Translate

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Stateless

As some readers of this blog will know, the Bazflyers from time to time, have a propensity to find themselves in the middle of nowhere....and right now it could be said they are again in the middle of nowhere. They are temporarily ‘stateless’, and as a consequence also confined inside the boarders of Great Britain. It’s a situation that must be endured until passports containing all important Russian visas arrive back from New Zealand. 

 

Quite unexpectedly and with no exceptions Russian visas could only be obtained on application to the Russian Embassy in one’s country of residence. This article of bureaucracy left the Bazflyers with no alternative other than to courier relevant documents and passports to New Zealand. That was of course assuming the proposition of flying eastwards across Russia remained the preferred option. 

 

Prior to starting out on RTW 2019, the Bazflyers had planned their return back ‘down-under’ from Europe flying a traditional route through the Middle East, India and South East Asia. However, the experience of flying through Far East Russia injected the proposition of an alternate option which was to fly east across Russia to Vladivostok on the Pacific side. With assistance from Evgeny at MAK General Aviation Services, the route is now locked and loaded only waiting on visas.

 

Bazflyers anticipate their temporary realm of ‘statelessness’ could be overturned by the end of the month. As soon as passports are in hand the Russian sector will begin. Meanwhile, you are invited to join us on some interesting flights in the middle of nowhere....

 

Russia is one very big land mass. The flight from west to east is approximately 10,000 kilometres (5,000 nm). Three weeks and eight stops have been allocated for the journey which is expected to involve 35 hours flying. 

 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Breighton Aerodrome

Who would have thought, certainly not the Bazflyers, that they would ever be in Great Britain having flown halfway round the world in their trusty Piper Comanche ZK-BAZ all the way from New Zealand. There is a well oiled saying about having to pinch oneself to make sure it is not a dream. To dispel the possibility of any such allusion the Bazflyers have done just that and are happy to report it is real. The journey to Great Britain had been 100 days. The distance flown was 35,000 kilometres. Time in the air 125 hours. The sense of accomplishment...real!

 

Bazflyer’s first internal flight in Britain was a 600 kilometre trip from Wick (EGPC) to the grass Yorkshire airfield of Breighton (BRE1). But, before even thinking about taking to the skies there was the not so small matter of preparing an IFR flight plan and having it accepted by a remote, faceless and impersonal computer system code named “Eurocontrol”. The convolutions and multiple attempts necessary to achieve this make solving Rubik’s Cube akin to child’s play. However, eventually being in receipt of an airways clearance ZK-BAZ was pointed skyward, where real people become involved. With that sensible routing solutions emerged. So much for the flight plan. If it wasn’t bordering on conspiracy one could be forgiven for thinking that Eurocontrol’s purpose was to discourage general aviation flight. 

 

Stepping out the cabin door after landing on Breighton’s immaculately groomed grass runway there was a very real feeling of being at a country airfield in a former time. A mix of old-world charm along with resident aviation aficionados simply enhanced the authenticity. Then of course there is the Real Aircraft Company....an amazing collection of airworthy vintage airplanes.

 

Viewed from the air Breighton’s heritage is still very evident. During WW2 the now disused and overgrown runways of this former Royal Airforce base dispatched and recovered countless bomber operations. Halifax, Wellington’s and Lancaster’s at one time all operated out of Breighton. The local inn and other wartime aircrew haunts dotted around the locality have seen little apparent change since the time they provided off-duty havens for the young airmen and airwomen. Many of them would have been Australian’s as the airfield was the base for RAAF 460 Squadron.

 

During the Cold War era Breighton became host to a battery of nuclear armed ICBM’s that were surrounded by a protective guard of ground to air Bloodhound missiles. While talking to a retired senior Air Force Officer the story emerged that back then a naughty airforce officer could look forward to being appointed Commander of a Bloodhound unit where long term boredom was the punishment. 

 

Until the Bazflyers resume their RTW journey, ZK-BAZ will rest at Breighton Aerodrome, safely protected in a hanger and happy in the company of some wonderful historic vintage aircraft.

 

Wick to Breighton 


View through the windscreen when taking off at Wick Airport


With the cloud and rain left behind in Scotland here is a view from above while flying down the East Coast of Britain at FL110

Bazflyers at work in their office

On descent over Yorkshire countryside

Parked on the grass at Breighton Aerodrome 

Friday, August 9, 2019

RAF Wick

History is often obscured by the thickening mists of time, and perhaps that is why an important event of WW2, an event that featured a 20 year old newly minted Flying Officer, a Spitfire airplane configured for photo reconnaissance and RAF Wick, has largely been forgotten.


Wick or John o’Groats Airport as it also known, sits just outside the fishing village of Wick in the very far northeast of Scotland. The airport was built at the outbreak of the Second World War and became known as RAF Wick. It was primarily used by Coastal Command flying patrols over the North Sea and making long range meteorological and reconnaissance flights. As the Bazflyers came into land at Wick the old runway system was clearly visible. On a closer ground inspection the original control tower, dwarfed by two nearby enormous old hangers, still contained artefacts from its wartime heritage.


It was from this airfield on 21 May 1941 following a briefing in the Operations Room of the control tower that 20 year old Pilot Officer Michael Suckling took off in his camera equipped Spitfire. His mission was to search the fjords around Bergen for the German battleship ‘Bismarck’.


Three hours later an excited young Suckling landed back at Wick. His camera film was quickly processed. Normally, processed films were sent from Wick by train but given what seemed apparent on the film and there being no other pilot available, Suckling was immediately tasked to fly the prints to London. 


Finding himself running low on fuel and in failing light, Suckling landed his Spitfire near the home of a friend, not far from his own home town of Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Together, they completed the remainder of the journey by car, delivering the prints to headquarters at Northwood, in north-west London, in the early hours of the next morning. There, the prints were examined and it was confirmed that Suckling had indeed photographed the Bismarck while taking on supplies and fuel in preparation for a long sea voyage. 

Suckling’s daring reconnaissance flight and prompt analysis of the prints in London allowed the orchestration of a navel pursuit across the Atlantic that culminated in the sinking of the Bismarck on 27 May 1941. 


It was one of those precious Bazflyer moments, standing in the old wartime RAF Wick control tower looking out over a misty aerodrome and the very grounds of one of the most famous photographic reconnaissance missions of the Second World War. 


Pilot Officer Michael Suckling was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, but sadly exactly two months after delivering the vital reconnaissance images of the Bismarck, he was shot down while on a reconnaissance flight over France and was killed. 


The old RAF Wick control tower and home of Far North Aviation


The huge wartime aircraft hangers


Bazflyer1 with the ‘family’ team at Far North Aviation 


Wick is quite near John o’Groats pictured here on a typically misty day


During WW2 this small coastal harbour would have been a hive of fishing boat activity


Monday, August 5, 2019

Bluie-1

The air route that crosses the North Atlantic via Goose Bay, Narsarsuaq and Reykjavik deserves its unique immortalisation in history and legend. Like linking hands, strategic airports constructed and resourced in Greenland and Iceland during World War Two, enabled new aircraft built in the USA to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain. Single engine fighter aircraft needed for the war effort lacked the necessary range to make a non stop Atlantic crossing. Furthermore, the airports also provided safe sanctuary for aircraft operating over the North Atlantic on anti-submarine and maritime patrol operations.


Greenland and Iceland were both Danish territories when World War II broke out but that changed almost overnight when Germany invaded Denmark. US Armed Forces established bases in Greenland, notably at Narsarsuaq, while Britain formally invaded Iceland. By the end of the war, thousands of aircraft had been ferried across the Atlantic by staging through Narsarsuaq and Reykjavik. The air route was code named ‘Bluie-1’.


Nowadays these wartime airports serve essentially the same purpose, however it is for small aircraft being flown between Europe and North America, and this week one such small single engine aircraft was Comanche ZK-BAZ. 


Weather patterns across the North Atlantic are notoriously fickle. Good weather can rapidly degenerate into appalling conditions. Just like those wartime pilots who flew from Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq and onto Reykjavik, the Bazflyers judicially studied on route weather patterns for some days prior to their own ‘Bluie-1’ departure. Indeed, their originally scheduled departure date was delayed two days while waiting for more favourable flight conditions. 


While flying inland from the Greenland coast 120 kms to Narsarsuaq, the two fjords Ernest K Gann graphically wrote about in his legendary book “Fate is the Hunter”, were clearly visible to the Bazflyers. In the book Gann graphically describes flying into Narsarsuaq in poor weather conditions, and how pilots had to be sure they were entering the correct fjord because once in they were trapped, unable to climb out or turn around. 


Fortunately weather for the Bazflyers arrival at Narsarsuaq was uncommonly near perfect, just a slightly tricky wind on the landing approach. Needless to say it wasn’t difficult to empathetically feel for those courageous wartime ferry pilots flying into Narsarsuaq in marginal weather conditions, and as Bazflyer2 rightly pointed out, many of them were women.


In the book about his 1969 flight round the world, “Flight of the Kiwi”, Cliff Tait describes flying from Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq and his inability to land there due to low cloud conditions. With insufficient fuel remaining to either return to Goose Bay or continue onto Reykjavik, the only option available to Tait was to find the American airbase at Sondre Stromfjord about 800 kms further north. Situated at the head of a long fjord the former military base is nowadays known as Kangerlussuaq (BGSF). 


Flying parallel to the unforgiving and rugged Greenland coast, in cloud and with unreliable compass information, Tait’s small airplane was miraculously spotted on military radar, and provided with vectors to the air base where he landed safely with very little fuel remaining.


Gratefully, the Bazflyers enjoyed reasonably good flight conditions along the way from Goose Bay through to Reykjavik. Following three nights playing tourists in Reykjavik, the final leg of their ‘Bluie-1’ journey is tomorrow’s 4.5 hour flight south to Wick in the north of Scotland. Ample time to dwell on the efforts of all the men and women stationed at Narsarsuaq and Reykjavik during WW2 and the valuable contribution they made to world peace.


Flight planning prior to departure from Goose Bay


Crossing the Greenland coast heading inland towards Narsarsuaq 


It is important to be certain you are flying the correct fjord on the way into Narsarsuaq (BGBW)


Finals to land at Narsarsuaq Airport 


Bazflyer2 about to board ZK-BAZ appropriately attired for a Bluie-1 flight


Departing from Narsarsuaq climbing to FL120 on the way to Reykjavik


Day’s end in Reykjavik following another sector on Round the World 2019


A tourist’s view looking across the old Reykjavik harbour



Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Mont Joli

Two months has gone by since the Bazflyers landed at Nome, Alaska thereby initiating the North American sector of Round the World 2019. During that time the trusty Piper Comanche ZK-BAZ has touched down at 20 airports, and clocked-up almost 50 flight hours spanning 16 of the US States and 6 Canadian Provinces. What a wonderful joy it has been. New friendships were forged and memories made. Goals achieved and milestones surpassed. Oh, how tempting it is to tarry awhile savouring such delightful experiences, but the airways extending eastwards beckon and the Bazflyer’s schedule says, “Its time to move-on…!”


Moving-on is flying 4000 kilometres across the North Atlantic from Goose Bay (CYYR), Newfoundland to Narsarsuaq (BGBW), Greenland then onto Reykjavik (BIRK), Iceland and finally to Wick (EGPC) in far north Scotland. The crossing requires 3-days. This part of the planet experiences Arctic weather conditions. Weather notorious for rapid changes. Intense storms, severe icing, turbulence, and heavy precipitation in all its various forms can be encountered throughout the year. 


Unsurprisingly, just as thousands of aviators have done over the years, the Bazflyers are weather watching from a zone of comfort, looking, waiting, for a suitable Arctic weather window. In this case the zone of comfort is Mont Joli, a smallish French Canadian settlement on the Eastern side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Mont Joli aerodrome was constructed during WW2. As a training base for the Commonwealth Air Training Plan it was the home of No.9 Bombing and Gunnery School. 


Mont Joli was also an air base regularly used by many wartime pilots ferrying aircraft across the North Atlantic to Great Britain. Ironically, in a similar vein to the Bazflyers, they were pilots watching weather and waiting for a window of opportunity to make the relatively short flight further north to Goose Bay and then onto to Greenland. During WW2, Goose Bay was the busiest airport in the world.      


Flight route from Goose Bay (CYYR) across the North Atlantic to Wick (EGPC) in Far North Scotland.



Watching weather, waiting for the low between Greenland an Iceland to dissolve or slip south 



Mont Joli is known for many decreative murals scattered around the town....



....and is home to a range of artists 



Monday, July 29, 2019

EAA Oshkosh


‘Fifty’ just happens to be an underlying theme for Bazflyers RTW 2019. It was therefore a given that the 50th EAA Oshkosh, the biggest airshow in the world, should be included on the flight itinerary. 


The annual show routinely attracts over 600,000 visitors. More than 10,000 aircraft representing almost every known make and model typically fly-in and park in organised rows for the occasion. Most of these aircraft have the occupants camping alongside all of which makes for a unique visual spectacle not eclipsed anywhere else in the world. Then, gracing the grounds there are usually some 3,000 gleamingly immaculate show planes.


During the week of each year’s EAA Oshkosh, the airfield (KOSH) control tower assumes the unique status of being the busiest control tower in the world. So busy in fact that the seemingly endless procession of aircraft flying into Oshkosh are individually identified by colour or type, and provided instructions for landing with only a wing-waggle in response. 


Given that no aircraft call-signs are used during an Oshkosh arrival, it would be fair to say ZK-BAZ, having flown 30,000 kilometres from New Zealand, landed at the 50th EAA Oshkosh equally as incognito as every other airplane. However, remaining incognito was not to be an option. The Bazflyer’s presence was uncovered and scarcely before the instrument gyros ceased turning, Comanche ZK-BAZ had been relocated for prominent display at EAA Vintage, and entered for judging. 


At each EAA Oshkosh hundreds of aircraft are entered into the competition for highly sought-after Lindy Awards. Named after aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, the Lindy Awards acknowledge the tireless effort necessary to create an aircraft that's truly the "best of the best."  According to EAA, “Lindy Award judging takes into account not only how an aircraft looks, but also how carefully they are built, restored, and/or maintained by owners who take great pride in them.” 


At EAA Oshkosh only the best of the best can win an award and with so many beautiful aircraft in the pool for judging ZK-BAZ’s inclusion was motivated more from a spirit of participation than expectation. After all, the airplane was in undisguised ‘round the world configuration’ and definitely not manicured for show. Its a practical working airplane that had flown further than any other aircraft to be at the 50th EAA Oshkosh. 


The Bazflyers had already departed Oshkosh, resuming their round the world flight, when the 50th EAA awards were announced. Wow…what an amazing surprise it was, three days out of Oshkosh, to be informed that ZK-BAZ had won a Bronze Lindy…! Unbelievable.


ZK-BAZ on display at the 50th EAA Oshkosh 



EAA Venture Women wearing purple for a photograph on Boeing Plaza and Bazflyer2 was among them.



So many beautiful aircraft 



Just another media interview



Air to air photo session prior to departing the Oshkosh area.



The unbelievable “Lindy Award” as it was announced at the EAA awards dinner




Thursday, July 18, 2019

Baraboo

Experts say, most emotional memories are the result of cued recall. It might be a certain date or an anniversary. Then again it could be anything that is connected to one’s senses, a cue that ignites an emotional recall. The wonder about recalled memory is how unpredictable and random such an occurrence can be.


Yesterday’s flight had the Bazflyers leap almost 1000 kilometres northwards from the small rural Kansas settlement of Newton, across the State of Illinois before landing at Baraboo in the adjoining State of Wisconsin. The point of this was to position close to Oshkosh. Every year, in the third week of July, the small Wisconsin town of Oshkosh plays host to a staggeringly huge assembly of aircraft, the biggest air show in the world. Somewhere around 15,000 airplanes are anticipated for this year’s 50th EAA Oshkosh and the Bazflyers in Comanche ZK-BAZ will be one of them. 


As is the Bazflyers determinate style and with their Comanche securely in the care of Baraboo-Dells Flight Centre, it was off to explore the town of Baraboo. Surly with a name like “Baraboo” there just had to be something interesting to discover. Not only was there a fascinating discovery, for one Bazflyer it also lit the fuse of an emotional recall.


It was probably sometime in 1953, definitely in the era when a frugal accumulation of several weeks pocket-money was necessary for admission to an afternoon movie matinee. Deciding what movie to see was a judicial process, although in retrospect selection was likely influenced by posters displayed outside the theatre. One of those movies indelibly inked a lasting impression on the mind of a very young boy. It was “The Greatest Show on Earth”.


As a movie the Greatest Show on Earth was a lavish production. It featured the great Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus including heart wrenching spectacular action sequences and an emotional show-stopping train wreck. For 130 years (the circus ceased in 2017) Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus toured coast to coast across America with an entertainment experience cherished by young and old alike. It was the Greatest Show on Earth...!


How amazing then to discover the five Ringling brothers had lived in Baraboo and started their famous circus on the town square in 1884. What a marvellous memory cue. The tradition of this great circus and the Ringling Brothers legacy is enshrined in Baraboo. Then, as if a memorial to that past era, the town’s recently restored theatre built as a gift to Baraboo by A L Ringling in 1915, stands proudly comparable to the best in the world. 


The Ringling Brothers not only founded the Greatest Show on Earth, but each of them in their own way was a great showman. Thank you Baraboo for a wonderful recalled memory experience. Surely a fitting prelude for the Bazflyers next mission....flying into the Greatest Airshow on Earth.


BAZ after a 100 hour service outside Webco Aircraft at Newton, KS (KEWK) with John and Wayne. 



Flying over unusually green prairie country stretching all the way from Newton to Baraboo



Baraboo’s A L Ringling Theatre restored to its former glory and still in use after 115 years.



The theatre’s interior


A theatre relict from the silent movie era when an organist provided relevant music sound effects



Original poster for ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’