Thursday, 7 June 2018

A Day Out at the Airport - Classic Flyers, Solo Wings and the Aviator Experience.

Sorry, not boats, beaches or remote villages in this blog post.  I have always been a bit of an aviation nut.  As a kid I could recite endless stats on aircraft, at 16 I got my glider pilot's license and then at 17 my private pilot's license.  My first masters degree was on aviation and involved some flying and then 23 years in the RCAF.  Still interested in aviation even though living and traveling on a boat and not even remotely involved with aircraft anymore.

When our new friend Jack found this out he organised a day out for us at the airport.  What a day.  The big kids and I left the marina early and walked to the Classic Flyers Museum.  The kids and I spent the morning there and then Jack picked up Liz and Benjamin - after a considerable detour to pick up a car seat for Benjamin - and we enjoyed lunch together at the museum.  The CEO of the museum, Andrew, then gave us a private tour of some of the normally closed to the public flyable exhibits including a very rare Messerschmitt Me108.

We then walked down the flight line to Jack's place of employment, Solo Wings, where we had a chance to see their interesting collection of light aircraft including a gyrocopter and a Pipistrel Alpha Trainer.  It was really interesting to talk to their Chief Flying Instructor, David, on the advances in light sport aircraft.  We later walked over to where the real work happens, the engineering side of the business, to meet the very interesting owner of Solo Wings (who is also a sailor).  A brief visit by that point as it was closing time but he patiently answered my many questions and they seem to have done well implementing an integrated logistics and engineering software solution.

Finally, we were in for a really big treat.  Jack had set up a visit with the owner of the Aviator Experience.  Colin, who is also ex-Airforce, has put together an amazing simulator experience using real seats and physical controls and VR headsets.  The flight models are very realistic and many different types of aircraft can be simulated.  Although the platform itself is not full motion, there are devices in the seat to give some physical cues.  I got to fly a Harrier and a Mirage 2000, Johnathan got to fly L-39 Albatross and Victoria got to fly a Spitfire over Normandy.  I could have stayed there for hours ...  A great set up and we wish Colin well as he sets up his business.  Totally recommend if you are around Tauranga.

Thanks Jack for an amazing day out.

Lots of hands on exhibits

In the cockpit of a Hunter jet.  They also have a flyable version

The Classic Flyers are rebuilding this World War II Avenger .  We were there for the first starting of the engine since an overhaul.

A view of the main hangar exhibit at Classic Flyers

Posing with the the Messerschmitt Me108 and Andrew, the CEO of the museum.

And an airworthy De Havilland Rapide airliner.
A Wright radial engine.  Rather in better shape than the one we saw last year (see below)

A Wright radial off of a B-25 in the Marshall Islands.  You can see our pictures at this link:

Flying the Catalina.  Okay, actually pretending to fly the fuselage they have in the museum.  Sadly they lost their airworthy one on its delivery flight.

Benjamin going down the slide of the Swordfish mockup in the playground.  If you want to see an airworthy Swordfish you need to go to the Shearwater Aviation Museum.

A gyro-copter at Solo Wings.

And the Pipstrel Alpha Jack flies.

Talking aviation with the Solo Wings CFI

Getting briefed on the controls for the Harrier at the Aviator Experience

In addition to the view from the VR, spectators can see a repeated image on the big screen

Victoria flying the Spitfire over Normandy.
A fun time with the simulators: posing with Colin and Jack.

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