Friday, October 31, 2014

Who switched off [most of] the light?

Yesterday evening was unexpectedly fun!

It started with some txts then a phone call asking if I wanted to do some more night flying training, with a view to finishing off my night rating. It was somewhat unexpected as the weather forecast was for slightly stronger winds, but hey, I'm hardly going to pass up a chance like this!

ECT [Evening Civil Twilight] was about 8:30pm last night, and so after my instructor Richard did a couple of circuits, we went up for 30 minutes of dual circuits followed by 1 hour of solo circuits in WAC's Cessna 172N, ZK-FLT. 

The weather was not as nice as the last night, with a surface wind of around 010 deg magnetic [30 deg right of runway 34] at 9-10 knots. Not a strong wind, but it was still a wee bit lumpy from the surface to about 800' with all of the terrain around the place. Still, it kept me on my toes, was a great experience to have and my crosswind landings are somewhat better now...

On the plus side, there was no cloud and with a tiny of of the moon reflecting sunlight back, it was easy enough to see the terrain and the surface.

Anyway, that's my night flying requirements done [for flight within 25 nm of a lit aerodrome]. After several years of trying [and only managing one flight a year... not ideal] I've managed to get this completed in a couple of weeks. I pick up the logbook sticker on the weekend.

Many thanks to my instructors, James and Richard who enabled this to happen!

Now for some practice... :-)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Yet another flight today...

It has been a busy flying month for me today. In what is probably my second busiest month's flying, I've accumulated 9.3 hours of flying this month, including strip flying, night flying and just general mucking around enjoying myself flying!

Today, Andrew, Amy and I headed off to Masterton in Cessna 172N, ZK-FLT. No real reason, except to have a fly, some fun and a few circuits at a quiet, uncontrolled, aerodrome. Ok, we had to avoid some meat bombers [parachutists], but the jump pilot was friendly and helpful, telling us where they be descending etc.

I got to fly from Wellington to Masterton and a few circuits. We took the Pencarrow Departure from Wellington, into Palliser Bay and then north to Masterton. This first picture is in Palliser Bay, looking south-east.

On the way there, we past another Club aircraft - Piper PA38-112, ZK-TAW. the Hatchet must be slow for our old C172 to overtake it easily :-)

Andrew did some circuits at Masterton, then I flew us back again. It was mostly smooth enough flying, although the gentle breeze and thermals at Masterton were interesting. The aircraft was moving around most of the time, and the windsocks were all a little different. Not at the level of being character building but enough to keep us awake and on our toes.

On the way back we came down the Hutt Valley, past Kaitoke airstrip then on towards Wellington.

Finally, here we are short-final approach into Wellington, followed by Andrew's GPS track of our arrival. The magenta line shows our flight path, and yes, it was a fairly tight base leg to fit in with inbound IFR traffic.

Now all I need is some good weather to finish off my night rating!

Pictures in this post are from Amy and Andrew. Thanks!

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 :-)

* actually, there are ways this could be done, but you get the picture...

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.