Sunday, October 17, 2010

Departure photo

This photo was taken as I departed Port Augusta on the final leg of my delivery flight to Adelaide. I think it shows the aircraft off pretty well, even though the PC12 is not the most photogenic of aircraft.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Some stats...

Just to prove I have some spare time now I'm home.... here are some stats from the trip.

Total distance (great circle) - 11,203.3 km (6053.4 nautical miles).
Fuel used - 7,835 litres
Engine oil added - NONE
Flying time - 41.2 hours
Days away - 14
Days enroute - 7
Number of photos taken 645 - glad they're all digital!
Number of sharks fed - NONE - just the way I like it!
Number of unserviceabilities - only one that persisted. THIS IS A GREAT AEROPLANE!

Home at last....

Finally made it home to Port Augusta. Left Broome for Alice Springs to drop Chris off. Worst weather for the entrie trip, and we had to make an ILS approach for real! Got visual at 2 miles so all was good, and we arrived at the base to be greeted by a few hardy individuals, who also had some afternoon tea ready for us. A quick munch, flight plan, refuel, and I was off to Pt Augusta for a similar welcome. It was great to see the family again after all this time away - it feels like MONTHS. Also good to see my co-workers there to greet me. Very heartening to know they missed me - or was it just the aeroplane they wanted to see?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yet another map!

This is what we did today.... Bali to Broome. Shortest day yet, only because the bird wanted a rest....

It Broke!!

Arrived in Broome, Australia. Can't describe how good it felt to see the mainland at last, and the air is so fresh! Only problem is that after clearing customs and refuelling both the aeroplane and ourselves, we started up to head off to Alice Springs, and the fuel gauge for the right tank failed, along with my PDU (right side flight instruments). The problem is that if we took off, besides being illegal, it would have been difficult to confirm that the fuel flows were symmetrical and the aircraft could get out of balance and become difficult to handle. Having said that, once the approval is given by CASA, we will continue, prudently checking the aileron trim regularly and keeping the fuel balanced. There should be no problems with fuel load as we have six hours plus at normal power settings, and only a 2.5 hour trip to Alice Springs to drop Chris off. I can then fly to Pt Augusta in a similar time, having refuelled again to full tanks - job's right!

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The map

For those waiting to see the map, here it is. Day 6 in small scale.

Dinner and a show

The hotel we are staying at in Bali is HUGE. There are over 200 rooms, lots of staff, and the dining area is an outdoor theatre, where we watched traditional dancers while we munched on our only meal for the day. I don't know much about the story, and the music was a little difficult to follow, but overall, it was an experience I'll remember for some time.


We're finally in the southern hemisphere! Having landed in Bali, we are now about to set out on the last international leg of our trip to bring this PC12 home to Australia. Here is my favourite aeroplane on the ground at Bali. Uneventful trip - except for dodging a few towering cumulus and watching the lightning strikes on the radar.

This photo shows the weather as we arrived in Singapore. Relatively low clouds and plenty of rain in them, but we had no difficulty getting in at all. As for getting out, we had a 15 minute delay as we waited for the storm to pass and then we were off. No dramas there, but very busy airspace and tight corridors.

This could easily have been the same A380 that took us to Zurich only a week before.

Tropical paradise.... one of the hundreds of islands we flew over whilst en-route to  Bali.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Here's the map of progress so far. Now in Phuket, Tailand for a day off to recharge our batteries and wash some clothes.

And finally in Phuket - here's a photo of the beach just across the road from our hotel. Even though it was quite a nice day, the beach was pretty much deserted as you can see, and this was at 3:00pm! There were a couple of fishing boats just offshore, and a few people (out of shot) surfing, but probably less than 20 people in or within 100m of the water. I don't understand really, because it was quite warm at the time.

Interesting wiring job.... I think they are just telephone wires (at least I HOPE that's all they are), but this sort of thing is very common around the area. Just about ALL streets have a similar sight, and there are also very often loose and broken wires just hanging down.... where's Telstra when you need them?

Ok.... so sometimes I'm a tourist! Here's a nice looking temple that I saw not far from the hotel. These sort of buildings are very common in the area also.

No stamina..

Chris is having a little difficulty with the workload and time-zones. He's had a couple of short naps whilst en-route. I personally can't see how he can be comfortable right next to the cargo door. It's always cold when I open it to get the stretcher loader down!

The yellow/orange bag next to his head is the liferaft, and the grey box on top is our survival gear in case we had to ditch. We're planning on bringing this stuff back intact and unopened. Just a personal preference....

Leaving Chennai

The visibility over here is pretty bad right now, with the high humidity and pollution etc. This photo shows some of the terrain, and villages we flew over. There are a great number of small villages dotted all over the countryside, seemingly within a mile of so of each other.

Still going...

Each  day has been around 6 or 7 hours flying, and we've covered a lot of ground (and water), but we keep on going of course. Each day also brings its challenges and excitement, but overall I have to say it's an experience I would like to repeat some day. Let's just hope we need some more aeroplanes moved around....


Here's a photo of FVE parked at Hyderabad airport. Not a very good photo, but we can't take photos from the apron without getting trouble from the security people. Lots of soldiers and other security types here, and soooo many people to refuel! I counted eight people around the aircraft as we refuelled, one head refueller, his apprentice, a couple more presumably training, 2 line guys to put chocks in and cones at the wingtips, and of course our handler and the customs guy. All very friendly and helpful, but a little overwhelming.

Leaving Muscat

Here's a quick shot of the terrain as we left Muscat. Plenty of buildings, and lots of sand. Very warm too - at 35 degrees and 95 percent humidity, life in the cockpit prior to start was a little warm to say the least.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just in case you thought it was easy...

Here's a quick photo of our instrument displays while on climb out of Larnaca this morning... note that the available fuel is less than what is needed. Obviously we finally made it, but only because we went high and burned less fuel. The current endurance shown is based on the higher fuel burn at low altitude and on climb, and when combined with the lower groundspeed while on climb, life looks pretty scary for half an hour or so..

The map

This is the map of our trip today. Note that we went through some fairly hostile airspace. Just as well we didn't deviate from our track.

A little dry around here

Here's a photo I took from the balcony of our hotel. It's not too good as it was pretty dark at the time, but it does show the terrain here a little. Very dry and rocky isn't it?

I might also add, that it was still about 35 degrees and about 95 percent humidity....

What's happening?

Ok, here's a question - What do you notice about this aeroplane? For a start it has no markings, no registration, and no identifying marks at all. It came up behind us while we were still about 1000 miles to run to Muscat. We were at 27,000 feet, and he flew right over us and turned away as he passed in front of us. Nothing was said by the controller, and I didn't hear anything on the radio, so it's all a bit of a mystery. If he'd been a few feet lower, he would have set off our traffic awareness system and probably given us a bit of a fright. Even though I knew he was there, I had no idea what he was up to.

Since we were where we where, I thought it best not to ask any questions..... still wondering though.

Day two complete

Here we are, finally in Muscat, Oman. Another big day in the seat - have I mentioned that the seats in the aeroplane are like sitting on a park bench? Anyway, I opened the door and within 30 seconds, the humidity in the air had condensed all over the handrail, and even the floor and all the gear inside. When I stepped back into the aircraft after about five minutes outside, I was leaving footprints on the floor, even though it wasn't raining...

Photo shows the entry hall of our hotel here in Muscat. I'm too tired to argue.... it will have to do.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

First day

Here's the approximate track we flew today. Much of Italy was under a layer of scattered cloud, so we missed out on some great photos. However, the balance of the trip was pretty good weather and well worth the painful butt!

Finally, we can see the alps.

For the first time in nearly a week in Switzerland, we finally saw the Alps, mainly because we were above them, but also because the weather was much better this morning. Although we went through a small patch of rain (it only lasted about 10 minutes), most of the trip to Cyprus was really quite routine. It was however, a very long flight, and we shut down exactly 7 hours after startup in Buochs.

We're off!

Here's the view as we lined up on runway 07 in Buochs this morning. Check out the size of that hill at the end.... and the reporting point we were to track to, is behind the highest part. We were departing visually, so all was pretty easy really, but I wouldn't like to have to try it in cloud or at night - I'm far too chicken...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Looking through the looking glass....

Alright, just a little artistic diversion here. You can see in this photo, seven PC12 fuselages on the assembly line. The rear window positions on the PC12 are the only ones that line up with each other, and of course, when you build aeroplanes, you tend to line up the parts for convenience anyway. I think it looks pretty cool.

Very important part

This is the most important part of a Pilatus PC12. It is the forward wing-attach former, and it started life as a 380kg lump of aluminium. After 8.5 hours of computer-aided machine time, it looks like this and weighs only 35kg. The machines are of course huge, and very impressive, and without this technology, you couldn't hope to build modern aircraft at all.

It all began here....

It's pretty clear from just walking around the factory, that the people building these aeroplanes are very proud of their achievements - as they should be, it's an amazing place. Equally, it is clear that they got the PC12 pretty much right from the outset. This is the first prototype, now retired to a pole, and walking around it, you can see that very little has really been changed over the years. Yes, the wings are 2 metres shorter, and there are no ventral fins, but everything else is either the same, or has only had small detail changes.

The second prototype (of only two prototypes TOTAL), is also at the factory, and is airworthy, still used for occasional equipment testing. It has been modified to accept all kinds of test gear, so it no longer conforms to the type certificate as such, but is still a very useful airframe, as well as being historic.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Smile for the camera...

Ok, a simple tourist shot so I have at least one of me at the factory... here I'm with Dieter, one of the marketing team, who looks after the marketing and delivery of PC12's. I'm impressed with all the team here at Pilatus. They are friendly, professional, and generally speak very good english, certainly much better than my school-boy german.

My kind of kit

Those that know me of course, know that I am into model aeroplanes of all kinds, flying and non-flying.... no surprises there. I've just found what I want for Christmas.... it's a PC12 KIT! Because there is insufficient space at the Stans factory, Pilatus have the main components built up off site, in either Poland or Portugal. This one just arrived from Poland and was unloaded right after lunchtime today. I missed the unloading, as Chris and I were "out to lunch", but I'll get more photos in the factory tour tomorrow.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Gliding in the Swiss Alps

Ok, this photo is a little interesing... note the propeller feathered outside the windscreen, several of the screens black, and we are gliding at 125 knots while passing 10,000 feet. Every PC12 goes through a shutdown and relight on its first flight, so we can now say that FVE has had TWO in-flight shutdowns.

A very simple and interesting excercise really, but your brain is constantly trying to remind you that the unnatural quiet and lack of vibration is perhaps not what you should be enjoying right now, and get back to the business of relighting.


This photo shows Chris conducting the takeoff at Stans, with Marc doing all the navigating and radio work for the moment. Note the terrain shown on the PDU. We're not used to seeing so much yellow and red on our displays when flying in Australia, and I must say that I'd not be too keen to operate here at night. Strictly an IFR operation I would say.

Off we go for the acceptance flight.

Part of the acceptance of the aircraft involves us flying it, checking that it all works as advertised, and has no outstanding bugs or deficiencies that need to be addressed prior to our ferry flight. The photo shows Marc, our test pilot, lodging a flight plan via his iPad and iPhone, while standing outside with the aeroplane! These Swiss are definitiely up there with technology (this we knew of course)!

When we got to it, FVE (still registered in Switzerland as HB-FQQ) had just under 4.0 hours total flight time on it. By the time we get home, it will have over 40.0!

Here she is!

Ok, after all these months of anticipation, we finally got to see, and fly, our aeroplane today. This isn't the first aeroplane I've flown that is new, but it certainly is the most exciting journey and most satisfying trip I've done - so far.

You'll note that the final assembly hall at Pilatus is HUGE, made of envionmentally friendly materials, neatly arranged, and spotless. I would feel comfortable eating my lunch from the floor! No, I don't want to, but I would if I had to.

The building is heated by a circulating hot water system mounted in the rafters, but there is no air conditioning in the entire building, including the offices as that would not be "green". Instead, they have built the offices on the northern side of the building (overlooking the factory proper), to keep them somewhat isolated from the sun, and huge fans circulate the air in the building. We found it entirely comfortable, although the humidity level is a little higher than we're used to.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Wild cats loose in the mountains

Did somebody say that there were wildcats loose in the mountains? This must be one of them, so I had better give him a wide berth.

Highest altitude feline I've seen.

Bell-ringers extrodinair

Julie Andrews sang "The hills are alive, with the sound of music", but she should really have said "BELLS". All the cows (lots of them) have bells around their necks, and as a result of almost any movement of their heads, the bell will ring and of course tell the farmer where his charges are. With so many cows around, and such still air, we were constantly hearing bells - even as we went up or down in the cable cars. Really cool!

Are we expecting company?

Looking at the stacks of stakes, we're expecting an invasion of vampires.....

... of course they're really just fence posts.

Mountain views

We did the tourist thing yesterday and climbed "Musenalp" - which I think translates to "mouse mountain" or "little mountain". Of course, to say we climbed it, really is a little misleading as we took four cable cars in total and really climbed very little. It was mostly mildly sloping trails, but the views were spectacular and really couldn't be shown properly in photos....

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Ways to go...

Ok, here are a couple of comparison shots of two of the aircraft I was in for the trip. First one is a Metroliner of Sharp Airlines from Port Augusta to Adelaide. As you can see, it's pretty tiny in there and not too comfortable. It's also noisy and normal landings are harsh at the best of times because of the undercarriage design.

The second photo is of the Airbus A380, enroute Singapore to Zurich. My camera lens was pretty dirty at the time so I apologise for the poor quality. Nevertheless, you can see just a small part of the cabin. This is the biggest aeroplane I've been in, or likely to be I reckon, but it was so quite that you could have a conversation with both you seat-mates in normal voice! Try that in a Metro... Also, the landing was smooth as silk - almost as good as a PC12!

Today is a lay-day as the factory is not open over the weekends, so Chris and I will do some tourist stuff - perhaps climb a mountain or two! ..... ok, make that "ride to the top of a mountain or two on a cable car".

More tomorrow.

Trying again for the photos. I think they were too big the first time.....

Here we are.... in Switzerland!! Who would have thought...

Ok, after a marathon trip, involving 6 hours in an Airbus A330 from Adelaide to Singapore, and then (after a six hour layover), 13 hours in an Airbus A380, followed by an hour and a half by train.... you get the idea, we have finally arrived in Stanstaad and checked into the hotel. I've even had lunch and a shower, and now I'm heading to bed for a few hours to recharge my batteries....

Here are a couple of photos I took on the trip. First is one of the terminal at Changi Airport in Singapore. It is HUGE.

The second is a photo I took while Chris and I were havin lunch. As you can see, we're slumming it.....

For the aeroplane buffs, in the space of half an hour, we had two amphibious Beavers fly over us, along with an HS125 (twice), a DA42 Twinstar, and an old Junkers JU52. I think I'm really going to have a good time here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New PC12's for Central Section

Hi all,

Long time, no hear. Sorry, but I've been very slack with this blog. However, stand by for a bunch of updates starting later this week, as I'm heading off to Switzerland to pick up a brand spanking new Pilatus from the factory in Stans.

We will be spending a few days at the factory to check the new machine out and make certain it is all in good order, then setting off sometime later in the week, probably Thursday. There will be about six overnight stops along the way, so I'll update nightly if I can get online.

Check it all out then.