Sunday, 8 February 2015


Tour guides and drivers are waiting eagerly for this handbook

Below is two extracts from The New Zealand Tour Commentary 2015 by Peter Blakeborough. The eBook version of this handy tour reference will be published by Smashwords on 18 March 2015. Pre-ordering is available now via the link below.

Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a place of wonderful scenic beauty. It is a system of hills and valleys that has tilted seaward over many thousands of years allowing the sea to invade the valleys and turning old hilltops into more than 150 islands. The Bay is ideally suited to big-game fishing, sailing and other water sports.
The first people believed to have come to this area were the legendary Polynesian explorers, Kupe and Toi, in the tenth and twelve centuries. They were descendants of Asians, who had migrated into the central Pacific about 4,000 years ago. There are two schools of thought on the route taken; the popular belief is that they migrated through south-east Asia, Indonesia and New Guinea. A less popular belief is that they crossed the land-bridge to Alaska and continued to South America before branching out into the Pacific. Another possibility is that both these beliefs are correct and that two migrations, from different directions, met in the central Pacific to form the Polynesian races.

Kupe and Toi may have been nothing more than mythical characters along with the Great Migration to New Zealand that is said to have followed them. It is unknown which Polynesian got here first or how many canoes followed. It is possible that only one canoe made the journey and that the journey may not have been deliberate.
The next to find the Bay of Islands was James Cook, in 1769, who described the scene as a ‘bay of islands.’ Next was a French explorer, du Fresne, in 1772. On Moturua Island in the Bay, du Fresne buried a bottle with a message claiming all of New Zealand for King Louis XV of France, not realizing that Cook had already claimed it for George III of England. To add insult to injury, du Fresne and 25 of his crew, were murdered by Maori at nearby Assassination Cove.
From the 1790’s there were occasional visits to the Bay from convict ships returning from Australia to England. They found the Bay an ideal place for replenishing provisions for the crews and obtaining backloads of timber. Whalers were also calling at the Bay from about 1800 onward.
Samuel Marsden established New Zealand’s first mission station in the Bay in 1814, and about that time, a European settlement appeared at Kororakeka – the town now known as Russell. Kororakeka was a wild town populated by ship deserters, ticket of freedom convicts, adventurers and con-artists of every description. It became known as the ‘Hell Hole of the Pacific.’ Today, Kororareka, or Russell, is New Zealand’s oldest town.
Mission stations and towns were also established at Kerikeri and Paihia about 1820 before the missionaries moved on to Waimate North in 1830.
Today Kerikeri has New Zealand’s oldest surviving building, a wooden mission house now known as Kemp House, it was built in 1822.

Although New Zealand was theoretically part of New South Wales, it was too remote for New South Wales law to have any effect and pressure mounted for a full annexation of the unruly colonial outpost. The first move came with the arrival of James Busby in 1832 with the title of British Resident but became known as the Man o’ War Without Guns. His only achievement was organizing 35 Maori chiefs to form the United Tribes of New Zealand in 1835. But in effect, New Zealand remained a lawless No Man’s Land.

The Treaty of Waitangi
A more serious attempt at establishing law and order took place in 1840 with the arrival of Captain William Hobson, with instructions to negotiate a transfer of sovereignty from the chiefs to the British Crown in exchange for the rights and protection of British citizenship. The first signings of the treaty took place in the Bay of Islands at Waitangi on 6th February 1840. It was signed in front of Busby’s house and became known as the Treaty of Waitangi . . .

And another piece from The New Zealand Tour Commentary 2015:

Gold was discovered at Canvastown by Elizabeth Pope, in 1860, and a tent town sprang up in 1864 when miners poured into the town at up to a thousand a day.
However, by 1865 the gold rush was over although a few miners stayed on for many years, but for little return. Timber milling helped keep the town alive for many years.
In 1866 four gold miners, travelling the Maungatapu bridle track from Canvastown to Nelson, were relieved of $600 worth of gold and murdered. The four murderers had already become notorious as criminals in England, Australia and New Zealand’s southern gold fields.

The Nelson district is believed to have been first settled by Maori about 700 years ago, making it one of the first areas of New Zealand to be settled. The Maori name for the area is Whakatu, meaning to build, raise or establish.
The Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, came into nearby Golden Bay in 1642, but left after a skirmish with local Maori in which he lost four crewmen. He called the place Murderers Bay.
Nelson as a city, situated on Tasman Bay, is said to be at the geographical centre of New Zealand and, after Auckland, it is New Zealand’s second oldest city dating from 1841. The city was named in honour of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who had defeated the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805 . . . .

Saturday, 7 February 2015


Why pilots fly on instruments instead of looking out the window

Most people believe that flying an aircraft in cloud is really not much different to flying in clear air, after all they must still know which way they are going, which is up and which is down, whether they are turning or flying straight, climbing or descending. It should all be pretty easy. If they can’t see, there is nothing to stop them going by feel. Okay, they may find it a little hard to locate a destination airport, but getting to the general vicinity should be a piece of cake. What could possibly go wrong? 

Unfortunately, many low-time private pilots also believe this dangerous fallacy. During the earliest years of aviation, accidents were common. Structural failure and loss of control was the most common cause, but as aircraft design, performance, and pilot training improved, another hazard presented itself. Pilots flying in reduced visibility often encountered a new kind of hazard that they were untrained and unprepared for. It was called spatial disorientation.
Jimmy Doolittle, the father of instrument flight

Spatial disorientation is a sneaky but rapid killer. Many victims strike the ground at high speed before they even realise there is a problem. Others fight for control, but rely on their senses or feelings, rather than their instruments for situational awareness. Spatial disorientation can take several forms. Typically, a pilot who is untrained for instrument flying, will feel a slight rotation about one of the three axis of his machine; he will feel pitch, roll or yaw. So he will make a small correction to bring it back on even keel, but that will be when his troubles may really begin. He may over-correct, or under-correct. For example, if he detects a slight turn to the right, he will apply opposite control (the same inputs for starting a left turn), but as the rate of turn decreases it will already feel as though he has started a turn in the opposite direction and as there are no external reference points to tell him otherwise, he will believe his feelings.

But that situation is only the beginning of the pilot’s problems because turning an aircraft, in terms of dynamics, is not a simple matter. It involves rotation around all three axis. It rolls, pitches and yaws all in the same movement and the pilot must control all three simultaneously. If he fails to do that accurately a fourth dimension immediately comes into play and that dimension is airspeed. So now the pilot has four things to control and the minor disturbance (or misconception) that started with a small correction on the controls has quickly become a complicated but crucial situation. The pilot’s actions in the next few seconds will determine whether he lives or dies. Most modern aircraft can fly straight and level for a time without any input from the pilot. They are inherently stable, but only until they start to turn. Left to its own devices the angle of bank will get progressively steeper, the radius of turn will tighten and the nose will drop allowing the airspeed to increase. Within a few seconds, perhaps a minute or two at the most, the gentle turn will have developed into what is commonly known as a graveyard spiral. The only uncertainty with a graveyard spiral is the question of which will come first – structural failure, or impact with the ground.

The standard IFR panel for many years was known as The Six Pack. From L to R, top to bottom, they
were the Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon, Altimeter, Turn & Bank Indicator, Gyro Compass
and Vertical Speed Indicator
The pilot’s instruments will tell him early in the event exactly what is happening, but if he doesn’t understand them they will be of little use. Before undergoing thorough instrument flight training all pilots believe their bodily senses, just as we do all day every day on the ground when we have external reference points. He will also believe the forces on the seat of his pants and the balance mechanisms in our ears. That’s the natural thing to do. But instrument flying is not natural. Without training, understanding and self-discipline, an untrained pilot in cloud or fog, will fare no better than a scared cat on a multi-lane, busy highway. Control and panic do not belong together.

Flight safety started to improve after research and development work by the legendary American pilot, Jimmy Doolittle. In 1929, Doolittle made the first successful take-off, circuit and landing, flying solely by reference to instruments. His developments included the artificial horizon and the gyro compass. Within a few years most airline and military flying was conducted using Instrument Flight Rules and aviation became safer.

When this blogger started flying in 1954 there was a rule that pilots who were not instrument rated, or not flying on an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight plan had to stay at least 500 feet vertically and 2,000 feet horizontally from cloud. They were limited to VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and they operated in airspace away from IFR controlled airspace. It was a sound rule. But many pilots, deliberately or accidentally, strayed from the rule, and many paid with their lives.  

But even today, many people including some pilots, believe that their natural senses will be all they need to survive in cloud or fog. When that thinking is combined with a poor understanding of the weather and visibility along the route, rugged terrain and over-confidence, accidents are bound to happen. In the worst case scenario, marginal weather can change to no-go weather, a pilot can be caught en route with nowhere to go and may be forced to land away from an airport. Visual flying by the inexperienced can be hazardous even when the intentions are good. Even now 40% of all general aviation accidents can be attributed to loss of control due to spatial disorientation.

There is a long list of celebrity visual pilots and passengers who died trusting their senses instead of getting the correct training and trusting their instruments.

Singers Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves had more than singing in common. Cline’s pilot and Reeves were trained by the same flight instructor. Neither pilot was instrument rated but both died while attempting to fly in instrument conditions. Buddy Holly died when his non-instrument rated charter pilot took-off into a snow storm at night. Boxer Rocky Marciano died in a Cessna 172 flown in poor visibility by a pilot who was not instrument rated. More recently, John F. Kennedy Jnr died when he lost control of his aircraft during a flight over water on a dark night. He was not instrument rated.
John F. Kennedy Jnr

After I had been flying for several years I undertook the training for an instrument rating, including cross-country navigation, various instrument approaches and recovery from unusual situations, not so that I could file an IFR flight plan and cruise above the clouds, but just for insurance against my own errors of judgement while flying VFR. I believe every pilot should be trained to IFR standard.

Many of the spatial disorientation accidents happen in aircraft fully equipped for instrument flying, but to pilots who are not instrument trained. Some of them seem to believe that having the instruments is more important than the training, but they continue to believe their natural instincts instead of the instruments and continue to die with only seconds warning.