Wow, only one week. Haha, in your time, yeah, it might seem like an average week. Here, it seems like its been way longer than that. At the same time, it doesn’t seem like we’ve done all that much.
The course we’re on is run by civilians, so I can say a bit more about it. For those of you who can remember way back when I was considering doing an NMIT course, before I decided to join the RNZAF, the course I am on now is the same as the first 3 months of the NMIT course. Its even run by NMIT.
Its been a slow start, we did a bit of administration for the first 2 days, then we started slow with workplace safety and maths. These both continue till the end of next week. Because its a civilian course, it has to be set up for everyone, and we have to stick to the syllabus, so these first few bits are just doing it for the sake of it, the maths and H&S is all stuff that we’ve learnt already in the AF, in fact the maths was what we needed just to join up. Although, for those that struggle with maths, I think they’re finding it useful. For someone like myself, though, I’m just considering that Mum was a pretty good teacher…
We also have a bit more time off, study breaks in the afternoon and such, which will be quite useful once we have stuff we need to study. For now they are just an excuse to knock off early. No fear, within 2 weeks I expect to be using most of the given study break, and within 3 weeks I’ll probably be using free time to study as well, so I don’t mind study, its just that I don’t see the point in studying stuff I don’t struggle with…
Its been a good chance to go into town and stock up on supplies etc too, I’ve managed to chuck my uniform in the wash, go to town, do some shopping, grab a meal, come back, iron everything, shower, and then be in bed by 7. Okay, that’s partly also the novelty of living 5km from town. I think I prefer living an hour and a half out tbh, but there definitely are some benefits of living closer…
One thing I’m not too happy about though is my car. I like it a lot, its good to drive, and doesn’t use an ounce of fuel more than I’d expect. However, I learnt a lesson in parking. Never park on the corner of a parking space. No, because Countdown parks here don’t have a concrete buffer at the end like I’m used to, so there’s no safety zone between your car and any car driving past. As the front left bumper of poor little Mitsi found out. Okay, yeah, if any of you saw it you’d laugh at how small a scratch it is, to be honest I would too, except she’s only 7 months old! I mean, really! I knew that if I kept her till she was 20, she’d probably have a few scars and scratches, maybe a ding here, a bit of rust there. But I guess I never expected anything to happen to her that early in life. And also considering the trip I just took her on to get her down here, I thought that I at least might get the privilege of choosing her first ding, not just get back from shopping and suddenly notice. Meh, oh well. Personally I think it was a targeted attack, for being a Gisborne driver. I’m amazed they don’t have more accidents, it seems more like what I’ve heard about India. People pulling out in front of you without warning is one case. I guess it follows logically, if they don’t stop to create gaps in traffic here, people will learn to create their own. I was bragging to my family about driving over the Whareratas, a hilly range south of Gisborne, without using my brakes once, just using the brake gear to slow myself down. Admittedly, it was wet, so I wasn’t going fast to start with, but I was still impressed with the ability of an automatic to do that. I tried again on the Rimutakas, the hills heading into Wellington, and got close, but there was one cutting too steep for it and I braked slightly. But I think that in the three trips to Blenheim I’ve had, I’ve probably used up more of my brake pads than in my entire 2 day trip down here. And I drive the same way I drive in Gisborne, so it’s not that I’ve suddenly started speeding or something. It’s insane.
What I find amusing is that they let us restricted drivers loose in a place like that, to deal with the hustle and bustle of busy rush hour traffic, but they won’t let us drive after 10pm, when the roads are quiet and most teenagers and young adults are normally awake then anyway.
It’s kinda annoying, too; I’m thinking of applying for an exemption to my license. When I finish this course, I really want to drive back home, as it’s cheaper. However, the way times work, for it to be practical time-wise, I have to get a night time ferry across the Strait. I can board at a completely legal time of around 7pm, but if we dock at 10pm in Wellington then I’m stuck. Short of driving off the ferry, pulling up before I get on the motorway, then sleeping in my car. I haven’t yet talked to the NZTA, but if I’m lucky I can get a half hour extension to my driving times, it’d make life so much easier…
Anyway, that’s all a long way off yet. In my last post, I mentioned some excitement. That was this Sunday. However, I also had some extra excitement on Saturday.
On Thursday, I received an email from Mark Fox, the CEO of the NZ branch of MAF, a mission organization I support. A lot of you might not know who they are, but they are an organization which flies in remote areas, such as PNG, Arnhem Land, Madagascar, Bangladesh, South Sudan, places like that, where there are millions of people in places hard to reach by land. MAF was started by two Kiwi WW2 pilots, who decided to use planes to reach those people, flying in supplies, food, first aid, evacuating serious medical patients, everything like that. Ironically, they actually have more planes and work in more countries than the RNZAF, and they commonly land on over 3000 airstrips around the world, more than any airline of any form. They help thousands of other organizations, from the UN right down to groups like World Vision. They are also an organization I’d like to work with one day.
Anyway, back at Easter, when we went to the Omaka airshow, they were there advertising, and I spoke with a couple of their guys about joining one day. One person I spoke to was Mark. On Thursday, like I say, he emailed. He said that their NZ plane was back in Omaka this weekend doing some promotional work, and would I like a short scenic ride? I think you can guess my answer!!!
Just a side note, their NZ plane has worked for them in several countries, but has now retired to NZ to go to airshows and such to promote MAF, and also to help with pilot training. The plane no longer flies aid missions as such. However, during the Kaikoura earthquake, it was brought back into service, delivering food and supplies to the isolated farms, such as Molesworth and Glenmore. Pretty cool that a plane bought by people in NZ, funded by people in NZ, flown by people in NZ, and retired to NZ, could suddenly see its last service helping people in NZ.
The purpose of the weekend was to get a flight in one of their planes, 4 of us plus a pilot took off from Omaka, flew about 15 minutes to a small rural airstrip which is similar to what MAF plans normally use, then we landed, turned around, and flew back. All in all just over 35 minutes between taking off from Omaka and landing again.
The small airstrip was interesting, I thought our old airstrip was bad. The strip is actually slightly bent, curving round the foot of a hill, so when taking off and landing, you don’t just go in a straight line. Also it is incredibly narrow, barely two planes wide. Our old strip you could have three or possibly four planes wingtip to wingtip across it. And there wasn’t a long straight run at it, you had to come in at an angle of around 90 degrees, then turn at the last moment, so you were still turning within about 15m from the ground. Still, it was a lot of fun, and definitely only made me even more excited for Sunday.
After landing, we then talked with the CEO of MAF, who did an informal recruiting presentation I suppose is how you’d describe it. Basically just letting us know what MAF does in a bit more detail, finding where we were at, that sort of thing. Overall, it was a very enjoyable few hours.
And then came Sunday. Sunday was what I had been planning for for a long time. I think even when I was 5 years old it was something I wanted to do, and now the dream has become a reality. (I don’t know how much cornier I can make this sound, so I’ll cut it there.) I WENT FOR MY FIRST FLYING LESSON!!!! Sorry, no photos, but I’ll try and get some next week. Yup, that’s right, next weekend I have another one!!!
So this one was an introductory lesson, learning the basics of everything. Spent about half an hour in the air, which included a brief intro to turning, go higher, go lower, going straight and level, taking off, and landing. I picked most of that up pretty fast, so just for fun he chucked in stalling, engine failure, and then for the thrill of it, wing-overs. The wing-over was definitely the best, that’s where you go completely sideways, one wing pointing straight at the ground, the other pointing straight at the sky. (Dad, you will probably be glad you weren’t there.) He offered me a chance to do it, although I declined, because it does apply several Gs (if you don’t know what G’s are, 1G is the force of gravity. Right now, provided you are sitting in a normal place, ie, a house or something, stationary and on solid ground, you should feel roughly 1G, depending on how close to sea level you are. When you fly in a tight circle, that force increases, so you feel heavier than normal. So when we do a turn which applies 3G, that means that you feel like you are 3 times heavier than normal. Weird but awesome feeling, although it can be dangerous, because too many G means that your heart doesn’t have the strength to pump blood to your brain, thus causing you to black out. On the ground, blacking out is fine. In the air when in control of a plane, well, you can guess how that goes. 🙂 Anyway, because of the extra Gs, I declined, as I felt it might be a bit much to keep concentrating on the task while quite literally under all that pressure.
Since some of you will no doubt want to know, I was in a Piper Tomahawk. Not to be confused with Trump’s Tomahawks, although they both fly, they aren’t the same.
Its a cool little plane, two seater, ideal for training, forgiving, not too fast, not too slow, stable, and kind of a cute shape. The general gist of the training was that he’d demonstrate something and talk through what he was doing, then since it’s dual control I’d lightly hang onto the steering column and follow through his movements, then he’d give me control of the plane, and I’d have to do something similar. So that might be turn and line up with such and such a hill, get level to such and such a point, whatever. Some things we did together, like taxiing. At first he controlled the throttle and I steered, although he did give me the throttle a bit later. Taking off he had the throttle again but he let me lift it off the ground with the steering column. He did all the radio stuff though, he didn’t give me too much at once.
He was a pretty cool instructor, although unfortunately he has next weekend off so I’ll have the other guy, but no matter, they both seem very nice. My only problem now is to get the silly grin off my face.