top of page
Search

Sydney Flight Training says goodbye to the Baron with a trip to New Zealand


View of the Bay of Island from over an aircraft wing
Bay of Islands, New Zealand

SFT’s Peter Edwards and Kayla Bentley recently swapped their instructors’ hats for those of ferry pilots, while helping to transport the Baron to its new home in New Zealand. Transiting through both Lord Howe and Norfolk Island on the way, Kayla takes us through the journey from weather worries at the start and the trials of using a satellite phone, through to an adrenalin packed 24 hours in Queenstown to complete the trip.

 

New Beginnings for the Baron

Our Baron, VH-XCV, had been sold and needed moving to its new home in North Shore New Zealand, purchased by ex-Ansett New Zealand, Emirates, Singapore Freight, and Air New Zealand pilot Paul Munroe, and on the early morning Sunday 14th April Paul, accompanied by Peter and I, departed on our incredible journey across the Tasman. We were due to depart the week prior, however a large low-pressure system and trough was rapidly moving east across the Tasman which would have brought very unfavourable conditions for our approach and landing into Lord Howe Island, not to mention wanting to have reasonably good weather when travelling across such a large body of water. We ultimately made the decision to postpone the trip by a week, which turned out to be a very safe and good decision given the conditions that would have been had we departed a week earlier, and the great conditions we faced the following week.


view of clouds over aircraft wing
En route to Lord Howe Island

The First Leg

Airborne prior to 8am, we had the lovely morning sun rising above us with a thin layer of cloud sitting at 4000ft. Our first stop was Lord Howe Island, a 433nm and 2hr40min leg from Bankstown. En-route on our first sector we encountered layers of cumulus cloud, diverging slightly left and right of track to avoid any associated turbulence or potential icing. Approximately 200nm off the coast of NSW we fell out of radio coverage with Brisbane centre and had to switch communications to our SatPhone. This device wasn’t a phone itself, rather something like a router which connected directly to the satellites. I had to download an app onto my iPhone and connect to the SatPhone via Wi-fi and was then able to make phone calls through the SatPhone via my Bluetooth A20 headset. We had to call Brisbane Centre along the way when we reached certain waypoints and give an ETA for the next waypoint with a time to contact them by. We weren’t out of range for too long as we re-gained coverage within approximately 70nm of Lord Howe Island as they have a radio repeater station on the Island.


At our top of descent position, we had to spray (and empty) an entire can of top of descent spray, which is essentially a spray that eliminates any pesticides or bugs that may have inadvertently entered our aircraft prior to take-off and could damage the rich biodiversity on the island. We all felt a bit fumigated afterwards to say the least, lucky it didn’t smell bad! The approach and landing into Lord Howe Island is certainly the most picturesque I have ever seen, and we had beautiful conditions for our arrival with CAVOK skies and light and variable winds.


View from cockpit of Lord Howe Island runway
Arriving at Lord Howe Island

Once we had landed and taxied to the terminal, we were met at the aircraft by the local Biosecurity agent and his adorable biosecurity cocker spaniel, who ran over and excitedly jumped at me for pats when I said hello. When she was put to work checking our baggage, the biosecurity offer would attract her attention, give her the command ‘Willow, find it!’, and then she jumped into the baggage compartment and started sniffing around for rats and other rodents that could largely affect the Island’s biodiversity. Our refueller was difficult to track down given there are no mobile phone towers on the island, and it was a Sunday. Whilst we waited for him to arrive, we had a bathroom stop and ventured onto the runway for a look and photo opportunity given we are all ASIC holders, and no aircraft were due to arrive for at least an hour. Once the refueler arrived, he used a hand-started generator to get the pump working for the fuel, something I have never seen before!


Baron VH-XCV aircraft parked at Lord Howe Island
VH-XCV and Paul with his top of descent spray at Lord Howe Island

Next stop Norfolk Island

With full tanks and empty bladders, we departed sunny Lord Howe Island for Norfolk Island. The take-off was almost as spectacular as the approach, flying over the beaches and having a great view of Ball’s Pyramid to the Southeast. Our 7/11 Sandwiches and Twisties were cracked open on this leg, and I was lucky enough to sit in the front with Pete, while Paul enjoyed the comfort of the back seat. We were out of radio coverage a lot longer on this 485nm/3hr leg, so the Sat Phone got a good workout, but at one stage wasn’t working so we had to relay our transmissions to Brisbane Centre through an Air New Zealand flight on frequency 121.5. Once within range of Norfolk Island we spoke to the UNICOM and received updated weather and aerodrome conditions for our arrival. Another full can of top of descent spray had to be used, this time Paul was on duty to dispense it all. After we landed, we were greeted at the aircraft by both customs and biosecurity officers who checked our baggage compartment, arrival documentation, and passports.


A boat at Kingston Bay in Norfolk Island
Kingston Bay, Norfolk Island

A hire car had been arranged for us so we could embark on a circle island tour (which is about a 20km round trip), the keys were left in the car and the car unlocked! Our first stop was the Convict ruins and historical prison sight as well as Emily Bay in Kingston. We then ventured to the North of the Island to see the Captain Cook Monument and a stunning sunset, and to our accommodation in Burnt Pine via Anson Bay. All the residents were very friendly and easy going, and both the front and back doors on each of our rooms were left wide open and unlocked! We enjoyed dinner at the RSL club, and a local veteran read The Ode followed by a moment’s silence at 7pm with the lights out. The incredible thing about this RSL is they have both a photo wall and name board of every soldier from Norfolk Island that has served for either Australia or New Zealand, most of which all share the same three or four last names given the small population of the island. The stargazing at night before bed was one of the best I’ve seen, even with a near full moon and the lights from the town.


View of Kingston Bay, Norfolk Island
Kingston Bay, Norfolk Island

International Arrivals 

Monday morning was a rainy start for our final leg across to New Zealand. The SatPhone decided it would like to connect with Pete’s phone and disconnect from mine, so we had a few technical difficulties, but were able to contact Auckland control within range of New Zealand, where our callsign was formally changed from ‘X-Ray Charlie Victor’ to ‘Victor Hotel X-Ray Charlie Victor’ given the international registration. A third can of top of descent spray was emptied flying over the tip of the North Island, mid-level cloud and showers of rain dotted the beautiful scenery around us as we made our approach into KeriKeri (Bay of Islands). Upon landing we again went through customs and biosecurity before refuelling and another bathroom break. We made it International! The last leg of our journey was a beautiful scenic VFR flight down the East coast of New Zealand and into North Shore, a narrow airstrip 22nm North of Auckland. Once we landed, we hangered the Baron in her new home and said our goodbyes.



I gained a wealth of experience over the two-day trip and am so grateful I was given the opportunity to come along on this journey for my first ever international flight and once in a lifetime opportunity. I was also lucky enough to hop down to Queenstown on an Air New Zealand flight and stay for 24hrs. My packed day included a walk through the Botanic Gardens, 6 runs on the Skyline Luge, Shotover Jet, and Ziplining adventure before flying home on Qantas.


 

 

Available here and to download at the BOM Knowledge Centre are fact sheets on both Lord Howe and Norfolk Island. They both share conditions that are unique to their location and worth taking some time to read.




Lord Howe Island Fact Sheet
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.00MB


Norfolk Island Fact Sheet
.pdf
Download PDF • 601KB




Comments


bottom of page