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Friday, November 1, 2019

Achievement


Of the fifty-five landings the Bazflyers made while flying round the world in their Comanche ZK-BAZ, the penultimate touchdown occurred at midday the 19th October on home base Taupo Airport, New Zealand. It was definitely not one of the prettiest arrivals. Showers and gusting cross-wind conditions for landing on Runway 35 weren’t altogether helpful, but be it intuitive control inputs or a modicum of good fortune or a cocktail of both, the final touchdown turned out to be remarkably smooth. 


As the wheels rolled to a stop outside the Taupo Aero Club the simple act of pulling out a red knobbed control shut-off fuel to the engine, an engine that had stoically powered the Bazflyer’s trusty Comanche round the world and with that the 3-bladed propellor came to a halt. The ensuing silence was spontaneously replaced by an applauding assembly of family and friends. This was it, the end. Check…magnetos and switches off…exit the ‘BAZ Office’ then join familiar faces in celebrating an amazing journey. 


A week or more has since passed. Travel accoutrements have been returned to their usual storage places. The trusty Comanche, throughly inspected, serviced and gleaming in its hangar is poised for action. Viewed from the outside it could be construed that Bazflyer life has resumed its familiar purpose..but has it? 


How is one supposed to feel after flying round the world in a small airplane? This question, phrased in a variety of ways, has been a reoccurring inquiry since the Bazflyer’s arrival back at home base as well as an ongoing subject of self examination. Certainly the joy of achievement gives a special type of happiness. There is a feeling in getting something done, getting to the end of a process. A healthy sense of pride might be another way to describe it.


However, there is more, much more to the Bazflyer’s successful journey round the world than simply a series of flights. While not wanting to undermine the physical flying involved, the ultimate big-picture achievement owes much to a palette of creative factors. Planning, program management and personal health to mention just a few. Then there’s the overarching interpersonal relationships along the way. Ever changing and often communicating across different languages. People supplying fuel. Officials at international boarders. Handling agents and many helpful friendly folk. 


From beginning to end, the ‘Ambassadors of Friendship’ journey consumed 217 sky-hours of time in the Baz Office. Were there any scary moments? No, not one. Not even a drama or two. What about highlights…what were the best bits? There were many of these, however, for the Bazflyers nothing surpasses the friendly aviation folk they were privileged to meet. Professionals, enthusiasts and admirers. People of many cultures, young and old, all bonded by a common language called ‘aviation’…!


What started out as a journey with a goal, so wonderfully ended as an epic achievement beautifully framed in gilded creativity. An achievement that was more a feeling of action, than completion. Like a piece of creative fine art, this Bazflyer achievement will forever proudly stand on its own as a beautiful and joyful journey.  


These former Air Force mates were ‘on duty’ at Kerikeri (NZKK) to welcome the Bazflyers back on NewZealand soil.



Comanche ZK-BAZ taxis to a stop at the Taupō Aero Club



Stepping out of the ‘Baz Office’ to hugs all round



Celebrating and obligatory speeches



Waiting for the occasion was the ‘Bronze Lindy’ award from Oshkosh



View from the Baz Base, Taupo Airport (NZAP), New Zealand




Monday, October 14, 2019

Trifecta Ending

The author Ernst Hemingway once said; “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” These words aptly echo Bazflyer sentiments as their journey of a lifetime, flying Comanche ZK-BAZ round the world, comes to its conclusive end. 

  

Flying round the world appropriately infers closing a loop round the planet, commencing from one point, crossing every meridian and returning to the point of departure. When the Bazflyers land back at Kerikeri in the far north of New Zealand, they will have closed a circumnavigation loop round the world not once, not twice but three times...a trifecta ending!


The first loop round the world was from Kagoshima eastward returning back to Kagoshima. Then for the double it was Coolangatta, Australia and back again. Finally, the trifecta ending and in Bazflyer eyes the penultimate journey. This loop involved flying the trusty Comanche a distance of more than 60,000 kilometres, touching down multiple times in 13 different countries, sharing the unsolicited company of wonderful people, then culminating it all back at the original point of departure..New Zealand. 


With the successful completion of loop number one, the Bazflyers become the 240th recorded flight round the world in a single engine airplane since 1924 and are now officially Earthrounders  They also become the first qualifying flight from New Zealand. In another statistic the Bazflyer’s award winning airplane becomes the 10th single-engine Piper Comanche to have completed a flight round the world. The first time a Comanche was used on a RTW flight was when British airwoman Sheila Scott flew her Comanche (Myth Too) on two RTW flights, first in 1966 and then again in 1969.


A congratulatory message received after closing the loop at Kagoshima succinctly reminded the Bazflyers of their accomplishment. “As you know, more than 4000 persons have climbed Mount Everest, about 500 have been in Space but only around 700 pilots of all types of aircraft have flown around the globe in their own machine”. 


The Bazflyers humbly harbour mixed feelings as their flight of a lifetime approaches its penultimate closure....a satisfying sense of achievement tempered with a lingering lust for the journey to continue. Superlatives inadequately embellish Bazflyer attempts to describe everything the sensory antennae has intercepted along the way, but perhaps it can be best summarised by saying; “Its the journey that matters in the end”. A journey where hundreds, may be thousands of people, all round the world have congregated under the Wings of Friendship to not only share the Bazflyer’s amazing journey but by just being there they have significantly contributed to the experience. Thank you...everyone!


Three days 1850 NM (3,700 km) across Australia to close loop #2 at YBCG, Coolangatta


Preparing the trusty Comanche for a morning departure out of Charleville 


Crossing a great sunburnt land


Nearing Coolangatta with late morning build-ups already poking their heads into the flight levels


Almost closing loop #2, on a visual approach into Coolangatta airport 


Back on Australia’s east coast...again


And in the land of pies


Thursday’s flight over the Tasman Sea completes the Trifecta Ending


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Watching Clouds Go By

It’s one of those indelible childhood memories. A hot summers day, lying on the grass, looking up to an infinite blue sky and watching the clouds go by. Nearly a lifetime later the skies never ending canvas of mesmerising images still holds a fascination for the Bazflyers. Such is the uniquely original artistry of clouds.


When it comes to clouds, nothing compares to the majestic presence of towering convective clouds, the variety that inhabit the tropical latitudes. The energy of these systems drive global atmospheric circulation which in turn transports moisture around the Earth affecting both weather and climate. Such clouds were out in force as the Bazflyers crossed the Equator in Comanche ZK-BAZ this time heading south, flight by flight closer to home. The distraction of navigating a flight path among the presence of these cloud mammoths even caused the Bazflyers to overlook the actual moment of crossing the Equator. Notwithstanding, the 1,150 NM (2,300 km) flight that commenced from Clark Airport in the Philippines ended 7.5 hours later at Balikpapan (WALL) on the eastern side of Borneo, and that is definitely south of the Equator.


The handling team at Clark Airport (RPLC) who made the bureaucracy go away and otherwise contributed to a pleasant stop-over.



Up so very high, looking out the window, watching the clouds go by.



Snacking courtesy of Bazflyer2 inflight catering...now if only there was a coffee brew to accompany this.



Oh, we are flying in an airplane, looking at clouds so high.



Cultivation patterns on descent into Balikpapan from an on route altitude of 11,000 feet 


Drum refuelling at Balikpapan, probably the last use of BAZ’s hand pump on RTW 2019.



Flight route returning back down-under the Equator 



Monday, September 30, 2019

Collecting Stories

Like incandescent sparks jumping from a spinning Catherine Wheel, our wonderful ever spinning planet delivers a continuous pyrotechnic display of simply great human stories. In a counter intuitive way it could even be said that stories make the world go round. 


Unlike trinkets, memorabilia and such like, stories do not occupy physical space or indeed any other quantitative measure. Just as well because physical space and weight are finite ‘not to exceed’ limitations when it comes to Comanche ZK-BAZ. Therefore, as far as the Bazflyers are concerned, stories uncovered while flying round the world have been accumulated without limits.


Occasionally a story uncovered today spontaneously ignites a distant memory. Then like a double Catherine Wheel they each fuse together providing an entirety new story. Such an occasion occurred during the Bazflyers visit to Vladivostok.


Two couples seated outdoors, enjoying a meal of fresh seafood in the presence of a rich golden sunset. A young local Vladivostok couple and the Bazflyers. Discussion notably centred on respective values, family and life in general. Perhaps it was the similarity of this discussion or maybe the ‘Vostok’ name of each locality or even both of these, but unmistakably a new story was born.


Forty-six years earlier in life, as a pilot in the New Zealand Air Force, Bazflyer1 served a summer season in Antarctica attached to United States Naval unit VXE-6. The so called “Cold War”, that period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and the United States was at its zenith. As so it was with some trepidation that a helicopter crew were assigned for a multi-day mission flying a group of Soviet scientists from the Russian base at Vostok. Bazflyer1 was on that crew.


Exactly where the felony of friendship occurred has since been obscured in the mists of time, or perhaps it was obliterated at source with copious consumption of vodka and cognac. Wherever it took place is irrelevant when compared to the emotional reveals on that day between ordinary human beings who’s lives had become separated by a political divide. In stark reality stood good men, struggling with language communication, but sharing the same ideals for life, family and the future. It remains one of life’s special experiences unadulterated with time.


And so now fast forward through the years, two couples from two cultures enjoying a Vladivostok sunset together. A young couple and an older couple. The struggle of language communication still persists but as the Bazflyers have discovered during their round the world odyssey, people of all cultures and generations everywhere on our planet, reassuringly share the same inextricable values of life, family and future....!


UH-N (Twin Huey) belonging to VXE-6 landing at McMurdo Base, Antarctica 


Catherine Wheel firework display


Everywhere around the world the core values of life, family and future are reassuringly the same. Bazflyer1 birthday celebration hosted by Paulo owner of New Japan Aviation at Kagoshima 


Dennis and Anastasia with Bazflyers at Vladivostok 


Friday, September 27, 2019

Closing a Loop

The man in the flight control centre said, “ZKBAZ change to Fukuoka Control 119.3...have a nice flight”. With that the Bazflyers amazing Russian experience ended and it was onwards into Japan airspace and Kagoshima. 


The decision to fly eastwards from Europe across Russia to the Pacific Ocean, rather than the more traditional route via the Middle East, India and South East Asia, had unequivocally exceeded Bazflyer expectations. Thank you Evgeny and your MAK General Aviation Services team. Your unique brand of logistic support and helpful network of friendly people at every stop along the way, all neatly dovetailed to make this journey a spectacular and memorable experience. 


Landing at Kagoshima Airport ended a long 8-hour day in the Baz Office. It also closed a northern hemisphere loop round the world. However, for the Bazflyers their RTW 2019 mission is not over until Comanche ZK-BAZ touches down at home base Taupo, New Zealand. It’s an interesting statistic that returning home from Kagoshima will require about another 45 hours in the Baz Office. Perhaps indicative of how big planet earth is, or maybe a perspective on the relative remoteness of New Zealand, the Bazflyers have just spent 45 hours in ZK-BAZ flying from the UK across Russia and onto Kagoshima, Japan.


Today while accommodated in the New Japan Aviation hangar, ZK-BAZ received some routine attention from the Bazflyers. It was time for an engine oil change...and some general house keeping, or should that be office cleaning. Tomorrow the trusty Comanche with the Bazflyers will continue southwards leaving Japan for the Philippines, destination Clark Field near Manila. Any temptation to linger longer being torpedoed by a significant typhoon building in the Western Pacific and forecast to intensify in the coming days while tracking towards Southern Japan. And with that the Bazflyers are out of here.....


Postscript.....well actually it’s...NOT OUT OF HERE


The Bazflyers may have been perhaps slightly smug and self congratulatory about flying round the world without so much as what could be termed a hiccup in their schedule. That was until last night!


With everything thought to be in order for an early morning takeoff to the Philippines, a late night check by the Bazflyers revealed the critical Philippines flight approval had not been issued. Moreover, it subsequently transpired the application had not even been lodged. Approvals require 48 hour prior notice, not including weekends, and with discovery of this omission occurring late on Friday night the earliest departure for the Bazflyers out of Kagoshima was instantly rescheduled a minimum five days into the future. However, on a positive note the previously mentioned Typhoon Mitag brewing south of Japan effectively erased the prospect of any earlier departure making this delay a Bazflyer opportunity to prefer weather over administrative error. 


Having spent nearly a week in Kagoshima five months earlier, this traditional Japanese locality instantly resumed a comforting familiarity. Disappointments for the Bazflyers characteristically deliver surprising new experiences and these have already begun....


The lovely ladies at Mam’s Kitchen in Kirishima-Shi not only served a delicious hamburger, they delivered a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Bazflyer1 and presented him with a gift of their handmade cookies 



Thanks Andrey...you expertly smoothed the way for the Bazflyers arrival and departure at Vladivostok



Good bye Russia...crossing the eastern coast at FL100



Typhoon Mitag position for Bazflyers flight from Kagoshima to Clark Airport in the Philippines 



Typhoon forecast on Monday before it heads north towards Japan



Hello Japan



Nearing Kagoshima prior to top of descent for the RNAV approach Runway 16



Russian memories to last a lifetime




Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Diversity on the Wing

Moderate turbulence on the approach into Vladivostok Airport and a stiff crosswind for the landing was perhaps an auspicious curtain-call that bought to a close the Bazflyer’s west to east flight across Russia. Eight stops over twenty-one days, 5500 nautical miles (approximately 10,000 kms). It could be described as unparalleled ‘diversity on the wing’ along with the awesome pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people. Yes, an aviator’s dream come true...!


The essence of on the wing diversity could not have been more in-focus than when the Bazflyers stopped off in the Southern Siberian city of Blagoveschensk. Located on the ancient Amur River, the eighth largest river in the world, Blagoveschensk stares across to the Chinese city of Heihe on the other side. A short ferry journey connects the two cities thereby facilitating an interchange of local inhabitants. Rinat, an English speaking local taxi driver seemingly appeared out of nowhere to dutifully ensure the Bazflyers had an educational Blagoveschensk experience. He explained how Russian locals go across to the other side of the river for shopping while the Chinese cross-over to Blagoveschensk to purchase, in descending order...gold, furs and ice-cream.


Flying from Blagoveschensk to Vladivostok once again exposed the vastness and diversity of the Siberian landscape. Gone were the forests of Autumn gold. Below and extending outwards to indistinct horizons on every side were intertwined river systems. Then as Comanche ZK-BAZ turned southwards over the city of Khabarov towards Vladivostok, the landscape abruptly assumed mountainous proportions, a natural barrier between Russia and the Far East.


Vladivostok perhaps personifies the diversity of Russia. A significant seaport. It’s harbour connects Russia to the Pacific Ocean and is on the doorsteps of Japan, China and North Korea. Similar to everything else about Russia, Vladivostok also challenged a Bazflyer’s mind image of what it should look like.  It has the feeling of a city saturated with sea salt and wind, but is it Asian or European? 


In typical fashion, an interesting story was waiting in Vladivostok for the Bazflyers. This was the memorial to Russian submarine S-56, the first submarine to complete a round the world cruise. Commissioned in 1941 she sailed out of Vladivostok harbour on what subsequently became a highly decorated wartime voyage crossing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans assisting allied forces. In 1954 the submarine returned to Vladivostok via the Arctic Sea. 


Round the world in a submarine could not be more diverse than the Bazflyers own journey round the world in their trusty Comanche ZK-BAZ....however, perhaps a befitting finale to what has been an amazing on the wing diversity experience across the unique vastness of modern Russia. 


Across the River Amur is the Chinese city of Heihe



History tour of Blagoveshchensk with taxi driver Rinat and his friend Natasha 



This little bear belongs to aviation enthusiast Vladimir and has been in a Soyuz to the International Space Station



Nearing the milestone turning point over the city of Krasnoyarsk 



Denis and Anastasia generously looked after the Bazflyers while in Vladivostok 



Vladivostok port connects Russia with the Pacific



C-56 the first submarine to circumnavigate the world is on display in Vladivostok 



Vladivostok by night



Saturday, September 21, 2019

Siberian Autumn

What is it about the season of Autumn, or Fall as it is known in some parts of the world. It is so magical. Perhaps it’s because the splendour and colour of Autumn contradicts itself. Shorter days, cooler temperatures and falling leaves also signals the frigid embrace of another Winter just waiting around the corner. However, how can one possibly give an approaching Winter even the tiniest consideration when you’ve been gifted Russian Siberia in the glory of an amazing Autumn display.


It is the middle of September as the Bazflyers make their way from West to East across Siberia. In just six more days Russia will sadly become an archived memory. The Bazflyers will have again reached Kagoshima in Japan. They were there four months ago. However, this time instead of continuing north as before they will point the trusty Comanche ZK-BAZ in a southerly direction towards home and the first sniffs of Summer. Isn’t our planet amazing....?


The images of flying over Eastern Siberia in the height of Autumn might become an archived event but the magnificence of this spectacle can never be forgotten. 


Tomorrow the Bazflyers depart Ulan-Ude and fly 6-hours to Blagoveshchensk, a city that is only a river bank from China.



Siberian autumn splendour for as far as the eye can see



Crossing Lake Baikal on the way to Ulan-Ude 


On the shoreline of Lake Baikal 



Autumn is the end of harvesting and a time for festivals, celebrations....



.....produce displays, and...



....weddings


Autumn colours