Skip to comments.The thrill of DIY flying (Aeroplane porn from DownUnder NZ)
Posted on 02/03/2007 12:04:38 AM PST by DieHard the Hunter
DON SCOTT, MIKE CREAN
PLANE CRAZY? This weekend 200 plane-makers and flyers will descend on Ashburton for the annual national Fly-in. John King says pilots appreciate the country more than other people do. "Watching that glorious landscape unwind less than 1000 metres beneath the aircraft is sheer joy."
For a small but committed bunch of Kiwis, the only thing better than flying is doing so in a plane you've built yourself. Mike Crean reports.
Kiwis can fly. More than that, Kiwis can build planes and fly. They do so in higher proportions than just about any other people.
Recreational flying is a sport deeply ingrained in New Zealanders, says aviation writer and pilot John King.
In many cluttered backyard workshops, years of intricate craftsmanship have been going into the shaping and joining of wood, fibreglass and aluminium parts that one day may soar into the blue.
The participants call it sport flying. Others see it as fanaticism, or plain craziness.
Whatever it is, recreational flying's annual celebration this weekend has drawn 200 Kiwi plane-makers and flyers from all parts of New Zealand to Ashburton airfield.
As part of the national Fly-in, the venue for which alternates between Tauranga and Ashburton, King's ninth book on New Zealand aviation will be officially launched tomorrow. All Their Own Wings is the story of homebuilt aircraft.
King says flying is a significant activity among New Zealanders, who hold 10,000 current pilot licences.
Most of the pilots fly recreationally, some taking to the air in the country's 255 amateur-built planes and 860 microlight craft.
The Sport Aircraft Association of New Zealand has 450 members, many of whom have built and fly their own planes.
In his business as a writer and photographer, as editor of quarterly magazine Sport Flying and in 40 years as a pilot, King has come to know the sport flying community better than most.
They are great people, he says. They are not "nutters" putting safety at risk with loony ideas, or Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, prone to shortcuts and stunts.
"The people are very individual. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to them and was most impressed with their abilities in such things as engineering," King says.
These men (very few women are involved) are safety conscious. Their whole approach is based on risk management and their standards of work are high.
King attributes New Zealand's lively sport flying scene to its terrain and climate. Pilots appreciate the country more than other people do, he says.
"Watching that glorious landscape unwind less than 1000 metres beneath the aircraft is sheer joy."
The changeability of the weather adds to the challenge.
Membership of the association reflects a range of occupations, he says. Included among them are a gruff crayfisherman, a woman vet and an Air New Zealand Boeing captain.
The most common occupation is engineering. Many members have backgrounds in the wider aviation industry.
King has noticed another common factor among members.
"Large numbers of them built model aircraft in their youth. Aero-modelling is very big in New Zealand. Some still pursue it."
King sees aircraft building as an extension of model making or the other way round, as some model craft are almost big enough to carry a pilot.
Another common factor among members is having a quiet character.
"They do not need to be big, bold and brash. They do not need to make a statement. Flying a plane you have made yourself is a huge statement. I have great admiration for them."
The planemakers enjoy camaraderie. When the pilots arrive at the Ashburton Fly-in, they will greet old friends and sit in the shade under wings of planes and catch up on a year's happenings, he says.
King was raised in Christchurch. He gained his private pilot's licence 40 years ago in an Auster aircraft, through the National Airways Corporation's flying school. His work for NAC, later Air New Zealand, as a computer programmer, took him to Wellington and then Auckland.
Though he loves flying and goes up in the air frequently, he has never felt inclined to build a plane.
"I know my own limitations. I would lack the patience."
Time and money would also have been problems, he says.
Plane building can become an all-consuming hobby.
"You can start spending all your spare time in the workshop. It can be hard on families. You have to be careful not to let it intrude."
However, some wives encourage it, as it gets their husbands out of the house, King says.
Building a plane can take as little as two years, though that would be working fulltime and using a kitset, which is expensive.
Many builders take from five to 10 years, or more, working from plans. King knows a man who spent 25 years finishing a plane that his brother had started.
"There are lots of unfinished projects around the country. You would never know how many." Some will be discovered and finished by others.
Costs vary too. One builder told King he could make a plane for $5000 but "would have to be a magpie, a scrounger" for giveaway bits and pieces.
Some planes have cost their owners six-figure sums to build. The most expensive part is the engine, with a good Lycoming costing about $10,000, King says.
Perhaps it is no wonder that pilots who have built their own planes are the most highly respected in sport flying.
King says Canterbury is a prime area for sport flying, with Rangiora its centre.
"There is a vast number of private strips within a 30 kilometre radius of Rangiora dozens of them. Rangiora is renowned for recreational flying."
Ashburton is a growing area and has the advantage of a good airfield and a wonderful aviation museum, he says.
Fly-in organiser Ian Royds says pilots and builders will mix and mingle, and do some "ad-hoc flying" today.
Seminars and competitions in navigation and flying will be held tomorrow and the Fly-in will end on Monday with an awards dinner.
The Fly-in is not an airshow but the public is welcome to attend, Mr Royds says.
All Their Own Wings presents 32 case studies, depicting the full variety of home-built aircraft around New Zealand, written in magazine feature style. It is published by David Ling.
Go on! Admit it: most of us would give our left nut to fly one of these contraptions. Here in NZ, it is a backyard hobby. Much like homebrew would be in the US...
...and contrary to popular myth: the Wright Brothers did NOT invent the first powered aircraft to fly successfully: they came in a very late SECOND.
Richard Pearse, a New Zealand Farmer, beat them to it by about one year.
Aeroplane porn PING!
dammit, learn to spell in english :P
> Yah right. Care to show hard documented proof of that "first powered" flight?
I can do better than that -- what remains of Pearce's original aeroplane is on permanent display at the Museum of Technology and Transport at Western Springs, Auckland.
Admission costs about ten bucks for an adult, happy to take you there.
Yeah yeah, what came of his efforts? Did he persevere ? Did he produce anything usable , worthwhile , noteworthy or viable?
Homebuilt is alive and well in the the US of A.
Oshkosh is the place the last week in July 2007.
Wow, that is really not much more then an overgrown RC airplane with a cockpit. Looks like fun.
> and found it all to be a good natured fictional story based on actions by Mrs. Pearse who wanted to elevate her husbands standing in their social group.
(grin!) about as accurate as any of the CIA's recent works of "intelligence" -- you see, Mr Richard Pearse was a batchelor.
Let's face it: the Wright Bros were, at best, the third to fly a manned, powered aeroplane. Pearse beat them by at least a year -- an untrained farmer from an obscure farming community in an obscure corner of the British Empire.
The Wrights did a good job, and theirs was a brilliant third-place finish, granted. Well-done. But Third Place can never become First Place, no matter how much people moan about it, nor for how long...
Bronze Medal goes to... The Wright Brothers!
> Did he produce anything usable , worthwhile , noteworthy or viable?
...did I mention he invented the aeroplane?
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