26 February 2015

Ardmore Taxiway Closures

UPDATED: Just a bit of a heads up for anyone intending on operating out of Ardmore next week- taxiway Sierra is due to be closed in parts for surface resealing work, between Wednesday 4th March and Friday 6th March, weather permitting.

This may lead to landing delays due to aircraft backtracking, and will be NOTAM'ed while work is in progress. The blue marks on the airport diagram below shows the portion of the airfield that will be closed on the 4th and 5th (the eastern end of taxiway Sierra past taxiway Alpha, taxiway Romeo that runs alongside AeroTech and the joining taxiway Oscar and Papa that lead to the 21 full length holding point). The red marks indicate the part of taxiway Sierra due to be closed on the 5th and 6th, from taxiway Alpha westwards to taxiway Delta. Displaced thresholds from both directions will apply during the NOTAM'ed period.

An alternative taxi route along taxiway Hotel and Juliet is marked with black lines, and new temporary aircraft parking areas are shown in green. See Gen 1.6 NZAR 53.1 for the comprehensive ground movement plate.

03 February 2015

DC3 Type Rating

Something happened recently that I’ve been greatly anticipating for many months, something I’ve deliberately neglected to mention on this blog just in case it didn’t actually happen- and as many of you will have found out in aviation, exciting promises relating to flying often get made but then seem to fizzle out and get forgotten about all too easily!

I’ll start from the beginning to give this post some context. Back in 2007 I was introduced to the Ardmore based Fly DC3 team, formally known as the Warbirds Dakota, through a member of the PPRUNE community. I had been fortunate enough to be taken up for a flight in ZK-DAK’s jumpseat by the chief pilot who was keen to share his enthusiasm for aviating in the special aeroplane with me as a young teenager about to begin my flight training.

I’d stayed in touch with both guys over the course of the following years, and stuck my head in to the operation HQ on return to Auckland at the beginning of 2014 to volunteer my services as a ground assistant during my spare time that I had available around my aerial photography job.

At this stage I had clocked up around 800 hours total time myself, and I was told that in the eyes of the DC3 committee this was enough experience to be able to actually join the crew as a first officer. An unexpected offer was made for me to be added to the ownership syndicate at a feasible rate which I was very happy to accept.

By the time accompanying paperwork was complete and my funds were organised, it was early winter and the aircraft was scheduled to go away to Palmerston North for its annual maintenance during the month of August, at which time the chief pilot would be away on holiday overseas. A plan was made to commence my type conversion training upon his return in the Spring, however a propeller vibration issue that had been identified just prior to the annual maintenance ended up plaguing the aeroplane all the way through to December whilst various solutions were proposed and trialled before an entirely new starboard prop was bought in as a fix.

During the down time I had undergone some recurrency tail wheel flying in one of the fellow syndicate members’ Piper Cub for a refresher of ground handling concepts. These techniques had been pushed right to the back of my brain since the series of introductory flights I’d made Citabria ZK-CIT in 2007, long before I’d enrolled at Ardmore Flying School from where I’d begun flying tricycle undercarriage aircraft ever since. I had also sat a DC3 ground course along with a friend of mine who had been in same intake at AFS and since gone on to fly the aforementioned Citabria himself. The chief pilot recommended that the two of us undertake the DC3 training simultaneously, taking turns in the jumpseat to observe the other at the controls to enhance comprehension of new cockpit and it’s somewhat bewildering arrangement.

Fast forward Xmas and New Years holidays and mid January 2015 was go time. My friend and I had both sat in the cockpit a few times and ran checklists and touched levers to get ourselves comfortable prior, but it was the first engine start and takeoff that really made the wait worth it.

As expected, taxiing something near 70 feet long and 100 feet wide with a swivelling tail is a little more tricky that guiding a C172 with a steerable nose wheel along taxiways barley wider than the DC3 undercarridge track itself! In the air, whilst conventional to control, everything is just as heavy as you would imagine when looking at the aircrafts moveable surfaces, and the control column has far greater movement in all directions than any of the GA aircraft that I’ve logged time on so far. The turning radius is massive, even at airspeeds similar to the C310, and the effect of the trim is also super effective compared to the result of a few winds of the wheel in my light twin. Once levelled out, it is recommended that the aircraft be flown with the right hand on the yoke and the left hand on the trim wheel (from the right seat at least), which even with just 3 POB required continental adjustment as I got used to the feedback parameters. Above all however, the feeling of being in control of Douglas DC3 is more enjoyable than I know how to describe. Looking out of the flight deck window at the 14 cylinder Twin Wasp radial engine purring along, and then down the lines of rivets running along the curved bare metal wing still seems a bit like a fantasy than a reality! Expect many photographs to follow!

GoPro screengrab from the cockpit
Taking off from 03, Colin Hunter photo
Over the two conversion lessons that I’ve completed so far, we’ve gone out over the Hauraki Gulf and looked at steep turns, emergency drills and asymmetric flight, stalling in various configurations- although recovering at the buffet up at 5000 feet as a safety measure. Circuits at Ardmore made up the majority of the second flight, with the First Officer (co-pilot) required to be able to land the aircraft by himself in event of Captain incapacitation, bearing in mind that the aircraft is usually flown with a two pilot crew, with a flying pilot and non-flying pilot on each operational flight.

We’ll continue with some further circuit bashing flights before the type rating gets signed off, ideally with a headwind down the runway rather than a gusty 17 knot crosswind that made things difficult for me last Thursday. This will then be followed by an annual check flight that once passed, will allow me to fly on commercial operations for the next 365 days.

So, if you happen to come out to Ardmore and join us for one of our weekly Sunday Scenic tours this year, there will be a chance that it’s me who will have the privilege to be sitting up at the pointy end of the aircraft during your flight. Visit www.FLYDC3.co.nz or ring 0800 FLYDC3 for more info on how you can book yourself a seat!

21 January 2015

Masterton UAV Symposium

This year the Wings over Wairarapa airshow included a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) trade show with an annual symposium held alongside the practice display day on Friday 16th January. Our company had been invited to attend the conference as aside from the C310 that we operate for large scale aerial photography and mapping, we have also been utilising our own remotely piloted quadcopter over the past few months for smaller scale low level jobs.

Due to the 0830 registration time on the day, we made a 0630 departure from Ardmore to get to Masterton with enough time to park and drive to the Copthorne hotel venue. The early morning flying was great, up above the clouds in calm conditions.

Passing Mt Ruapehu
The gist of the conference was how the authorities were grappling with the exponential growth of 'Drones' being used in NZ airspace, and how they planned to regulate them. Lots of questions were asked by those in attendance, but no firm answers seemed to be given. The CAA are currently blanketing UAV flying under Part 101 (Gyrogliders and Parasails; and Unmanned Balloons, Kites,
Rockets, and Model Aircraft Operating Rules), although it seems to be in mutual agreement that the technology available off the shelf far out dates the rules that were first published in 1997. A new Part 102 is in development to encompass what the CAA are referring to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems or 'RPAS', expected to be released later this year.

Another reoccurring theme that was bought up throughout the day was the danger of recreational Drone pilots, unaware of airspace boundaries or CAA rules, flying where they shouldn't be and causing a potential hazard to low flying fixed wing and helicopter aircraft. An increasing amount of near misses have been documented and uploaded online, with the possibility for damage far greater than that resulting from a bird strike, when highly combustible Li-Ion batteries are introduced into the equation!

More information on the do's and do-not's of UAV flying can be found at the following sites:

Drone Pilot Quick Start Guide

Snapped by Chris Gee on departure
A twilight airshow display was taking place in the evening come time we were ready to depart again, with a highlight of the day for me being the backtrack along grass 06/24 with a Kittyhawk bearing down at me, nose on, then screaming over the top of of the 310 along the crowd line causing the whole plane to shake. I wish I'd known it was going to happen in advance as that would have made for one awesome video!

The winds had picked up significantly during the day with lenticular cloud visible south of the airfield, and plenty of bumps for us as we began our northbound flight. I believe some of the planned WW1 replica flying that was scheduled for the weekend was grounded because it was too gusty on the ground, and the air to air sortie with the jet formation over Wellington was the most turbulent conditions the photographer had ever worked in!

Enroute to NZAR in the haze
It was a different story over the upper half of the North Island with just some scattered cloud and smoother flying as ECT approached. We landed back at base just after 2000 local, with the sun setting soon after creating one last photo opportunity for the day:

18 January 2015

Triple Ditchings

Over the Christmas holiday break, three fixed wing aircraft made ditchings around New Zealand waters. Fortunately all on board survived each event, which I'll quickly summarise below.

First was Piper Cherokee ZK-CNI which suffered a reported engine failure after takeoff from Raglan Airfield on the 26th December. I'd seen the aircraft regularly at Ardmore as it shares the same maintenance facility as the aircraft I currently fly, so it was quite a surprise to see these photographs emerge a few days since I'd last seen it flying:

Second was Zenair CH70 ZK-EDY, a former hanger mate to the parachuting aircraft I flew previously in Whangarei. The aircraft also suffered engine issues after takeoff from a private strip at Whananaki North and was put it down in the tidal estuary not far from the shoreline.

Photo from Alex Pardington
Media report.
ASN report.

Thirdly, and most widely covered was PAC750XL ZK-SDT, Skydive Taupo's bright pink jumpship that ditched in Lake Taupo on 7th January. The incident made news headlines around the world, partially due to the media's love of sensationalising anything aviation related, and partially due to the industry being taken by surprise from the accident occurring at a company with an excellent safety record, and the apparent failing of a PT6 engine known for their almost unparalleled reliability. The pilot, six tandem masters and the six tandem passengers all managed to bail out (at an altitude above ground level lower than I have dropped the most daring of sports skydivers) before the aircraft impacted the water.

Media report.
ASN report.

05 January 2015

Trevor Bland's Funeral

A funeral service for Trevor Bland, the founding president of New Zealand Warbirds Association, was held on Christmas Eve at Ardmore. The aviation fraternity gave the well known aviator a fitting send off, with the DC3, P-51 and five ship Harvard formation flying several high speed low passes over the airfield early afternoon.

A biography of TT's life, 'Rags to Rivets' can be purchased from flyingbooks.co.nz