A32 Vixxen ferry flight to Queensland

Jeremy Hill with his new A32 Vixxen aeroplane

Here’s a short video about an aircraft ferry trip from Tyabb Airfield in southern Victoria to a cattle station near Dirranbandi in Queensland – a distance of over 650 nautical miles.

And here’s a bit of background. What turned out to be one of our favourite Aeroprakt A32 Vixxen aircraft arrived at Moorabbin in mid-December. I say ‘favourite’ because its new owner had chosen a great colour scheme, perfect for this time of the year – red wings and stabiliser with a white fuselage, fin and rudder, finished off nicely with a red propeller spinner. Our engineering colleagues immediately named it ‘Rudolf’ after Santa’s reindeer saviour.

Rudolf’s new owner – Jeremy Hill, based near Dirranbandi in Queensland – could not clear work commitments enough to come to us and pick up his new aeroplane, so my colleague and friend, Ido Segev, agreed to ferry it north. In all, the flight was over 7 hours’ in duration, plus stops, squeezed in before New Year, so Ido could enjoy celebrations with his loved ones on his return.

Departure day – 27 December – dawned clear but cool at Tyabb, with a strong northerly blowing – not ideal for a long trip northwards. Even in the A32 Vixxen, Ido was planning a ground speed of only 85 knots for the first part of his journey. Temperatures were forecast to be close to 40 celsius by the time he reached Jeremy’s farm, with the northerlies gusting all the way.

In the event, with a true airspeed around 115 knots and a ground speed of 95 knots, at around 7,500-8,500 feet, Ido made the journey in a single day, with plenty of daylight to spare. I suppose I could add that Rudolf was fitted with an autopilot, which helps a lot on long-distance flights. Nevertheless, it was still a long way over most of a day, in thermic and bumpy conditions.

Many thanks to Jeremy and his family for their hospitality during Ido’s visit and their 6-hour round trip by road to drop Ido at the nearest airport, so he could return home in time for New Year 2018!

The A22LS Foxbat – and more recently, its farmer-orientated sibling, the A22LS Kelpie – have been popular with outback owners for quite a few years. These rugged, easy to handle aircraft seem to stand up well to Australian country conditions. The icing on the owners’ cakes has been the excellent resale value when it comes to upgrade or switch to a newer aircraft.

It looks like the A32 Vixxen, with its extra turn of speed, is set to continue the Aeroprakt reputation for affordable aircraft with great (legal) load carrying capabilities!

As usual, to view the video, either click on the photo above or here:
Ido’s Vixxen adventure

Flying in the Bush Hawk

Bush Hawk & StephenLast Saturday I went for my first flight in Stephen’s Found Aircraft Bush Hawk – what a great experience!

You may recall from a previous post that this Bush Hawk arrived in Australia from Alaska in November last year. Since then, Stephen has been flying it to gain his RPL and get used to an aircraft that is very, very different from the Carbon Cubs he flies and sells in Australia.

Although the aircraft is physically big – at least to us mere LSA pilots – the first thing that you notice is how easy it is to get into (and out of). There’s a step on the main gear leg, two big forward opening front doors and no stick to contort yourself over.Bush Hawk panel The next thing that strikes you is how small the control yokes feel; can they really control such a monster? However, the yokes themselves are mounted on a Y-shape tube which would do justice to the Sydney Harbour Bridge…

Buckling in, there’s a 5-point harness (is this plane aerobatic? Surely not) with inertia-reel shoulder straps. The door closes with a satisfying clunk and if you want a really tight seal, you can optionally operate the corner latches to secure it. One interesting aspect of this aircraft is that there are also two rear doors to access the cavernous rear cargo/seating area, which although currently fitted with three rear passenger seats, still leaves a baggage area behind them which is bigger than many estate wagons!

Considering it’s a taildragger, the view over the long nose isn’t bad – although that will likely change when Stephen fits the big bush tyres, which will lift the front by several inches. The upright seating position is comfortable but feels a bit like a truck, something which is further prompted by the view along the ‘bonnet’ as Stephen fires up the 300 hp 6-cylinder engine. The starter spins the prop at a rapid pace – much faster than my old Interstate – and soon the engine has settled down to a subdued rumble. In spite of a plethora of dials and digital instruments, all the basic indicators are easy to recognise and monitor. Warming up such a beast takes a while at around 1,100 rpm, during which the fuel flow meter shows a steady 15 litres an hour. For someone used to a cruise fuel consumption of not much more than that, this takes a little while to absorb…

Once warmed up, we’re on the move. The suspension is surprisingly compliant, particularly considering we are at least 350 kgs under gross weight. All the lumps in the Tyabb grass are nicely soaked up as we taxi to runway 35 for departure. After an engine run-up and c/s prop check, we’re ready; a few final checks of the harnesses and doors and off we go. There’s a very strong shove in the back as the engine hits peak take-off rpm and in no time at all we’re flying. The fuel flow meter reads 85 litres an hour…

Inside, the noise is subdued – in part due to the excellent Bose ANR headsets. Outside, I know the aircraft is making quite a noise, a characteristic of a propeller running full speed at fine pitch. Climb out is not particularly steep but the forward speed contributes to a rate of climb well over 1,000 fpm.

After take-off we make a right turn and head out over the water for a clockwise circumnavigation of nearby French Island. Stephen trims out, leans off the engine a little and hands over to me. Now, the control yokes really do feel very small! Although the aircraft feels quite stable, it’s easy to turn, using a bit of rudder to keep the ball in the middle. Steeper turns need a little back pressure to maintain height but in all other senses the aircraft is just a big pussy cat and really nice to fly. At a cruise of around 115 knots, the fuel flow meter reads 49 litres an hour…

All too soon, we are round the island and Stephen takes over for the approach and landing. I am told this aircraft drops like a stone when you take off the power and add flap. If so, it doesn’t feel like it – Stephen’s many hours of practice have smoothed out all the lumpy bits. We turn on to final at around 70 knots, reducing just a little to 65 on short final. The landing felt great to me but Stephen’s a bit of a perfectionist and felt he arrived a bit to soon. But there was no bounce and the aircraft settled nicely on the grass. You can see the video I made of the approach by clicking the picture below.

Overall, I enjoyed this short flight; the Bush Hawk seems easy to fly – at least on this no-wind, smooth-air day. It feels and sounds a bit like a big luxurious truck, with its long nose and 6-cylinder engine beat. The fuel burn took my breath away but if you want an aircraft like this, low fuel consumption is not too near the top of your priority list. However, the Bush Hawk will carry up to 5 people and their baggage, in relative comfort, into and out of bush strips. It has a relaxed cruise in the 115-125 knot range, so you can get to those far-away places reasonably quickly. Which is exactly what it was designed to do. It’s a shame that Found Aircraft could not make their business work – they certainly deserved a better destiny after designing and building this superb aircraft.

Flying the Interstate Cadet at Tyabb

Interstate CircuitsOn Sunday 28 December I enjoyed a few circuits at Tyabb Airport and a local flight around the Mornington Peninsula in the Interstate S-1A Cadet. The weather was very good early on with quite smooth conditions and a light south east wind. There’s always a cross-wind on the north-south strip at Tyabb.

I made a short YouTube video of the take-offs & landings in the Interstate which you can see by clicking here or on the photo above. I suppose I must have completed 50-75 landings in this aircraft now, so things are feeling easier, although with a tail dragger you always need to keep on your toes – literally and metaphorically!

While I was circuit-bashing, my friends Stephen and Mike flew in Stephen’s newly acquired Bush Hawk down and around Wilson’s Promontory, the most southerly tip of mainland Australia. It’s about an hour and a half round trip from Tyabb in that aircraft. They reported good conditions, although there was a little lee-turbulence at lower levels around the ‘Prom’. I think Stephen gets nosebleeds if he flies higher than 500 feet… Up higher, there was quite a stiff northerly, which slowed them a bit on the return journey.

But back to the Interstate. I have now completed just over 30 hours flying in the aircraft since the first flight early in August 2014. As a result, it’s starting to feel more relaxed to take-off and land. Admittedly I haven’t thrashed it, but fuel consumption is working out at a very economical 20 litres (just over 5 US gallons) an hour and it hasn’t used any oil so far; although there’s always a drip or two on the hangar floor after each flight.

The camera I used was the Garmin VIRB, a competitor to the now almost inevitable GoPro. The Garmin is a completely different shape and can be controlled via an App installed on an iPhone, iPad or other smart device. Unlike the GoPro, the Garmin view finder is built-into the camera and is on the top (or bottom, if the camera’s mounted upside down) not on the back. The Garmin also comes with a very easy to install neutral density filter to help get rid of those peculiar ‘feather’ effects you often see on videos taken through a rotating propeller. It’s the first time I have used it – in the past, I have relied on my trusty old GoPro – so it’s interesting to compare. Maybe, if I can find the time, I’ll do a bit more of a comparison in a different blog post.

Hopefully, there will be more Interstate videos coming soon.

Tyabb Airport upgrades

Tyabb FlypastOver the next few months, Tyabb Airport will be undergoing some significant works to repair and improve the main apron, taxi-ways, drainage and runway lighting. Money for these works was granted through the regional airports development fund – other airports near to Melbourne which have also benefitted significantly from the development fund include Coldstream and Lethbridge.

Tyabb is home to the Peninsula Aero Club (PAC) – a club and school open to anyone interested in flying, whether as a social or flying member. Current PAC membership stands at almost 600. On pretty well any sunny day, families can be seen picnicking on the grass in front of the club house, watching the aircraft taking off and landing. PAC organises the bi-annual Tyabb Airshow, the last of which was held in March 2014, with an attendance of well over 5,000. Plane Crazy Down Under has produced a video of the 2014 Airshow – details and ordering information can be found here: Plane Crazy Tyabb Airshow DVD

The airport is also home to a number of other aviation related industries, including service and maintenance facilities, as well as to Cubcrafters Australia, agents for the Carbon Cub, and of course to Foxbat Australia!

Of particular interest is The Old Aeroplane Company (this is a link to very nice current video), which is based on the western side of the airport. Owned and operated by Judy Pay, The Old Aeroplane Company not only restores and services older aircraft (as well as new ones), it also houses a unique collection of warbirds and other interesting aircraft – here’s a link to a Flickr gallery of some of them: Old Aeroplane Company pictures . You can visit – but phone to check first to ensure they are open: 03 5977 3355. Here’s another article and pictures about the recovery and restoration of a Curtiss P-40F Warhawk, one of the gems of the Old Aeroplane collection.

For those who want to fly in, Tyabb Airport is one of the few regional airports offering both Avgas and 98 Octane Mogas at the bowser. Daily and overnight parking is available.

If you’re visiting come over and visit Foxbat and Cubcrafters at Hangar 11 – the first hangar due south of the PAC club house.