthday, including the PFD and other enhancements.

The first two pictures of the Arrow, followed by the following:

Boeing Stearman A75N1, ZK-KJO, registered to Marlborough Aero Club
Classic Aircraft Nieuport N11, ZK-NII, registered to Classic Aircraft Sales of a Blenheim address
Cessna 180A, ZK-FDO, registered to a Blenheim address

... and then a number of pictures over Wellington City and lastly on right base for Wellington runway 16. Look carefully and you can see the Boeing 737 we were following in.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Awesome bush flying video

Here's a video from another blog I follow. It's just under 5 minutes of bush flying in a Pilatus PC-6 Porter, and comes from the Bush Flying Diaries blog - well worth a visit! Anyway, I've taken the liberty of inserting the author's latest video below:

Exotic metal

Here's one final catch up from a couple of weekends ago, when I spent some time at Auckland airport watching what was coming and going. In this post, I've included only those airlines which I don't usually get to see, so no Air NZ, Pacific Blue, Qantas or [what is arguably the worst airline in New Zealand] Jetstar...

Instead, here are a few different airlines. Top to bottom we have:

Airbus A320-232, F-OJSB, registered to Aircalin
Airbus A340-313X, B-HXG, registered to Cathay Pacific
Boeing 777-2H6/ER, 9M-MRE, registered to Malaysian Airlines
Airbus A340-313X, CC-CQA, registered to LAN Airlines
Airbus A330-223, B-6547, registered to China Southern Airlines
Airbus A330-302, B-18310, registered to China Airlines

Monday, October 08, 2012

Freighters at Auckland

After the Mosquito launch airshow, I spent some time at Auckland Airport photographing the comings and goings. While there I got to meet Steve L of the 3rdlevelNZ blog [one of my favourites and well worth a visit!].

Three aircraft that particularly my attention were the following freighters arriving in the evening.

Top to bottom are:

Boeing 747-47UF, N492MC, operated by Atlas Air, on behalf of Qantas Airways
Another picture of the Boeing,opening its nose to allow extraction of the freight
Boeing 767-381F, VH-EFR, registered to Qantas Airways

and my personal favourite... a Mad Dog 11!

McDonnell Douglas MD-11F, N576FE, registered to Federal Express

Last post [well, maybe :-)] from the Mosquito launch airshow

OK, here are a number of photos of from the Mosquito launch airshow. Instead of my usual tactic of only detailing a few aircraft at time, I'm publishing a "random" assortment of aircraft from throughout the day. Some old, some newer, all interesting in their own right.

I hope you enjoy these, and yes, there are a few Mosquito pictures in here if you look hard :-)