Friday, December 10, 2010


So as far as pistons go, if i am going to fly one, it should be a 404. It's big, not underpowered for a change, and even at max weight still performs. Im sure jet and turbine drivers would disagree but i'm not at that level yet, so i will enjoy what i've been given!

There are a lot of differences between it and the 402, despite them looking fairly similar from the outside. That main difference is the engines. They are the geared version of the turbo lycoming 520 engine. I think its geared to a ratio of 0.67. Roughly at full power the engine is going at 3300RPM but the prop spins at 2200RPM. Due to the geared engine it's a lot quieter in the cabin, and passengers don't need earplugs. We climb them at 1900RPM and cruise at only 1700RPM. The engines on hot days get a lot more fuel than whats needed for them to operate efficiently. This is known as bogging down, and it basically feels and sounds like an engine is about to fail. For this reason we usually hold the brakes till above 25" manifold pressure till the fuel flow has stabilised. I have been told one method to avoid bogging down is to increase the power till this level with the mixtures leaned, and then as you increase to full power, but the mixtures to full rich. Not only is it bad for passengers as they get worried, its not good for the engine either.

The titan is a bigger plane and can hold up to 13 people if the 13th seat is installed. Generally we fly them with only 11 seats, as they are mainly used for our RPT network, and maximum passengers for single pilot is only 9. It also has trailing link undercarriage, which means 99% of landings are awesome! It also has hydraulic fowler flaps, as opposed to electric split flaps of the 402.

Overall i'm really enjoying the titan. I remember when i first went looking for a job 3 years ago, i went for a flight with a mate in a titan, and remember thinking how good it would be to fly one. 3 years later and i wrote the exact same registration in my logbook. I guess we get to where we need to be and beyond eventually. Hopefully the next step is not to far away either.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spot the Difference

Above is the wing of a C402C.

Above is the wing of the C404! Yes is a new plane, and im all checked to line. Very similar overall, in terms of flying, speeds etc. But enough different that it requires more training. The main difference apart from the airframe is the bigger donks out the window.

Very cool aeroplane. Sounds good, much better for passengers, bigger and more power!

More to come.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Engine Management and Cost

I have a few things i want to write about soon, but i thought i would go through some piston engine management, and also how we try to operate aircraft, both efficiently and operationally to try get the best results without compromising maintenance times.

I'll give a little run down into how it costing works firstly. Lets for an example use a 402. I'm actually unsure as to what my company charges per hour for their aircraft. As line pilots we just do the flying, and leave the operations and bookings to the operations staff. However, for example lets say it costs $800 per hour for a 402. Then for a flight that should hypothetically take 2 hours on the maintenance release, then costing should be $1600. So the aim of the line pilot is to try do it within that 2 hours. Usually it's pretty spot on, but sometimes other variables means you will go over. Such things as holding, or weather deviations, a go around or instrument approach etc are all things that will increase your maintenance times. Maintenance times are done in 6 minute intervals, so therefore an extra 6 minutes of flight time will equal an extra .1 of an hour to the maintenance release. When we consider that its $800 and hour, then every .1 will equal $80 saved or spent. Therefore as an aircraft operator, i do what i can to increase efficiency and do what i can to reduce my flight times.

I do this by usually doing straight in approaches where i can. Nearly every runway is east-west up here, and the wind is nearly always from the east. Most of these runways are long enough, and sealed, that even a slight tailwind doesn't pose any real problem. Unfamiliar strips, or dubious dirt strips always require an inspection first. There is a comprimise of safety and efficiency, which is where basic airmanship comes into play. I do other things such as climbing or descending to different levels to see where the best winds are. Usually going east, the winds are lighter up higher, and heading west, a lower altitude gets you the best groundspeed. The most efficient way of working out winds is talking to already departed company aircraft and seeing what groundspeed they are getting at a level, and levelling off at a lower or higher altitude and compare. Other ways of reducing track miles is requesting direct to waypoints or aerodromes. This is done frequently when we have to divert left and right of track, it becomes more efficient to track direct to the next waypoint than manoeuvre back on the original track.

So with all this in mind, engine management for piston aeroplanes plays a big factor. Big piston engines are not like turbines and you cannot just pull back the taps to slow down. There is a constant reduction of power, till you retard the throttles on landing. The aim of the game is after reducing from take-off power to climb power is that you don't actually increase the powers again, unless in an event, such as a go-around requires you to do so. This was the same from flying C206 all the way up to the C402.

Without turbo engines to deal with, the normal range on normally aspirated engines is 20 - 25" of manifold pressure that needs to be looked after. To reduce the power too quickly especially on descent will cause shock cooling which will eventually crack the cylinder heads of the piston engine. So to avoid this, and look after the engine, most companies have a standard operation procedure on how they want their engines operated and power reduced when descending. On normally aspirated engines, we keep them full throttle till around 6000ft, which equals roughly 23" of manifold pressure. We keep them at 23" which is about an inch of power every 500ft - 1000ft worth of descent. This equates to an inch of manifold pressure every 1 - 2 minutes. When we are through 3000ft we reduce it to 21" of manifold pressure and reduce it again through 2000ft, back to 19". From there it is pilots discretion to keep the constant rate of descent and power reduction smooth and consistant till retarding the powers on landing.

This gives you a rough idea of how we operated the singles and baron's. Using this method we avoid shock cooling the engines, and also keep our speed up until near an aerodrome, which helps reduce flight times, without being detrimental to the aircraft engines.

So i will now talk about the engine management in the turbo engines. It is much the same philosophy as the normally aspirated piston, but with a much higher manifold pressure. The C402 cruises at 29" of manifold pressure. So we keep a constant rate of descent of 500ft. When we go through 3000ft, we reduce the power 2 inches, back to 27". Through 2000ft, we reduce it back to 25". This is actually where the turbos cut out, so its essentially back to a normally aspirated engine at this point. It is still important to give it a minute or two at 25" though for adequate cooling and adjusting. (on this note, if your descent rate happens to be higher, either to catch profile, or because you had to descent later, then obviously you would reduce the powers a little earlier to keep the 2 minute spacing between power changes.) In the C402 we keep the powers at 25" until we are gear down, full flap, pitch full fine, mixture full, and then start reducing the powers till retarding them for landing. Once we have landed, we also need to allow a minimum of 3 minutes for the turbo engines to cool on landing. For this reason i nearly always use the entire runway and backtrack (when operationally available) so during the cooling phase the aeroplane is always moving. I have discovered passengers hate sitting in a stationary aeroplane with the engines running, but if im taxiing around after landing no one really minds. So i always try use the entire 3 minutes just backtracking and vacating the runway. Doesn't always work, and in Darwin the taxi to the General Aviation ramp is about 4 minutes, so in some cases it doesn't pose a huge problem.

Hopefully this makes sense to all you readers. If you have any questions please ask, just a little insight into how i have been taught, and am expected to operated company aircraft. Im actually starting on the C404 soon, which is a little different with engine management from the C402, as it cruises at 31" and has turbo, geared engines, which are quite sensitive to shock cooling and have to be looked after more diligently than the C402.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Flying to Umbakumba

I think thats how you spell it. I will just call it umk for the purpose of not writing its full name. Umk is one of the few strips i have been into, when i was flying singles that i stuck out as being dodgy, short and with crazy cross winds. Its right on the coast, on Groote Eylandt, roughly 40km north-east.

I remember the first time i went to the strip, was in a C206 with a whole bunch of computer equipment. It was during the dry season, and i have a horrible headwind the entire flight. Now the flight to Umk is 357nm. Couple this with about 2 months of solid baron flying, then going back into the slowest 206 on one of the longest flights, i was not a happy camper, as such. Anyway, i remember arriving at the strip and the wind was easily around 25-30 knots, all cross. Even though i have over a 100 hours on C206 aeroplanes, it felt foreign since i hadn't been flying it as recent, and it doesn't take long to lose your feel for it.

So we arrived and it was one of about 3 times in my flying career, where the only thing i was thinking was "this could go either way." Not a very good feeling! I remember as i landed with full aileron into wind, and full rudder i was still being dragged across the runway. Eventually i stopped and backtracked, uneventfully, but that was my first memory of that strip.

Fast forward to yesterday and the day before, im told im going to umk in a C402 with a lot of gear for a few blokes who are overnighting. So we departed just before first light and did the 357nm, reasonably slowly at 9000ft, and arrived at a very calm umk, no wind, and the strip looked and felt better than i remembered! So not to worry. Unloaded and was asked if i was picking them up tomorrow! Naturally i had no idea i would be, but as it turned out, i was doing the return charter.

Umk from the air and from the ground. These were taken at about 8:30am on the first day dropping the boys off.

Now the return charter was bumpy being in the afternoon with lots of build up happening. But none the less, arrived over Groote Eylandt and saw no less than 3 cells around the umk areas. It was rough while descending, and i even reduced power early to try give the least impact to my mid 70's built chariot. Did a solid circuit over the strip to make sure i knew where the wind was coming from and did an uneventful and windless landing?! Again, i was suprised, but all was good.

Now for when we finally departed, those little areas of buildup were now a solid line of storms. Every time i thought i found a gap, all i could see was huge amounts of lightning and more cells behind them. I think i ended up diverting 20nm to the north and eventually found a gap. Even though i had weather radar in this aircraft, i found it was actually easier and most likely safer to remain visual and go lower/find the gaps. Worked well, and after about 20 - 30min of storm dodging we were in reasonably clear air with just isolated cells around, but none on my track to Jabiru for my fuelling stop. I needed fuel, mainly due to the holding requirements back into Darwin, but i had also done a few extra stops on the way to umk, combining 2 charters into one, as i was empty over there, it made operational sense. One was to Bickerton Island, and the other to Ngukkur.

Line of cells i was dodging about 20 minutes into the cruise. I was tracking virtually north at this point for around 20nm to get around them.

So we eventually arrived at Jabiru, and although being a reasonable sized airstrip for Arnhem land, it has no lights, but the fuel there is a lot cheaper than elsewhere... when it works! Since it has no lights, and i landed at around 18:15, that gave me roughly 45 minutes till end of daylight for departure. Not a problem to put 300lbs of fuel on a 402. But as it turns out Jabiru had been hit by a massive storm about an hour earlier, which after a few calls found out had busted the bowser. Luckily i know a few of the boys that work for the local companies in Jabiru and was able to get one of them to come out and try reset the switches. Eventually it worked, and we were airbourne at around 18:55. Close! The last thing i wanted after such a big day of flying was to overnight in Jabiru!

Flying over Kakadu National Park at 6000ft on the way to Jabiru for fuel. The terrain in this area is around 2500ft.

Anyway, thats the story of yesterdays adventure. I'm going to write more about "how is this going to end" in a future post. I have some good stories, and weird occurances that have happened, mainly doing mailruns in central Australia. Most times it's been external factors, that was happened, but its crazy just how quick you can think and remember things when you have too. till next time, enjoy some of the photos!

I have also uploaded a video of me landing a C402B into Maningrida. Enjoy.

On the back of a ute at Bickerton Island. Good times.

Numbalwar from the air! You can see the strip on the left hand side.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Troughtn Island, or YTTI, was a place i always wanted to visit. I don't know why i did to be honest, but the idea of landing on a small strip in the middle of nowhere. Literally all the island has is a 980m coral strip (with PAPI!) and a few donga's/a hangar. There was also a ute that was missing its doors. Good times. - That may be a better idea of the place.

I flew out there to take a few guys fixing the meteorology station out there. Troughton is run by the Shorelands group, and i believe its used as an alternate for all the big offshore oil rigs out in the Timor Sea. Truscott is the main airport nearby, only around 30nm away.

There was about 25kts wind, virtually all crosswind. Max for the C402 is 20kts, so it was definately an interesting landing. In my eyes it was a good landing, but im sure my passengers were convinced otherwise haha. With lots of drift, on a short strip such as this, all i wanted to do was get the plane down on the threshold with the into wing low. Bit of a cruncher, but i pulled up in around 600m and in my eyes thats what mattered. Flight to and from was uneventful, just all over water, lots of cloud and rain, but no real weather as such.

Anyway to make this charter even better, the moment we landed we were offered a coffee, which was well needed and 'deserved.' Maybe not deserved, but very much appreciated. Then we were made big chicken salad rolls, and all sat around chatting for a long time. Signed the visitor book and saw that a lot of my colleagues have also had this pleasure!

All in all, was a great charter, one of the few that makes me so happy for my experiences working in general aviation.

The coral strip, looking south, towards the Australian Mainland.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pause Button

I was wondering about things to write about the other day. There are only so many pictures of communities, airstrips, clouds, storms blah blah that one can take photos of and still keep it interesting. Some of the more interesting stuff happens at night and the photos just dont work. So i was thinking of some more hairy times i have had. Maybe hairy isn't the right word, but when the workload gets to that level where you suddenly realise there is more going on in the aeroplane and outside and suddenly you are behind the aircraft trying to catch up. I like to think i'm a good operator and this doesn't happen very often, but i can think of at least 2 times when it has.

I used to play a lot of flightsim before i started flying. I loved it, and it actually did give me a firm understanding and grounding in aircraft/airspace procedures, terminology etc. Even so, i remember when there was a lot to do, i could pause the sim and set everything up and even look at a big map and figure out exactly what was going on. I don't have that luxury anymore, and even though it's not a hypothetical 767, I often have 8 very real passengers depending on my skill and expertise to do a flight safely and professionally.

I can't actually think of exact moments where i have wished there was a pause button, i just remember times when i have been thinking "what is happening, what is going on next." And it is a horrible feeling. Especially in IMC, with a dodgy autopilot, flying turbo aeroplanes, on minimum fuel, being told unusual vectors. The other day I was flying back into Darwin, and was given a vector straight into a storm. Naturally i said, unable and was given almost a reverse track due to other arriving/departing traffic. I was then in solid cloud, bumps and was fairly high for my DME/distance to Darwin. (FYI - We use a descent profile of 5 for our descents. Therefore at 9000ft, we use 9 x 5, and would need to descend at 45nm. But obviously common sense says that if there is a howling tailwind, and you are going straight in, then you would descend earlier.)

I was given a lower level and was finally visual and was then cleared a visual approach. I could hear Brasilia's and a Beech 1900 going around into Darwin, and this was the first alarm bell in my head. However, from where i was i could see everything. I kept descending and going towards the field. I was virutally established on the ILS anyway, so i knew my profile and speeds were in check for a visual approach. Yet as i approached 2000ft, i realised, i was visual with everything in Darwin, bar the airfield. There was just a curtain of heavy rain over the field, which was not even mentioned in the ATIS. I then requested to shoot the ILS approach and after the outer marker was able to get visual with a very wet runway.

Now this wasn't particularly a 'bad moment'. But for starters, i was doing a visual approach, i didn't have my plates ready or briefed for the approach. That was a few minutes of rummaging and pulling them out. It was an unexpected workload to then do the approach and have to reconfigure the aircraft for where i was in the approach. I just remember getting on the ground and it was just a messy and not really in line with my own single pilot procedures. I think every pilot has their own way of operating, and when they are suddenly forced to do it a different way, thats when mistakes and accidents happen. And it was just a moment where a pause button was needed.. just to stop, think and reconsider and reevalute the unexpected situation. Having said that, its situations like these that make us better pilots, as they usually force us to learn from our mistakes, or be better prepared for next time. Was i naive not to have a plate out or brief it already? Thats up to interpretation. Im flying single pilot IFR and probably should always expect the worst so im prepared.

Either way it was an uneventful flight in the end, and it was an experience i have taken under my belt in the game of learing. In other news, for all those pilots from Australia who i know, getting paid nothing to work in Indonesia, so that you can call a 737 your "office," get some real experience, command time so you too can experience making single pilot command decisions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MGD at night, for the coroner

Sometimes i get some interesting flights which happen at odd hours. One happened yesterday, where i had to pick up a body for the coroner from Maningrida. I departed at 5pm for the 80 minute, 200nm flight in the baron. There was a lot of weather around, and this is why the flight was done in a twin, rather than the C206. We normally do coffin runs, or these sorts of flights in the C206 with the seats removed, but as per company policy and overall safety, we only do flights of this nature at night when there are thunderstorms around in twin engine aeroplanes.

Yesterday wasn't bad weather for myself as such, lots of rain, a little bit of cloud and dodging bigger cells, but for some of the other poor GA warriors flying last night, they were in the thick of it, without weather radars asking for help from centre, and requesting vectors to avoid the big storm areas. There was a big line of storms stretching around 150nm long, between Katherine (Tindal) and Oenpelli. All the jets flying to Asia were going up to 40nm right of track to avoid this line.

So picking up a body in a body bag sounds pretty gnarly, and by all means isn't my favourite thing in the world, but it's amazing how you generally don't think about it when it's in the plane with you. The only difference with this body was that for the first time i could actually smell it, and it wasn't overly unpleasant or anything, it was just a strange smell, once i landed and it got a bit stuffy in the cabin; so i couldn't work out what it was straight away, and obviously i eventually registered the source!

Flying IFR at night in marginal weather without a radar is definately not fun, however up here in the top end, the monsoonal storms aren't overly aggressive, or long lasting either, unless a tropical depression/cyclone develops. They are very isolated too and the flashes of lightning can be seen everywhere, making the worst of the weather reasonably easy to avoid. This is not always the case when there is embedded storms, but this doesn't happen all to often.

Straight after take-off i was handed to approach, who vectored me around some inbound vfr traffic from the north. I was actually passing 6000ft by the time i flew downwind to Darwin airport. I am then transferred to the class E frequency of 129.85. Class E in Australia means IFR traffic is seperated from other IFR planes and is radar monitored. We are given traffic infomation about VFR traffic only. If i was below 8500 (Class G) then i would only recieve infomation about IFR and VFR traffic and it would be up to me to avoid them and take suitable action. Mostly around Australian airports, Class E extends around 90nm above 8500ft. Its lower level beyond this becomes FL180 and anything below this becomes Class G. Up in the top end we are radar identified till around 140nm out of Darwin at 9000ft, and about 100nm at 8000ft.

From leaving Class E, i then get transferred onto centre 124.1 (Class G), which is patched with a lot of other frequencies, and covers a large area. As i get around 50-60nm out from Maningrida, i transfer to what we call the "MAF" frequency. Well, i call it the MAF frequency, because Mission Aviation Fellowship, which operates out of East Arnhemland, always make their CTAF and traffic calls on Brisbane Centre. There is no law against or for this, but when the frequency is busy with IFR traffic, it can be hard to get a radio call in, on top of hearing VFR traffic heading coastal at 5500ft to some unknown Aboriginal community blah blah. It's their company policy though, so i guess they are just adhering to what they are meant to do.

Anyhoo, this frequency for me is 123.4. This is patched all the way down to Tennant Creek, across the Horn Island in the Torres Straights, and basically pretty close to Cairns. It covers a lot of area, and is always cool when i hear some of my mates who fly out of Alice Springs and Tennant Creek on the airwaves. Maningrida, and virtually all the places i fly into (apart from Tindal) are all on CTAF procedures. Maningrida has the CTAF frequency 127.5. Maningrida also gets VHF on the ground, so no need to use HF radion for a change!

So i waited on the ground for a bit in MGD until the body arrived. It was in a big precession, with about 10 cars, and probably over 200 people accompanying it. They do a ceremony as they load it into the plane which is quite amazing/odd to watch for the first time. Mostly everyone is really respectful and are quite gracious to the pilot for these jobs, but i have seen people start smashing their heads into the sides of the planes and causing possible damage, so i always keep an eye on whats going on. Yesterday ran as smooth as it could, and the police at MGD were good blokes who helped me out.

Departure and return to Darwin was uneventful, despite going through a lot of rain and cloud, and having lightning going off in the distance. All in a days work i guess!

I do have photos of some of the events, but i don't know how disrespectful it is to post some of it, so i might just keep them hidden for now.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

More 402

Well the wet season is coming stronger and stronger. I have now had to do a few ILS's into Darwin on the return leg from a days flying. The weather is usually ok up until the mid afternoon and then it turns sour. I'm not 100% what a microburst is, but i assume there have been a few near the field with the windsock literally swinging around in direction every few minutes, up to 25kts from east to west and north to south. Made for one or two hairy approaches on the edge of the storm. However 4km of runway and the C402 doesn't pose me a huge problem, even with a 25kt tailwind. Having said that, when you are turning a 2nm final over the field and you can feel yourself being dragged towards the strip sideways in the base turn, it's definately not a procedure i want to practise regularly.

I'm feeling a lot more confident now in the C402, with fuel figures and understanding the aeroplane. I find the hardest part is all the conversations, which is really a recipe to fail unless you are diligent in your calculations. What i'm trying to say is constantly converting between litres, kilo's and pounds can lead to the wrong figures in the paperwork, wrong weights for max payload take-offs, and the wrong amount of fuel being loaded. We use pounds in the flight plan, and also the planes fuel gauges are all in pounds. This is easy to use as the plane burns roughly 100lbs per engine per hour. So if each tank is showing 300lbs, as a rule of thumb you know you have 3 hours of fuel, and around 2.4 hours till you will hit your fixed reserves. Now we have to convert the pounds to litres for the refuellers. This is done by dividing the pounds of fuel by 1.58 for avgas. We then use kilo's for the weight and balance, so pounds divided by 2.204 gives you the weight in kilos. Again, its not hard or challenging, you just have to think about which conversion you are attemping and make sure you do it in the correct order.

As a rule of thumb in regards to fuel, the boys always substract 50lbs off the final fuel figure (we call it our 'gravy'). So basically whatever fuel figure you are using from the previous paperwork, you know there is roughly 30 litres of extra fuel in the tanks. When available (depending on the job) we also use a 10% extra policy, on top fixed reserve, flight fuel, variable reserves (15% of the flight fuel) and plus whatever holding is needed. This ensures adequate fuel, as even though our planning is around 200lbs per hour, it ends up being roughly 230lbs with take-off, climb segments included.

I have been flying the C402C a lot more as well. Definately a much nicer plane to fly. Significant improvements are the vortex generaters which allow greater lift and payload. They also have 50 more horses on take-off, and the turbos boost the engines to 39" of manifold pressure, whereas the B model only goes to 34'5" of manifold pressure. So the take-off performance is a lot better. The wing also looks better without the tip-tank, and best of all is the tank-to-engine fuel systems. No need to change tanks unless you are crossfeeding to balance the tanks. It also holds about 200lbs more than the B model, total fuel being 1236lbs, roughly 785 litres of fuel, for those of you using the metric system.

Other nice features on the C model is the weather radar. They are probably from the stoneage of aviation, but still when flying in the soup with weather around, it gives you are better informed idea of where the significant weather is so you can avoid it. It's definately not great, or even colour, but its better than having no radar!

Till next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Sorry its been a while since i last posted! I have actually had 2 weeks leave, which was well earned and deserved as far as i'm concerned. So haven't had a whole lot of photos to take or things to write about, in regards to flying at least.

Although my first flight back was down to Hooker Creek (south of Darwin 355nm), and returning in the late afternoon into Darwin, was my first proper taste of the 'wet season.' I was in and out of huge areas of cloud build up. I tried to avoid the big ones but sometimes its hard, and you just need to ride the bumps with the powers turned back. Anyway once visual there was a line of thunderstorms to the south of the field i had to navigate around (without weather radar, for those playing at home!) I was lucky in the sense i was able to see a tiny gap, where a semi-visible horizon was seen, so i made a bee-line for it before the gap closed. Worked a treat. Darwin at this point was being hit by torrential rain, so i was cleared the VOR 11 approach.

So anyway, i don't think i had done a VOR approach since my intial instrument rating test! I have done many ILS, which cover me for VOR recency, however not a VOR. I barely got visual at the minima, and finally a little to the right of my line of sight i could see the PAPI lights glowing through the rain. Once i selected full flaps and landed, the runway was completely saturated and another first on this flight, actually experienced aqua-planing and had very unresponsive braking.

So there is nothing like a 2 weeks break from work, and have an unfamiliar approach down to minimums to get you back in to gear. It is also one of those experiences that makes you confident in your ability, but also makes me realise how much there is to still learn. Flying piston twins in weather like that is no my favourite thing in the world, im also lucky i don't have icing conditions to deal with either. There is no mucking about doing an instrument approach like that, and for the life of me cant figure out why i didn't ask to do the runway 11 RNAV. Either way, it all worked out!

Anyway, i'll get some photos up soon of my holidays! Take care.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cessna 402

Im flying the Cessna 402 more and more now and am finally checked to line, and have been let loose by myself. Definately doesn't perform as well as the baron, and is less sports car-ish, but its really nice to fly something bigger, with a proper cabin, air conditioning and turbo engines. We operate 2 different types of 402, both the B and C models.

One of the check and trainers on my check flight.

I have done a few ICUS (in command under supervision) flights in it where i took some photos. Most of my ICUS was done in the 402B model. The B doesn't perform nearly as well as the C, and has dramatically less performance on take-off, less uplift and less range. Our B model aircraft have 5 different fuel tanks and a silly 1960's mentality of design where the more complicated the fuel system is, the better. We know this is not the case, and the 402C just has 2 fuel tanks, one per engine.

The B is essentially a big baron in terms of payload and range, but is able to take a lot more bulky items. The main difference in appearance between the B and C models is the big fuel tanks on the wing-tip. These are the main fuel tanks, and have 300lbs per side. The aux tanks have 180lbs per side, and we also have a wing locker fuel tanks with 120lbs. Sounds simple enough, but to use the aux tanks, you need to burn roughly an hour out of the mains, as the aux tank fuel pumps deliver twice the amount of fuel needed to the engine. The excess fuel is pumped back in the main tanks, and thus fills them up as you use the aux fuel. If you haven't burnt enough fuel then you end up venting it in flight. Not optimal for a max range, max payload, min fuel flight. To use the wing locker tank, you need to have at least 120lbs available to fill up the left main tank, and then use the cross-feed system to balance the tanks once its transferred. In summary far to complex and having a single fuel tank per engine is a much easier, safer design philosophy.

You can see the tip tank of the 402B in this photo.

So in contrast, the C has model is much more simple and straight forward, has about 50 more horses in the engines, can uplift an extra 300kg, with a lot more range. It is harder to land though in my opinion, but i might not be used to it just yet.

Anyway im sure i will have more stories to tell soon about it, but here are some photos for now.

Apparently this plane comes into Darwin regularly, but i have never seen it, or heard it! The biggest equipment Darwin gets regularly are A330's, and military C-17's.

Parked at Oenpelli.

Cabin shot in-flight. I have flown these guys in singles, barons and now the 402.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's back!

Sunrise, again! It's really hard to capture just how red that sun is. And how scenes like this never cease to amaze me.

The 'wet season' is starting to happen again. This period is known as the 'build up.' Lots of humidity, big cumulus clouds, unstable weather with the occaisional storm, and of course rain. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing really to worry about flying either as the cells and big clouds are usually isolated and its easy to navigate around them.

However, put yourself into a baron, at 5:00am in the morning, on a moonless night, with layer of cloud sitting at 10,000 feet. This makes the darkness feel even darker. One of the aspects of night flying in the Northern Territory, is that it's black and often hundreds of miles between seeing any civilisation on the ground. Couple all this with no weather radar, and i'm flying blind, on instruments. This isn't normally a problem, but i cannot see what's ahead of me, and on this particular night, it happened to be a storm. Not a big one, nor a fully developed monster that the wet season brings. But nonetheless was still an experience.

This baron has a light to show the leading edge, mainly to see if there is ice buildup. You can sort of see the streaks of rain over the leading edge.

So i took off from Darwin, on the Darwin 4 departure. This entails tracking runway heading till 900ft, and then turning to your assigned heading. As i levelled off at 8000ft, i set up the plane for cruise and did the paperwork, then settled in for the 90 minute flight to Kununurra. About 15 minutes into the flight i could see the strobes blinking in the darkness and everytime they blink, it looks like stars/particles around the wing. Now, i felt a little slow for not realising it was rain straight away, but i couldn't see it on the windshield ahead of me, and i couldnt hear it due engine noise/noise cancelling headset.

A photo in the bumps and in cloud!

Anyway i was a little shocked at first, and there appeared to be a lot of rain. (There was not much mentioned on the forecast of rain etc.) As i went a little further i ended up in cloud for a fair while, at which point i turned off the strobes as they are blinding at night in cloud. Soon though there was more flashing all around me, which was when i first got a little worried. When you fly close to a storm you hear the unmistakable streak of static in your headset as the lightning goes off. The bumps got progressively worse and worse at which point i was handflying as servos on the auotpilot don't mix well this amount of turbulence.

Once clear of the weather, looking back towards what i had come through. The main brunt of the storm was about 50nm behind this build up.

Long story short, flew through this for till about 100nm from Kununurra and all of a sudden it was clear! Good times. Interesting to say the least, and a good experience. Strangely enough, everyone in Kununurra and Darwin had seen it on the computer weather radar, and were asking if i flew through that area. Wasn't as bad as it looked on the radar though. And the be honest, the bumps i had to endure during the Alice Springs summer thermals, doing the mailruns low level, were definately worse.. i didn't even hit my head on the roof!

Arrival into Kununurra!

So i returned to Kununurra yet again, and this time had a coffee with the Chief Pilot of my old company there. He was actually the last guy of my season to be hired, but he has done well for himself there and seems to be running a good operation.

Part of the Ord River that runs between Kununurra and Wyndam. I hadn't flown over this area in almost 3 years.

The charter was flying some telecommunication blokes to a place called Forrest River, or Oombulgurri. It used to be a reasonably big/busy community, but as evident when i went there, it's virtually a ghost town, with only 50 people there at maximum anytime. It was actually a lot nicer to visit when it was like this, as for the first time ever that i have visited it, there was no trash all over the streets! I sat in the clinic and spoke to the nurse there for a few hours.

Oombie street scene - Clean and nice.

Overall was a great charter, enjoyed going to some of the old places and definately enjoyed the night flying/experience i had in the morning!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and thanks to all who commented last post.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


So was wondering does anyone still actually read this blog? I know the old man does, but am just curious?

Anyway, i get stuck for ideas to post about, so if you do read it, please leave comments on aspects/photos of my job you would like to see more of.

Regards, Mike

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dugong, Groote Eylandt

Did an overnight on Groote Eylandt, and they put me up at the Dugong. Was definately one of the few perks general aviation has to offer. Generally accomodation for us bug smasher pilots is limited to a donga, with rattling aircon, bugs and no clean linen! So definately a nice change.

Anyway, was flying 3 doctors running a cardio clinic at some of the local communities and clinics. Had a nice dinner with them last night and now im waiting in the room to head back to Darwin. So i thought i would post a few photos of the surrounds. Enjoy.

There you have it, the Dugong!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Coyote Mine

I did a big flight to Coyote mine last friday. Was good night hours, and readers of this blog will know how much i love flying at night! Coyote is right near the Granites and Tanami mines, which are right in the middle of the Tanami desert. Coyote is in Western Australia, just over the border from the Nothern Territory. The distance was roughly 470nm each way from memory. It was about the length as flying Darwin to Tennant Creek.

Sunrise after taking off from Kununurra.

A very rough idea of how much in the middle of nowhere this flight was!

I departed as early as i could to maximise the night hours, and flying west made meant sunrise was later than expected and was able to log 2.5. (Basically i need 100 night hours command, co-pilot or ICUS to qualify for the ATPL licence, and im getting really close to that now). I departed at 4am, and flew the leg to Kununurra for extra fuel. I took full fuel (737 usable litres) out of Darwin, and refuelled to full tanks at Knx for the leg to Coyote. I did the GPS/DME arrival into Kununurra as it was still night. Arrival to Kununurra was cool and the bowser is right near my old work. Was kinda cool seeing all the new hire pilots getting the airvans ready for the 6am scenic flights to the Bungle Bungles. (Western Australia is an hour and a half behind darwin. So from memory it was roughly 5am when i landed in Kununurra.

A view of the Bungle Bungles on the way down to Coyote. They are roughly 110nm from Kununurra.

The flight to Coyote was good. I had 192kts groundspeed on the way down at 9000ft. On the return leg at 7000ft i had a similar speed. Total flight time was just over 5 hours. Basically the charter was to pick up a worker who needed to connect to a midday flight back to Brisbane. Coyote is serviced by my company every Wednesday by 19 seater Metroliners. When i left Darwin at 4am, it was around 20 degrees. At Coyote at 8am, it was roughly 8 degrees on the ground. I didn't have a jumper so i remained in the plane for warmth!

The mine itself. i flew over it and near the accomodation there so they knew i'd arrived and joined a downwind runway 25. It had a slight tailwind, but it was better than landing directly into the sunlight.

This is a picture of the strip. Its about a 20 minute drive from the mine site to the strip.

Cheers for reading, Mike.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Flying to Kununurra at Night

Back again to where i used to live and work for my first job! Kununurra-- is in the north-west area of Australia in the Kimberley region. It was a good flight, and i left late evening, almost at last light. Was nice to fly there in a twin finally and not worry so much about the crocodile infested water below.

At the moment in Darwin, there is a military exercise called pitch black, so getting slot times and taking note of the restricted airspace in the notams is important. My traffic for arrival into Kununurra was a squadron of F-111 jets doing low-level flying. Was also waiting at the holding point in darwin for 20 minutes for a squadron of F-18's to land. Always good (and loud) to see them in action.

Darwin after take-off.. lightish on fuel and empty down meant good performance.

Anyhoo, flight was last minute down to Kununurra (I had just returned from a charter to Elcho Island). The flight to knx from Darwin is 238nm. Got some good photos of the sunset which the photos really didn't do justice. Because it was night when i landed in Kununurra i did the RNAV rwy12 approach. Mainly because i don't like doing visual approaches at night and also to keep my instrument recency.

RNAV approach plate.. The baron doesnt have control column clips so you need to brief and understand the plate before you start the approach as its often hard to read it in the dark while flying.

This was the best photo of the sunset, but still, the photo does it no justice. Cheers for reading..