Saturday, 2 November 2013

Leaving New Zealand

I know I've been bad at posting recently. My excuse is that I got stuck in to watching Breaking Bad instead - not that that's a good excuse I suppose! Anyway, a quick update on what I've been up to.

Since my last post I've:

  • Done many flights towards my instrument rating, including a tour around a good chunk of New Zealand.
  • Passed Progress Tests 2 and 3 - PT3 is our course's CPL flight test.
  • Moved to Bournemouth in the UK to continue my instrument rating - which should be finished in 5-7 weeks or so.

These are some pretty big milestones for me - so read on for more!

Flyaway Tour

Our course is quite a large one, and with weather delays and an even larger course following (CP100 is more than 20 people in size!), CTC decided to send us on a "flyaway". The idea is that we take an instructor and aeroplane between a few of us, go somewhere away from the business of Hamilton and fly intensely for a few days. Normally these are based in one place, but our instructor was feeling adventurous so he booked a different hotel for each of the four nights we were away, and we went on tour!

Across the five days of flying I flew every day, on these routes. Some of them seem backwards - we had to shuttle backwards and forwards because with 3 of us, our instructor and baggage the aeroplane was too heavy to have good range, so we always left someone behind and went back to collect them later!

  • Day 1: Hamilton - Gisborne. Stay overnight in Gisborne.
  • Day 2: Wellington - Napier (one training approach) - Gisborne. Stay overnight in Wellington.
  • Day 3: Wellington - Kaikoura (one training approach and a visual circuit) - Christchurch (with a deliberate missed approach). Stay overnight in Christchurch.
  • Day 4: Christchurch - Wellington (one training approach) - Nelson. Stay overnight in Wellington.
  • Day 5: Hamilton - Palmerston North (three training approaches, four visual circuits) - Nelson. Home in Hamilton!

This trip was probably the highlight of my time in New Zealand. It was great flying - quite a bit of it was at night too! - and the company was excellent. I definitely learned a lot, and I think it did a huge amount for my piloting skills. It was great to experience how things worked at busier airports, particularly at Christchurch, where we were expertly kept out of the way of the large jet traffic by ATC but kept up to date with what was happening all the time.

A trip like this obviously has its lighter moments too. One that particularly amused me happened at Wellington. Another group doing a similar tour had landed there the night before us, but were in Christchurch when we were staying in Wellington. We arrived really quite late at night - 22:30 or so, and parked up. During the day time we would have left the airport via the aero club, but that was closed. Absolutely baffled about how to get out, we were just about to uncover the aeroplane and use the radio to call the tower to ask for assistance when I found a phone to talk to the airport ops team. I asked them to be let out and they promised to send someone over. Twenty minutes later nothing had happened so our instructor called up again. Explaining where we were he got the response "Oh! You're still airside?". We were confused, but someone came to collect us and we got driven across the runway (that's pretty cool...) to the passenger terminal.

The next day we caught up with the other boys in Christchurch and told them how we'd been locked in at Wellington. They told us that they'd been there the day before us and been similarly confused about how to get out. However, when they did it, they managed to get out through the aero club's premises somehow into their car park. At this point they discovered that the car park is surrounded by a barbed wire fence and they'd just locked themselves out of the club house! I think that took some explaining to the airport security people...

I'll put a few pictures from at the bottom of this post.

Progress Test 3 / CPL Flight Test

The last flight that cadets are programmed to fly in New Zealand in PT3 - effectively our CPL flight test. This tests almost everything we've learned in New Zealand and all the things we are required to do to fly a simple commercial flight in VFR - here's a non-exhaustive list:

  • Meteorological, legal and aircraft technical knowledge.
  • Navigation (both a planned route and unplanned diversion.
  • Simulated emergencies. For these simulations, I had to deal with an alternator failure, an engine control issue (which lead to the single-engine work below) and one more that I've forgotten.
  • Basic instrument flight.
  • Aircraft handling (stalls, steep turns, slow flight, circuits and so on).
  • Single-engine handling, including circuits. Engine shutdown, fire and restart drills.

Despite some sub-optimal weather, particularly on my diversion leg, I'm happy to say I passed on my first attempt! As well as a pass certificate, I also got given some good debrief points that'll let me sharpen up my flying - as almost everyone does.

Trip pictures

Here's a small selection of my favourite pictures from the trip.

Flaring at Wellington. Clearly I'm not the one flying!

Another approach at Wellington. I'm not the only one taking a photo!

For a fee, you can have a go in this Soviet jet fighter!

Flying past Mount Ruapehu en-route to Palmerston North.

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